CITY leaders will today unveil their plans to create a £1 billion tourism industry in York, writes Mark Stead.

Visit York and City of York Council plan to target more North American and European visitors and tap into the Chinese market.

They have led a new tourism strategy designed to encourage visitors to spend more and stay longer, while also ensuring York becomes a regular choice for the lucrative conference business sector.

Its goals will be outlined to the tourism industry’s key figures at an event at the National Railway Museum today. Organisations plan to attract more visitors in the off-peak season while improving the city’s offer to tourists. The strategy was drawn up after studies showed York was missing tourism opportunities and needed a fresh approach to raising its national and international profile and making the most of its culture.

Domestic business visitors spend an average of 1.5 times more on overnight trips than leisure tourists, while overseas visitors spend 1.3 times more per night than those from the UK and stay almost two-and-a-half times longer.

Jane Lady Gibson, Visit York’s chairman, said: “York’s brand name and brand values have high-level recognition within the UK and internationally, and by encouraging all businesses to put York at the heart of what they do, we will have a stronger presence in a global tourism market.”

Coun Sonja Crisp said: “Maximis-ing the potential of overseas markets will increase tourism’s contribution to the city’s overall economic prosperity and, through new ways of working, tourism can work even more as a driver to attract investment and overseas students.”

New figures on the economic impact of York tourism will be published next month, with the last research showing seven million visitors spent £443 million in 2008, compared with 2.1 million tourists spending £55 million in 1987.