YORK’S history, culture and innovation will be hugely important heading into 2021, says a leading tourism figure.

Sean Bullick, of Make It York, said the continued success of the city’s world-class tourism and leisure industry was ‘absolutely vital’.

“Pre-Covid, York was welcoming 8.4 million visitors annually, and this contributed £765 million towards the city’s economy and supported 24,000 jobs," he said.

While 2021 would bring challenges for the tourism industry, Mr Bullick said he was confident York’s unique offering, combined with its businesses would help it to bounce back.

“In York we are renowned for our history, culture and beautiful environment, but also for our industry, ingenuity and innovation; this is hugely important as we move into 2021.

“Retailers, hospitality businesses and attractions have shown an incredible amount of resilience, with many adapting their offer during lockdown, and providing a safe, welcoming experience when people could visit again.”

Make It York had a shortfall of more than £1 million in 2020 as the pandemic hit income from the Christmas market, Visit York information centre and Shambles Market. The organisation, set up by City of York Council, successfully asked the authority for a bailout before Christmas.

“York’s tourism industry has long been on a significant upwards curve. Between 2014 and 2018 we were 11.8 per cent up on visits and 19.7 per cent up on spend, and this stands us in good stead for recovery," said Mr Bullick.

Events such as the Rugby League World Cup 2021, with the hopeful return of traditional festivals, would boost the sector, he added.

"York is the city where heritage meets cutting-edge art, where you can encounter a new experience on any street, and the city where indie businesses can offer visitors something entirely unique. Given this, I believe we’re well positioned to meet these challenges. Especially if we all unite and work together in 2021.”