WORK is underway to attract more Millennials and international visitors to York.

Visit York's new tourism strategy still aims to make it a £1bn industry in the city by 2025, and industry players used the organisation's annual conference VYCON20 to highlight how they hope to achieve that.

Twenty to 39-year-olds are a key target group along with long-haul tourists who currently don’t venture outside London. Tourism chiefs also want to encourage visitors to linger and see more, with partnerships to promote places beyond the city walls such as the North York Moors.

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Delegates at VYCON20

Value over volume is also a focus. Industry representatives told the conference they wanted to enhance the experience for visitors, from their rail journey to the city, to the ‘warm Yorkshire welcome’ and the immersive activities on offer. They also want to explore ways to ensure residents “feel valued and engaged and support the tourism industry”.

Paul Whiting, of Make It York, showcased the latest official figures which revealed that in 2018 tourism injected £765m into the city’s economy, supporting more than 24,000 jobs, up by 3,000 within the sector over the last five years. York received 8.4 million visits in 2018, up 12 per cent, or by almost a million visits over the last five years.

Of the visitors staying for at least one night, 96 per cent had booked online. “So it is imperative your offer is bookable online,” he said.

Sean Bullick, managing director of Make It York, outlined changes within the organisation, with Greg Dyke appointed chairman and other new senior members. He said these had allowed them to broaden their focus and include other sectors where York has strengths, such as the bio-economy and rail tech.

“Our restructure is with a view to continue backing hospitality and tourism firmly at the heart of the city’s offer but to provide some focus to the wider economy."

Clare Frisby, who compered the conference, told the audience: “To have Greg Dyke is nothing short of gold dust. He is the most inspirational guy I have met in my career. He will blow your mind with his way of thinking. He is out there with so many creative ideas. To have Greg on board is a big score.”

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William Derby, of York Racecourse which hosted the conference, said their highlights from the past decade included the £25m investment in the northern end of the racecourse and the technology on site, hosting the Tour De France, the Olympic torch tour and Rod Stewart’s 2019 concert. They also enjoyed record international coverage last year.

“There’s been lots to keep us busy. It has been a great 10 years and I can’t wait for the next 10 years.”

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He said, like every business, they would be focusing on further enhancing their customer service, technology, ethics - “how we look after racehorses and how we tell that story” - and the environment. “Nothing from the racecourse is going to landfill. We are working on all sorts of recycling, working with Yorwaste.”

“The big thing that affects our world is the economy and what will happen post January 31. How Britain stands on the global stage after three years of dithering is a big thing for us. How the economy will survive going forward will have a big impact on everyone in this room.”

Anthony Pickles, head of tourism affairs at VisitBritain, said tourism was about people, but the innovation and investment around it had to change. As part of that, a new tourism data hub will soon give real-time data to show how people are booking their trips to help the industry.

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Anthony Pickles, of VisitBritain

Another aim is to tempt people out of London - figures show 54 per cent of international visitors don’t leave. Getting business events into the regions will bring another boost, he said.

“They happen during during the week, out of season and bring people in who are looking to support the other sectors of our economy.”

David Horne, of York-based LNER, said they were working to promote the destinations they service on their Azuma trains, and their aim was to provide the best travel experience on the east coast, with strong regional partnerships “to ensure we are doing our best to bring more visitors to York and to encourage them to stay longer and spend more.”York Press:

David Horne, of LNER

He said their catering team worked with regional suppliers, and they had also been working out in China to “encourage our Chinese visitors to the UK to stay grounded and not fly up to Edinburgh but to take the train to York and other cities they may be visiting.

Melanie Sensicle, of England’s Historic Cities, highlighted their work to attract more Millennials to the city and region, such as dedicated tours linking York with Lincoln and Durham.

Meanwhile, a Talking Heads panel, representing York City Cruises, The Potions Cauldron, The Grand and Castle Howard, gave a grassroots view on working in tourism and work being done to attract overseas visitors, especially from China.

Andrew Palmer, a director of Creative Tourist Consults, which has been helping to market York, highlighted how it can make the most of its assets to stand out.

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Andrew Palmer

“The good news is York is already a brand. It has been around a couple of millennia and that’s a successful platform to build on. “When we asked the question ‘why bother? 'What are we trying to do? Are we changing the product?' The product is York. The city is not a museum. We are looking to change perceptions but also confidence and ambition."