Tourism leaders in York have pledged to create a £1bn annual economy within the next five years but conceded they are faced with the dilemma of ensuring the historic city’s medieval streets are not swamped by visitors.
Official figures published today (January 16) have revealed that the city, which is one of the North of England’s most popular destinations, has witnessed a surge in the number of tourists, who have brought in £765m to an industry that is supporting 24,000 jobs.
The head of marketing and communications at the tourism organisation, Make It York, Paul Whiting, told The Yorkshire Post that the ambition remains to reach an annual £1bn tourism industry after an initial strategy was launched six years ago.
A marketing drive will be undertaken to persuade visitors to stay overnight rather than simply undertake day trips to York, although Mr Whiting admitted he was acutely aware that the city could not be swamped by ever-increasing numbers of tourists.
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He said: “We are mindful to ensure that the whole visitor experience is about value, both in terms of the offer that is available in the city as well as the experience that people have here.
There has, however, been a decline in the length of stays to an average of 2.2 nights, which is part of a steady fall over the past decade of about four per cent each year.
Mr Whiting also conceded that the drive to encourage more overnight stays could place additional pressures on York’s notoriously expensive property market, with more homes converted to accommodate visitors.
The growth of Airbnb-style short-term lets has escalated to such an extent in Edinburgh, that the Scottish government announced this month it would introduce a licensing system by spring 2021.