Revealed: Plans for Christmas market and festive lights switch-on

Flashback to the Christmas lights switch on last year, featuring Santa – and Laura Castle from Minster FM. Photograph: YorkMix

York’s Christmas lights switch on event is set to go virtual this year – as the city prepares to celebrate the festive season with coronavirus-safe measures in place.

The city’s award-winning Christmas Market is still planned to go ahead – but with work taking place to ensure the event follows public health guidelines.

City of York Council agreed to put £100,000 towards tourism marketing – and a meeting next week will hear what the cash is set to be spent on.

The Christmas light switch on, which is usually a crowded occasion, is set to go virtual with an “engaging, live, city-wide event,” Make It York’s tourism recovery strategy says.

And other coronavirus-safe events planned to boost business in the run up to the festive season include putting up lights in some parts of the city to make it feel more welcoming as it begins to get dark in the early evening.

A smaller food festival is planned and trail events – which encourage visitors to explore the city outdoors – could also be launched.

Staycation experience

Bustling… the Christmas market in 2019

“Families in particular are looking for staycation experiences,” says a council report on how the marketing money should be spent.

It adds: “The tourism recovery marketing strategy aims to help the city quickly recover whilst recognising social distancing.

“This necessitates a different approach to creating experiences which encourage repeat visitors to glance at/admire installations/experiences that actively encourage walk-past rather than lingering in one place, with mass crowds now a thing of the past.”

Andrew Lowson from the York BID and children join last year’s fun with Ben Fry and Laura of Minster FM

Andrew Lowson, director at York Business Improvement District, said: “I know businesses will welcome any strategy that looks to promote use of the city centre by locals and visitors in the coming months.

“The festive period is a key trading time for business, so it is important the city plans to deliver a Christmas experience, in line with current health advice.

“Thanks to the hard work of businesses and other partners, visitors have come to York this summer and enjoyed a great experience, feeling both welcomed and safe.

“We know challenges lie ahead, but we need to continue to come together to support each other and our business community.”

The tourism marketing strategy and plans to spend the fund will be discussed at a council meeting on Tuesday.