YORK’s new tourism boss has stressed the continuing need for safety as the crowd-pulling St Nicholas Fair launches the city’s Christmas festivities.

“We don’t want another lockdown,” said Sarah Loftus, who took up her role as Make It York’s new director on Monday, ahead of today’s launch of the festive market.

Parliament Street and St Sampson’s Square now have 68 alpine chalets offering gifts, local produce, and seasonal food and drink.

In her new post, Sarah will take a lead on delivering a refreshed and innovative tourism strategy for York - MIYs purpose is to develop and promote the city as a vibrant and attractive place, focusing on tourism, festivals, events and culture.

Sarah, the former chief executive of the Lincoln Business Improvement Group, said MIY was determined to stage events which appealed to visitors and tourists alike, and which were safe to attend.

  • In an interview with The Press, Sarah also vowed to be clear and open about Make It York's work and how it would be measured on its success.

"If you are taking public money you have to show people what you have spent it on and what results you have achieved, and be accountable."

York Press:

The Christmas market’s popularity prompted safety concerns last year due to the size of the crowds.

“Local people, as we’ve seen in lockdown, came back into their city and explored their city and we want to continue that,” she said.

Sarah said the number of chalets had been cut by a third to create space.

“This year the team has done brilliantly with the Christmas market, St Nicholas Fair, by reducing the number of chalets, looking at the layout, making things good quality so that people want to come and dwell a little bit longer,” she said.

“It’s brilliant how we have have taken on board some of the learning in previous years and also, because of Covid, the layout looks much better than previous years. We have turned the chalets around. It will give people more space. I know, as a visitor, you got caught in that channel, whereas the layout this year will encourage people.

“Covid hasn’t gone away. We need to keep in people’s minds ‘please be safe’.”

Last week MIY and York BID (Business Improvement District) announced that York’s traditional Christmas lights switch-on had been cancelled due to concerns about overcrowding in the city centre.

It was the right decision, said Sarah whose previous roles include being the corporate director for economic growth at Trafford Council.

“I know a lot of people were disappointed but I think that was a good move for this year because you’re not encouraging lots of groups of people, crammed in, because we want the Christmas market to last.

“We don’t want another lockdown. We have to start planning events so that people do have space.”

Sarah said MIY’’s signature events appealed to residents as well as tourists.

“We are looking at working with organisers of the Viking Festival to make that even stronger next year and the ice trail was popular. We will grow that and make it a little bit different so people come back.”

She said there was also scope to do more with creative arts and plan events around the city’s riverside.

“One of the issues people have raised with me is that we turn our back on the water. How do we use the river? During lockdown people flocked to the river. It was lovely to see.”