DAY trippers and holiday-makers were the driving force behind a York-based rail company's recovery in 2021.

Kate McFerran said LNER brought 'around half a million people into York last year'.

The company said 92.3 per cent of pre-Covid journey levels to York had returned during November and December.

Kate, communications director, said the recovery started in early April with the return of leisure travel.

"In summer we got beyond where we were at pre-Covid, so we went beyond 100 per cent which is extraordinary," she said.

Kate said the rail firm was keen to see the return of both international and domestic travellers, with LNER investing more in international website content, and working with influencers and bloggers.

Data showed the average spend of a French tourist was about £390 versus £2,000 for a Chinese tourist, she added.

Andrew Lowson, of York BID, said the importance of local people to city centre businesses should not be downplayed.

He said York had fared well despite the pandemic and Plan B restrictions, with footfall data in December just five per cent down on December 2019, pre-pandemic - the UK average was 22 per cent down.

Visa data showed 30 per cent of people using the city centre in December 2021 were those living inside the outer ring-road, he added, while last summer 26 per cent of city centre spend came from local residents.

Rebecca Hill, owner of Galtres Lodge in the city centre, said York had recovered well despite the loss of international travellers.

"What we’ve lost has been replaced with other markets – residents, locals, a bit further afield, staycationers - in the hotels."

She said 'aside from a few', the majority of hoteliers she had spoken to felt the decline from the international market had been replaced 'sometimes over and above, by other markets'.

Kate, Andrew and Rebecca were part of a panel at Visit York's tourism conference 2022, of which LNER was headline sponsor.

The panellists also discussed sustainability, with Kate highlighting LNER's milestone on July 30, 2019 when it started its Azuma services through York.

"All of our services now in and out of York are fully electric; we are well and truly on our decarbonisation journey."

She said research showed a desire, led by young people, to stay grounded, which presented 'huge opportunity'.

"We launched a green guide which helps people to see how they can not just travel by train but where they can eat, stay, play in a green way which has been hugely successful for us.

"It's how do we work together for that great end-to-end journey to keep people grounded."

Make It York chair, Greg Dyke, said: "If we want the tourists of the future, we will have to demonstrate that York is a green city and the plan to make York and North Yorkshire carbon neutral as soon as possible, I think, is important to all our businesses."