Tourism board VisitYork have announced record figures for York’s tourism industry; an estimated 7 million visitors per year to the city are spending a total of £600m between them while here, supporting 1 in 5 jobs in the city in doing so. However, York’s tourism chiefs are aiming even higher, targeting an industry worth £1billion by 2024. On the face of it, such lofty numbers seem brave, if not optimistic. However, this year may provide the basis for even its achievement, with 2014 predicted to be a big year for Yorkshire and its tourism.
Already, the numbers show a strong trend, with both tourist numbers and spending on the rise. The latest figures show total spending has grown a third (from £443m per year) since 2008. Some of this may be attributable to the improvement in the state of the economy – with the recovery largely driven by rises in consumer spending – but in December, a survey of York’s top nine attractions revealed visitor numbers for the first ten months of 2013 rose 18 per cent on the previous year.
Moreover, the next year looks to be a lucrative one for both local and regional tourism. In June the Tour de France cycling race comes to the county; an event expected to be worth £100m to the regional economy, according to estimates. The coverage could be even more valuable – with a possible television audience of up to 3.5bn even before those coming to watch it live. It arrives too after a spate of recent positive acclaim of the county; it won Europe’s Leading Destination of 2013 at the World Travel Awards last year, and in September was named 3rd in a list of top 10 global destinations by tourist guide ‘Lonely Planet’. Even the success of Olympians from Yorkshire in 2012 has been touted as winning fame for the region.
However, regardless of this boost, the headline figure is still a daunting project; the gains made from 2008 must be sustained over the next two five-year periods if the target of £1bn is to be reached. If they are to capitalise on this short-term boost and render it to these long-term gains though, there must be long-term benefits from it, or a plan to create them.
The widespread positive coverage of York will help to promote and raise awareness of its attractions to a larger audience, with VisitYork reportedly wanting to develop on this, planning to sell York to a more global audience, and in particular taking advantage of the growing Chinese tourism industry. In the latest figures, day-trippers accounted for £207m of the benefits, while overnight tourists were worth £399m.
Focussing on overnight visitors for raising numbers visiting – and combining that with targeting the growing tourism industries of developing countries such as China – and the growth rates targeted by York’s tourist industry are more possible. In particular, VisitYork is targeting the Chinese tourism industry too, as they’re the third-biggest spenders by tourist nationality, averaging £405 per head; brochures have been printed in Mandarin, and VisitYork is in talks with Chinese tourism agencies.
All this combined with targeting the ‘grey pound’ of the growing retired population for overnight visitors, and the aim of raising the average stay from 2-3 days to 4-5 and there is a credible plan to reach what seems an otherwise incredulous target. 2014 is heralding good news for York’s tourism, but the records broken may not last very long.