Almost 48,000 more hotel nights booked in York in 2019 – as council ponders a tourist tax

Tourists on Shambles in York in 2019. Photograph: YorkMix

Nearly 48,000 more hotel room nights were booked in York this year than last year.

And senior councillors say they are still looking at introducing a tourist tax.

The latest figures show that the number of visits to small attractions in the city rose by 11 per cent last year – but bigger attractions are struggling as visitor numbers fell by 7 per cent, according to a City of York Council report.


Cllr Darryl Smalley, executive member for culture, says in the report:

  • The new Liberal Democrat/Green administration is keen to listen to residents concerns in relation to how visitors contribute to the city, whilst acknowledging the benefits of a thriving tourism industry in York.

    From Purple Flag status [that recognises cities as safe and enjoyable places for a night out] to exploring future consideration for a tourism levy/tax, this administration is taking an active lead in finding innovative ways to improve resident engagement, whilst also tackling the underlying challenges such as anti-social behaviour.

He said the number of nights in York hotels sold to date was almost 48,000 more than in 2018.

And that the average cost of a hotel room in the city is currently £106.90.

Ups and downs

Northern Lights brought visitors to York Minster. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA Wire
The latest Visit York figures show that “visits to big attractions continue to go down (-4% vs October 2018), while small attractions still report an increase”.

But York Minster – arguably the city’s biggest attraction – saw a boost in the number of visits.

The report says: “York Minster has seen a significant increase in visitors due to a hugely successful Northern Lights event, making it as the best October on record.”

The city’s big attractions include the NRM, Clifford’s Tower, the Yorkshire Museum and the Jorvik Viking Centre, according to a Visit York 2017 report.


It says Treasurer’s House, the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, the Bar Convent and the Mansion House are among the city’s small attractions.

Visits to attractions using the York Pass have fallen by 19% compared to last October.

New levy possible

Cllr Darryl Smalley
Councils do not currently have the powers to impose a tourism tax – but York Lib Dems promised to explore introducing a voluntary levy as part of a manifesto before the May local elections.

And Cllr Smalley said in September there could also be a crackdown on Airbnb-type holiday lets as well as tax breaks for hotels and visitor attractions.

York is also bidding for Purple Flag status – a scheme that “recognises excellence in the management of city centres at night”.

The award means the town or city is a good place to go for a night out, with clean and safe venues, great bars and clubs and a range of arts and cultural attractions with excellent transport links.