TOURISM in York in a post-pandemic world could benefit from 'more edgy and contemporary' culture, industry players were told.

Peter Rømer Hansen, of Group NAO, said there was a risk of York becoming complacent about the long-standing appeal of its history, during a debate on what kind of tourism people wanted for the city.

The city might like to 'set new ambitions', create a culture lab with creative innovators, and start resolving key issues of transportation, parking and public spaces, he said.

Visit York attracted 264 people to its 2022 tourism conference which was held online today due to Covid concerns.

Make it York commissioned Group NAO in autumn 2020 to explore how York’s visitor economy could build back post pandemic.

MIY's managing director Sarah Loftus told the conference that her aim was to attract visitors who would 'love and respect' York, and encourage them to stay longer, spend more and positively boost its economy.

Highlighting ways the industry could offer a bigger, broader and bolder tourism strategy post-covid, Peter said: “We need a grand plan for urban development and the role of tourism connecting the dots of a thriving city. Let’s maintain a strong connection with the locals who have rediscovered the city centre during Covid.

"We need leadership to become a sustainable destination, all in on culture - and not just heritage – is a broadly shared aspiration and finally, we have a lot of things going on, perhaps also a bit of complacency.”

Peter said emerging trends in European destinations included a shift from growing visitor numbers to improving the experience, and focusing more on local residents.

"The proposition is not just 'come and consume' but come and share our community in other ways'."

Meanwhile, business tourism was becoming more about attracting meetings and conventions that share values of the city.

To prepare its report Group NAO held workshops during 2021 with York leaders and stakeholders.

York's record of public consultations, such as the Big Conversation and My City Centre projects, gave it 'a very good starting point' on which to build its recovery, said Peter.

"The danger is that all of this just become pdfs, and we just leave them on the shelves. Maybe there's an element of that in York."

He said there were calls for a grand plan for urban development, and 'a need' to start working on 'seriously implementing solutions to core problems of transportation, parking and public spaces in York'.

He added: "Part of the gift of the pandemic is that you see what life could also be. A lot of you told us there's now a reconnection between the locals and the city and you would like to keep it that way."

York was 'obviously a very rich cultural city', said Peter. "But there are more layers to York than just culture. You are a university city. You should go more with the young, more edgy, more contemporary culture. And that's not just the young people saying that who we've spoken to."

He added: "You have so much going for you. You have been a tourism destination for 2,000 years."

But he warned against a complacency that it would just come back 'whatever happens'.

"You might want to set new ambitions. That's not me saying that. It's what you've been telling us - that the risk is that you become a graveyard of ambition."

Peter outlined a number of 'what if scenarios' for delegates to reflect on, such as what if York had a vision to be the UK's most sustainable destination, or 'went all out' on culture, which he said could see the city take action such setting up 'a culture lab for innovation with cultural entrepreneurs'.

He said York's cultural efforts could include a new emphasis on contemporary culture, highlighting that some stakeholders had suggested existing events were being under-financed.

Other speakers included Richard Nicholls, head of research and forecasting at Visit Britain; and Aileen Crawford, head of tourism & conventions at Glasgow Convention Bureau, as well as a panel of tourism businesses.

The event was compered by BBC Look North and BBC Radio York presenter Clare Frisby.