Big rise in York visitor numbers revealed – as tourism bosses outline their plans

More people are coming to York. Photograph: YorkMix

New figures show that York is attracting more visitors than ever – as plans are revealed to persuade people to stay longer in the city.

Based on improved research methods, the headline figures for 2018 show York received 8.4 million visits, bringing an economic value of £765 million and supporting more than 24,000 jobs.


Over the last five years this equates to

  • an increase of 12%, or 900,000 more visits
  • an increase in the value of tourism of 20%, or £126m
  • and 3,000 more jobs within the city’s tourism industry.

The news was being shared at Visit York’s annual Tourism Conference today at York Racecourse.

The latest York Visitor Survey results (2018), the first published since 2015, also reveal:

Visitors are not staying as long

Day visitors account for four out of every five visitors, with a small growth in overnight visits of 4,000 more visits or 316,000 more bednights.

A decline in the length of stay, which now sits at 2.2 nights, continues a steady decline seen over the last decade of around 4% per year.

International visitor numbers are stable

The number of international visits to the city is stable at 289,000 (vs a UK wide decline in inbound visits of 5% from 2017)

The top five international markets for York are:

  • the US (16% of all international visits, unchanged from 2015)
  • China (12%, up from 9%)
  • Australia (11%, up from 9%)
  • Germany (8%, up from 5%)
  • and Canada, re-entering the top 5 at 8% of all visits (a position held by Spain in 2017).

Visitors love York’s ambience

The top things visitors enjoy doing when in York:

  • 99% enjoy the ambience of the city (up from 91%);
  • 93% enjoy the city’s food and drink (up from 89%)
  • 73% enjoy shopping (up from 71%)
  • 74% go to attractions (up from 63%)
  • 11% are visiting friends and relatives (up from 10%)
  • and 11% enjoy taking part in a festival (up from 6%).

Visitors are happier

York’s visitor satisfaction score has grown to 4.75 out of 5 (up from 4.58).

No fewer than 99% of visitors would recommend a visit to York to their friends and family (same)

There are more green trips

Sustainable methods of travel into the city by visitors is increasing, with car use declining – down 11%, to 55%.

Altogether 39% of visitors come into York by train (up from 30%).

Revised tourism strategy

‘Emphasis on value…’ Paul Whiting
These tourism insights are being used to refresh of the York Tourism Strategy. Building on the 2014 edition, it retains the aim to create a £1 billion tourism industry by 2025.

Due for launch later this year, the latest edition of the strategy will aim to

  • create a robust, sustainable and profitable destination that focuses on the enjoyment of the city for all.

    Welcoming people from all over the world and those that already live here to engage and enjoy in all that York has to offer year-round.


Head of marketing and communications at Make It York Paul Whiting said city tourism was thriving.

Looking ahead there would be more emphasis on increasing the value rather than the volume of tourist, “be that monetary or experiential”. He said:

  • This emphasis on value will not only benefit visitors but importantly the residents of York, who are an important part of the visitor experience.

    I have been inspired by the notion of Localhood that we showcased at last year’s Tourism Conference and we will be working hard this year to ensure that everyone is aware and part of the world-leading experiences on offer in our city and beyond.

New marketing campaign

A mini-flower festival at York Explore library lawn during Bloom! 2018. Photograph: Richard McDougall
A new campaign that continues the collaboration with the North York Moors National Park was also announced today.

It tempts people in London and the south east to discover the delights of the city and be awed by the stunning vistas during the Dark Skies Festival.

Advertising will be displayed at key travel routes, alongside an integrated radio and digital campaign with Classic FM.

The announcement was also made that Bloom! will also be returning for a week long event from 20 – 28 June 2020, centred on the theme of ‘Art in Nature’. Further details are set to be released this spring.