Results of Visit York’s annual visitor survey have been released today, ahead of the organisation’s 25th birthday celebrations in September. Headline results show an increase in the number of overseas visits – 17% of all visits from overseas v 83% of visits from the UK (12% of visits were from overseas in 2010) – and a 7% increase in visitors to the top eight visitor attractions.
The ‘York Visitor Survey’, conducted by Questions Answers Research, is the biggest independent survey of visitors staying in York. This year long project (2011-2012) questioned over one thousand people about their opinions of York, their motivations for visiting, their place of origin and their likes and dislikes.
Overseas visits in the top ten were USA (29%), Australia (15%), China (6%), Ireland (6%), Canada (6%), Germany (6%), Netherlands (4%), France (3%), Norway (2%) and Spain (2%). After showing a steady decrease for several years, the percentage of visitors from the USA has shown a marked increase year on year (19% of all overseas visits in 2010) and shows signs that the American market is back on form. Visitors from China doubled year on year from 3% of all overseas visits to 6% and visits from Australia continued to show a steady rise year on year (up from 12% of all overseas visits).
A perfect score of 100% of visitors said they would recommend York – up from 99% last year.
Average length of stay in York increased year on year from 2.74 nights to 3.32 nights, whilst overseas visitors stayed an average of 5.26 nights. Results of the survey also showed a significant shift in visitors arriving by train – 22% of all visits in 2010 compared to 28% in 2011-12. 55% of visitors were couples, 37% visited as a family and 12% were travelling alone. Overall York continues to attract a good mix of age groups but is most popular with the 45-54 age bracket (24% of all visits). One in five visitors (18%), however, were aged 16-34, suggesting a shift in appeal to the younger visitor market too. The biggest percentage of UK staying visitors came from the Midlands, followed by the North West, Yorkshire, the North East, Scotland, London and the South East. Only 2% of visitors came from Wales.
Eating and drinking remained in the lead as the number one most preferred activity, boosted by York’s award as ‘Britain’s Best Gastro Destination’ as voted for by Trip Advisor. Visitors highlighted their top likes as; the variety of things to do (82%), the ambience (79%) and the feeling of welcome (78%). Total expenditure for all visitors was slightly up at an average of £38.80 (up from £37 in 2010), not including spend on accommodation.
From January to December in 2011, 2.5 million visitors were welcomed through the doors of the top eight visitor attractions, a 7% year on year increase. Annual average room rates in 2011 were slightly down from £78.90 in 2010 to £77.98 in 2011 (down 1%). The annual average room occupancy held strong at 79.3% (up 1% on 2010).
Tourism chiefs say results so far for the first six months of 2012 are also encouraging. York Designer Outlet’s footfall has increased by 2.27% on last year; the National Railway Museum is an impressive 17% up year on year – 320,000 visitors so far this year and York Minster is ahead of last year with a 2% gain in visitor numbers. As an average, visits to attractions remain on a par with last year. Room occupancy levels are up by 4% year to date to 76.3% and average room rates are showing a slight upturn at £75.73 (up 1% year on year).
Gillian Cruddas, MBE, Chief Executive of Visit York said, ‘We are delighted to see an upturn in the numbers of our American, Australian and Chinese visitors. York continues to have strong appeal overseas whilst at the same time our loyal UK visitors have given us 100% ratings. 2011 was a strong year and our first six months of 2012 are showing all the signs of a successful year too. We’re looking forward to celebrating our 25th birthday at the Yorkshire Air Museum with such good news.’
Twenty five years after it was first formed, Visit York, formerly known as the York Visitor and Conference Bureau, will celebrate its 25th birthday with the city’s tourism sector at the Yorkshire Air Museum on 13th September. The organisation has helped boost annual visitor numbers to the city from 2.1mn visitors in 1987 to seven million today and it has worked to increase the value of tourism to the local economy from £55 million to a record breaking £443 million.