January is notoriously the time to reflect on what we have and haven’t ticked off our to-do list, set resolutions (and break them), look ahead and plan (often when the next holiday will be!).
2012 was crowned by the national media as the year of the “staycation”, which comes as no surprise when budgets have been at their tightest. Plus, we’ve had some of the best reasons to stay in the country: the Jubilee celebrations, Olympic and Paralympic Games. Staying “at home” also reinforces just how much there is see and do at a local level, especially in York.
The challenge for the year ahead is how we – as businesses, organisations and tourists ourselves – retain that level of enthusiasm for the staycation and make our cities attractive to people further afield. We all play a part in making sure that this surge in stay-at-home holidaying will continue to support tourism growth in the region and support those businesses that make our city such a diverse and fascinating place to visit.
At Easter, we will bring together organisations and businesses that are active in the region’s tourism industry at our annual Tourism Futures Conference. It’s the sixth such event we have held at the Business School, looking at new developments and trends in the tourism industry. The events are there to encourage cultural and heritage attractions to discuss challenges and opportunities; join forces to share experiences; and learn from each other.
The conference will also ask a number of tourism industry experts to make predictions on the future of the industry in the region and look into their metaphorical “crystal balls” to help inform visitor attraction strategies. And it will give businesses outside the tourism sector all-important opportunities to plan and capitalise on upcoming events in the region.
2013 holds so many exciting events, festivals and experiences for visitors. I'm particularly looking forward to the tenth Venturefest Yorkshire event next month, the Chocolate Festival, Jorvik Viking Festival, literature festival, Comedy Festival, Festival of Food and Drink – already my diary is brimming with festivals!
So perhaps when you are tucking into that second chocolate orange (which you promised yourself you wouldn’t), take a minute to think about what else you’ll pledge to do in the New Year… and how you can contribute to the expansion of the regional visitor economy that is one very important part of York's continued economic success.
Jackie Mathers is Dean of the Business School at York St John University