TOURISM figures show that York received 8.4 million visits in 2018, bringing an economic value of £765 million for the city.

The headline statistics, released ahead of today's VisitYork tourism conference, are the latest available for York and show the industry also supported more than 24,000 jobs, a rise of 3,000 within the sector over the last five years.

The visitor numbers, which will be highlighted at today's Visit York tourism conference, are up 12 per cent - 900,000 more visits, over the last five years. This spells a 20 per cent rise of £126m in the value of tourism.

VYCON 2020 is at York Racecourse, where tourism leaders will be sharing plans for the future of the sector in the city.

A key message will be that people will be encouraged to stay longer and explore more.

The event has a line-up of speakers including Andrew Palmer, director of Creative Tourist Consults; Anthony Pickles, from VisitBritain; David Horne, managing director of LNER; and Melanie Sensicle, chair of England’s Historic Cities.

A panel of tourism businesses including Castle Howard, The Grand Hotel & Spa, City Cruises and The Potions Cauldron will also share their insights into attracting international audiences.

Researchers have used new research methodology to analyse the impact of tourism for the latest York Visitor Survey results (2018), the first published since 2015.

They also reveal that day-trippers are still the largest group, accounting for four out of every five visitors, with 4,000 more overnight visits, or 316,000 more bed nights.

There has been a decline in the length of stay (now 2.2 nights), continuing the steady decline over the last decade of around four per cent per year.

There has been a stable number of international visits to the city at 289,000, compared with a UK-wide decline in inbound visits of five per cent from 2017.

The top five international markets for York are US (16 per cent of all international visits, unchanged from 2015); China (12 per cent, up from nine per cent); Australia (11 per cent up from nine per cent); Germany (eight per cent , up from five per cent) and Canada re-entered the top five at eight per cent of all visits, a position held by Spain in 2017.

The top list of things visitors enjoy doing when in York were: 99 per cent enjoy the ambience of the city (up from 91 per cent ); 93 per cent enjoy the city’s food and drink (up from 89 per cent); 73 per cent enjoy shopping (up from 71per cent ) 74 per cent of visitors are going to attractions (up from 63per cent); 11per cent are visiting friends and relatives (up from 10 per cent) and 11per cent enjoy taking part in a festival (up from 6 per cent).

Visitors are increasingly looking at sustainable transport when heading into York, with car use down by 11 per cent, to 55per cent while 39 per cent now come by train (up from 30 per cent).

Delegates will hear how the latest insights are being fed into a refreshed York Tourism Strategy, which still aims to create a £1 billion tourism industry by 2025.

Due for launch later this year, the latest edition will aim to create a robust, sustainable and profitable destination that focuses on the enjoyment of the city for all.

Paul Whiting, head of marketing and communications at Make It York, said: “It is exciting to be able to share the successes of York’s thriving tourism industry. We have seen continued growth in the value of tourism to the city and indeed, to see that over eight million people from across the globe come to enjoy their 'Only In York' experience."

He said the continued focus over the next five years was to increase the value and not the volume of tourism to the city.

"This emphasis on value will not only benefit visitors but importantly the residents of York, who are an important part of the visitor experience.”

The latest marketing plans were also revealed as a new campaign to continue the collaboration with the North York Moors National Park was announced, tempting audiences to discover the delights of the city and be awed by the stunning vistas during the Dark Skies Festival.

Potential visitors from London and the South East will also be targeted.

Hands-on training events will also be held for tourism businesses to ensure they are ‘travel-trade’ ready, with the first one in London in April. These will connect representatives from the major travel brands with York tourism businesses. There will also be a refocus for business tourism marketing to drive longer-staying, high value events to the city.