An Expert View With…

elaine mossELAINE MOSS

SENIOR MARKETING EXECUTIVE, MAKE IT YORK

What is your resource and set up for groups?

Ensuring all our visitors have a brilliant time in York is our number one priority, but we know groups have special requirements and interests, and we want to look after them well, so we have a team who focus on that. Planning ahead is usually much more important when visiting with a group, and by offering suggestions for group itineraries, groups discounts and practical information such as where to park, this all makes for a much more enjoyable experience. We have a dedicated website for groups, and staff in our Visitor Centre are trained to know the best attractions and experiences for group visits, and can offer a range of free brochures as well as free maps. It’s important we offer this dedicated resource to help our group visitors get the most out of their stay in the city.

What do you do to help overseas groups in planning and handling their visits to York?

We have in place an international marketing drive, working in partnership with VisitEngland. For a city of its size (just 200,000 population), York has an impressive selection of world-class visitor attractions that are suitable for groups, such as the National Railway Museum, York Minster and Jorvik. We ensure that the city’s attractions work in partnership with us, and all offer dedicated tours and detailed information to help overseas groups to plan their visits. It is this partnership approach that makes York’s tourism marketing particularly successful. We meet together every quarter with our large attractions with visitor numbers over 100,000 and smaller attractions with numbers of 10,000 to 50,000. Twice a year, we get together with a number of beyond York attractions. Each group has different needs but generally we discuss best practise and business updates, along with a topical guest speaker. We have made a real effort to focus on incoming markets from Asia, and in particular, China. We launched our first visitor guide in Chinese last year and have also been awarded with a GREAT China Welcome Charter mark from VisitBritain, acknowledging the city’s commitment to embracing Chinese visitors.

How do you ensure that groups have a good time when they arrive?

York is a year-round destination and we do all we can in our marketing to encourage year-round visits, which can make the experience for groups more enjoyable. The vast majority of visitor attractions are open year-round, which means we can ensure a seasonal spread of visits throughout the year. Groups can also book in advance to help ensure a proper reception and the best experience. One of the best ways of getting the most out of a group visit is to buy a York Pass. GTOs can buy these in advance at a discount. Once purchased, the York Pass offers free entry to over 30 visitor attractions and it also comes with an informative guidebook and map. York has an Association of Voluntary Guides who offer two free tours every day (three in the summer months) too. Groups can book a tour in advance, which really helps orient themselves when they first arrive, and provides a fascinating overview of the city and its heritage.We also have a number of drop-off points around the city.

What are the key factors that have contributed to York being voted Best Destination for Groups this year?

We are dedicated to offering the very best service to all our visitors, particularly in meeting group needs, and put a lot of time and effort into our groups website (www.visityork.org/groups). There’s an incredible variety of things to see and do for such a small city – not to mention superb shopping and a growing gastro scene for eating and drinking. The city is continually developing its visitor offer and I think one of the secrets to York’s success is that we never stand still. This means there is always something new to see or experience, be it a new exhibition or a new visitor attraction. Group organisers thus always have new reasons to visit and new themes to offer to their customers, and we are delighted to work with them to choose the right programmes for their visits.

Elaine Moss arrived at the tourism body for York eight years ago as maternity cover, working on Group Marketing and Travel Trade. She stayed on to project manage the York Pass as well as continuing to work on groups and travel trade.