York tourism chiefs say the city’s tourism sector could be worth over £1bn within eight years and point at rising hotel occupancy and room rates as indicators of healthy development.
Over 300 tourism businesses from York and Yorkshire turned out for the Visit York Tourism Awards this week, sponsored by Hainan Airlines and Little Hotelier. Delegates heard that in 2016 hotel York’s hotel occupancy figures represented an increase of 4% on 2015. Average room rates were also up, 9% year-on-year, with average rates now at £94.08.
Also on the conference’s ‘York in a changing Europe’ themed agenda was debate on the impact of Brexit and the opportunities and challenges facing York, Yorkshire and the UK’s tourism industry.
Experts offered advice on future proofing York’s tourism sector, worth £564m to the local economy and generating 6.9m visitors each year.
Hosted by BBC Senior Broadcast Journalist, Phil Bodmer, at York Racecourse, the conference showcased speakers including Jane Lady Gibson, chair, Make It York and Sir Gary Verity, chief executive, Welcome to Yorkshire.
Quality customer service was highlighted as a focus for tourism businesses, along with language skills training and going the extra mile for international visitors. Delegates also heard that Yorkshire inbound visits are on course for a new record.
Internationally China has shot up the league table and is now the second most important overseas source market for York other than the United States.
Make It York MD Steve Brown, said of the figures: “The 2016 headline tourism figures are very encouraging, given the challenging start to the year. We now need to look forward and consider the challenges and opportunities facing the sector. New markets like China are already paying dividends for us but increasing our share of visits from Europe remains firmly on our agenda too. We’re confident, with the support of York businesses, we are on track to build a £1bn tourism sector by 2024.”
Other news announced at the conference include a redesign of the city’s tourism website visityork.org and a new augmented reality app thanks to investment from the Discover England Fund.
The conference also flagged key investment highlights over the last year, which included the stunning multi-million refurbishment of the Royal York Hotel (now The Principal York), a £4m investment at the York Theatre Royal, a £1m upgrade to the York Army Museum and a £2m re-model of the York Dungeon.
2016 also saw the 197-room aparthotel operator, Staycity, opening adjacent to the Barbican.