decrease font-size reset font-size increase font-size

News release - Issued by Make It York

Stellar line-up of speakers announced for Visit York annual tourism conference

Keen to master the art of being brilliant? Find out what makes the Virgin brand so successful? Or get the latest facts on York and the state of the nation’s tourism sector? All of this and more will be revealed at the annual Visit York Tourism conference, VYCON, on 17 January at York Racecourse. 300 delegates from across the tourism sector in York, Yorkshire and beyond, are expected to attend this annual event, themed ‘Tourism Marketing in the Digital Age’, sponsored by Leeds Bradford International Airport and compered by BBC Presenter Clare Frisby.

Visit York has announced a stellar line-up of speakers, which will leave the audience in no doubt about the opportunities 2018 will bring for tourism in the city. Headlining is Simon Calder, Travel Editor of the Independent and widely known as Britain’s leading travel commentator. Simon will inspire the audience with personal insights and travel experiences and offer advice on how York can stay ahead of its competitors.
Meanwhile CEO of VisitBritain Sally Balcombe will offer a national tourism perspective in her address titled, ‘State of the Nation.’

Author Andy Whittaker has been described as the ‘best thing to come out of Morecombe since the M6 motorway’ and his presentation will focus on harnessing the power of positive psychology and offer tips from his best-selling book, ‘The Art of Being Brilliant.’ Business owner Tom Pearcy at York Maze will tell the audience how his business has benefited from this approach.

Adding to the line-up, James Tipple, Managing Director and Founder of Virgin Red will offer his insight into why the Virgin brand is so successful and guests from some of York’s most successful tourism businesses will take part in a panel discussion on tourism marketing in the digital age. Sally Greenaway, Head of Visit York will shine a spotlight on some of the city’s tourism highlights from 2017 and reveal the latest tourism figures, as well as exciting new plans for marketing York in 2018. Audiences will also get a taster of the brand new mobile first tourism website

Speaking about the conference, Sally said: “Harnessing new technologies and ensuring our digital marketing is pin sharp and focussed will be a key priority for us in 2018. This year we have a stronger programme of festivals and events than ever before and we’ll be making sure we maximise this potential to help reach our ambition of creating a £1 billion tourism sector by 2024.”

Chris Sanders, Aviation Development Director at Leeds Bradford Airport, said: “As the international gateway for Yorkshire, we are proud to support an event that highlights the importance of the tourism sector to York and the wider region. With a number of exciting new developments planned in 2018, including a multi-million pound redevelopment of the terminal facilities, Leeds Bradford Airport is committed to continuing to help develop both business and leisure tourism in the city and we look forward to working closely with Visit York in the year ahead.”

Tickets for the conference include lunch and networking opportunities. Places are limited so book now to avoid disappointment. Tickets are free for Visit York members and priced at £50 for non-members. For details on how to book, visit


For further information please contact:

Kay Hyde – Head of PR and Corporate Communications – Make It York
Direct Line: 01904 554451
Mobile: 07506 048852

Katie Parsons – Senior Communications Executive – Make It York
Direct Line: 01904 554436

Notes to editors:


Wednesday 17 January 2018 – 09:30 -14:30, Voltigeur Suite, York Racecourse
09.00 Registration, Refreshments and Networking
09.30 Welcome from Clare Frisby, BBC Look North and Radio York Presenter
09.35 William Derby, Chief Executive and Clerk, York Racecourse, welcome
09.40 Sally Greenaway, Head of Visit York, Spotlight on tourism
10.00 Sally Balcombe, CEO, VisitBritain, The State of the Nation

Tourism Panel: What’s your story?

Paul Whiting – Marketing Manager, The JORVIK Group of Attractions
Peter Hanson – Owner, The Cat Gallery
Jessica Gibson – Travel Blogger,
Andy Herrington – Owner, Ainsty Ales
Tarik Abdeladim – Owner, Los Moros
Polly Bennett – Founder/editor, Little Vikings (York for kids)

10.50 James Tipple, Managing Director and Founder of Virgin Red
Why is the Virgin brand so successful?
11.10 Refreshments and Networking
11.30 Tom Pearcy, Director, York Maze
Introduces Andy Whittaker
11.35 Andy Whittaker
The Art of Being Brilliant
12.15 Simon Calder, Senior Travel Editor, The Independent, TV and Radio Broadcaster
Upping our game
12.45 Lunch and Networking
14.30 Event Closes

Speaker and compere biographies

Simon Calder is Britain's leading travel commentator and is known as “the man who pays his way”, which means that he pays for his own travel. He began his career at Gatwick airport, where he cleaned out planes for Sir Freddie Laker and, later, frisked passengers (for a job, that is; not a hobby). He then started to write travel guidebooks and travel articles. Today Simon is Senior Travel Editor of The Independent. Simon also writes for the Evening Standard, the i newspaper, Waitrose Weekend and BA’s inflight magazine, High Life plus a host of other publications. Once a month, he presents the Global Guru section of The Travel Show (BBC Worldwide and BBC2) where he answers viewers travel questions and queries.

