FOUR York tourist attractions are planning to reopen by early July - offering a major boost to the city’s battered visitor economy.

The York Archaeological Trust hopes to reopen the doors to its world-famous Jorvik Viking Centre and also DIG: An Archaeological Adventure and Barley Hall, "as soon as government advice deems it safe to do so".

City Cruises York is also planning to relaunch its boat trips along the River Ouse.

Both say a series of measures will be in place to protect staff and visitors from the coronavirus.

Director of attractions Sarah Maltby at the YAT said there would be pre-booked visits only to help control visitor flow and numbers, as well as extended hours over the key summer months.

“We will do away with the famous Jorvik queue around St Mary’s Square with clearly designated time slots for a limited number of visitors every 20 minutes,” she said.

“Nobody really knows how people will react post-lockdown, but the best guidance we’re getting from the industry suggests that local people will stay close to home, with those living in tourism hotspots welcoming friends and relatives for short breaks. 

"Our own research shows people keen to return as soon as it is deemed safe to do so, and if they are confident that attractions can provide a socially distanced experience, so we’re adapting our operating plans accordingly to manage low levels of visitor flow where this can be maintained.

 “It is challenging, especially with indoor attractions, but we are no strangers to challenging circumstances and have a brilliant team who come up with innovative solutions to maintain great visitor experiences.”

“Within the building, freeflow areas like the galleries will be more structured with presentations delivered by our Viking interpreters rather than video content or handling sessions. 

"The ride experience around the reconstructed Viking city will stay the same albeit with increased cleaning regimes, and capsules will be exclusive to groups that arrive together, so we’re confident that we can deliver a great experience where visitors can learn just as much as ever about the Vikings in York – in fact, some people will certainly prefer the far quieter experience, making it a great time for locals to rediscover the heritage on their own doorstep.”

She said similar operational plans were being developed for Barley Hall and DIG, including relocating the Barley Hall shop to another part of the building, allowing greater space at the entrance for those visiting to wait for their time slots and creating a useful one way system around the Hall.

"DIG will introduce an enhanced series of presentations as well as protective equipment within the popular digging pits as well as more to see within the gallery spaces," she said.

"All sites will have sanitizing hand gel available at regular points in the attraction, sneeze guards, and floor markings and have been implementing increased cleaning programmes since the pandemic first reached our shores including full disinfecting the attractions whilst they have been closed."

City Cruises York, which won Visit York’s Visitor Attraction of the Year award for over 50,000 visitors in 2019, said on its website that its health and safety teams were working hard behind the scenes to ensure that when it is able to re-open, it does so with new measures in place.

Meanwhile, other iconic attractions such as the National Railway Museum, Castle Museum and Yorkshire Museum are also investigating how they can reopen.

Railway Museum director Judith McNicol said it was exploring a range of options but its path to reopening would be guided by the safety of colleagues and visitors, financial sustainability and the latest government advice.

“We don’t have a set date for our return yet, although July is very unlikely given the current environment and the time needed to prepare for any adjustments that may be necessary,” she said.

However, she stressed that the museum was fortunate in having several large halls and outdoor space as well as a car park, which could have a bearing on how soon it could reopen.

“We are also considering measures being introduced at other visitor attractions internationally, such as a phased reopening, pre-booked visitor times and introducing aisles to help people navigate the museum safely.”

York Museums Trust, which runs the Yorkshire Museum, Castle Museum and York Art Gallery, said national and regional museums were working together to formulate "sensible and safe" plans to reopen, in close consultation with Government. “It is too early to say when this would be,” it said.

A spokeswoman for York Minster said it was actively looking at what a phased re-opening of the cathedral would look like.

“House of Bishops last week issued guidance giving priests permission to re-enter their churches for prayer, so a member of our clergy goes in once a day to light the Paschal Candle and to pray.

“The next stage will be for churches to open for private worship, ie individuals coming in to pray on their own rather than in organised acts of worship. We’re currently looking at how you do that in a socially distanced way.”