Andy Whittaker is a trainer, best-selling author and frustrated comic. He is also a Neuro Linguistic Programming trainer and master of time line therapy. Andy is firmly rooted in the real world has been described as the best thing to come out of Morecambe since the M6 motorway. Andy has spent a great deal of time observing behaviour in companies big and small. More importantly, he has spent his time learning about leadership, communication, human interaction and positive psychology. Andy co-wrote ‘The Art of Being Brilliant’, ‘Be Brilliant Everyday’ and ‘The Art of Being a Brilliant Teenager’ (Capstone/Wiley) with Andy Cope and has claimed all the really good bits as his own. Their new book, ‘Happiness Route Map’ (Hodder) is due in the autumn and ‘Diary of a Brilliant Teenager’ is scheduled for Spring 18.

Sally Balcombe, CEO VisitBritain
Sally joined the VisitBritain team as CEO in September 2014. Before that she was part of the VisitBritain board from 2013. From 2008 to 2011 she was Chief Marketing Officer for Travelport GDS, responsible for marketing, the product portfolio, strategy, pricing and global communications. Before joining Travelport, Sally held a number of senior international roles in the travel industry, most recently as Commercial and Product Director at Opodo, the pan-European on-line travel agency set up by the major European airlines (2004-2006). Prior to that, she held the roles of Managing Director of the TUI-owned Specialist Sun Holiday Group, and Managing Director of British Airways Holidays, which operated in 75 markets worldwide.
Sally is also a Commissioner for English Heritage, a Governor of the Museum of London and sits as a Non-Executive Director of two on-line businesses.

James Tipple is Managing Director and Founder of Virgin Red, the cross Virgin Group reward program. He brings more than 18 years of commercial, digital, brand and product experience to the role. Prior to this Tipple was Virgin Group Head of Brand Strategy and Brand Director Europe, where he was responsible for re-defining the Virgin Group Brand Purpose and supporting the Virgin Business across Europe to effectively monetise their license agreements, as well as working with the investment team to develop new Virgin businesses. Getting him here Tipple was CMO, Yahoo! EMEA responsible for Yahoo’s consumer and trade marketing strategies and their implementation across Europe, Middle East and Africa regions.

Sally Greenaway, Head of Visit York. Sally has always lived and worked in York, predominately within the tourism industry. In September 1999 Sally started her career in tourism working for Best Western Hotels where she was responsible for the strategic direction of their global loyalty programme, Gold Crown Club International. Ten years later, Sally took a break from loyalty marketing after starting a family and set up her own business, creating two children’s labels - Green Child and OscarLily, whereby she designed and manufactured children’s clothing and bedding, selling her brands through national and international retailers as well as through her own website.

In 2011 Sally moved back into tourism marketing and began her career within the rail industry, working for East Coast Trains, managing their CRM and loyalty programme, East Coast Rewards. Following the refranchise in 2015, Sally started a new role with Virgin Trains, whereby she became Loyalty Manager, responsible for the strategic direction and delivery of their collection of loyalty programmes, which included Nectar, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, Virgin Red and Virgin Trains Rewards and Recognition programme. She joined Visit York in February 2017.

Clare Frisby is a presenter for the Yorkshire and North-Midlands version of Look North and she also presents the popular Radio York Saturday morning show, Finders Keepers. Clare presents the lunchtime bulletins on Look North each weekday. During her time with ‘Look North’, she has won BT News Broadcaster of the Year award for the North East and Yorkshire. She studied Politics at Hull University, graduating in 1989. She became a BBC News trainee in London in October 1989 and worked in newsrooms throughout the UK for the BBC and was one of the few female reporters in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War. She was at BBC Radio York for four years. Her television début was as a presenter on Look North and went on to present other bulletins for the region. Clare was one of 18 high-profile Yorkshire women chosen by Councillor Bernard Atha to share the role of consort Lady Mayoress of Leeds 2000–01.

Notes to Editor

Make It York’s purpose is to develop and promote the city and its surroundings – nationally and internationally - as a vibrant and attractive place to live, visit, study, work and do business. The company’s remit covers leisure and business tourism, city centre management, festivals and events, business support and inward investment.

Visit York is a part of Make It York and is the leisure tourism brand
Under the brand Visit York, Make It York’s aim is to market York as a must-see world-class destination to the leisure visitor and ensure investment to develop the quality of tourism in York.

Key tourism facts
6.9 million visitors annually, £564 million total visitor spend, supporting 19,000 jobs