Augmented reality to woo younger American visitors to York

Wednesday 31 May 2017

A new app with embedded videos will transport visitors back in time when they visit York Minster this year.  York is one of twelve of England’s historic cities which has collaborated to develop an innovative augmented reality (AR) product, set to bring heritage to life in a dynamic new way.  The ground-breaking new AR experience is being launched to American visitors today in a collaboration with VisitEngland and VisitBritain.


Some of history’s most fascinating characters connected to York Minster will be brought to life with the app, part of a project that captures significant historic moments in time, whilst providing visitors with the opportunity to explore twelve of England’s most historic cities. 


The augmented reality project has been a year in the planning and was primarily developed to appeal to a younger American audience by reinterpreting England’s history in a dynamic new way.  Visit York collaborated with England’s Heritage Cities in putting forward a funding bid to VisitEngland to be part of this project and other cities involved include: Bath, Cambridge, Carlisle, Chester, Durham, Greenwich, Lancaster, Lincoln, Oxford, Salisbury and Stratford-upon-Avon.


Michelle Brown, Marketing Manager, Visit York, a part of Make It York, said, “The app uses cutting-edge technology to give some of York Minster’s most significant stories a fresh perspective and bring some of York’s fascinating real life characters to life.  In a rapidly changing and competitive tourism environment, the use of AR technology will offer a point of difference that will attract visitors and showcase the best of the city. 

This is a true marrying of old and new, inspiring a new generation of American visitors to step back into the past using the latest technology.”


The United States has consistently been York’s top inbound tourism market for the last ten years.  16% of York’s overseas visitors are from the US, which equates to approximately 37,000 from per annum.  Almost 90% of American visitors to York stay overnight here as part of their trip to the UK, staying an average of three nights in total and equating to 100,000 bednights each year.  35% of Americans visiting York are under 45, 89% of whom are traveling without children.  91% of American visitors to York now have a smartphone (34k visitors) and 74% of visitors from the US will go to the Minster while in York; the second most popular attraction with Americans after the National Railway Museum.


*American visitors spend an average of £294 per person per trip, while in York.  This is 20% more than the average overseas visitor (spend per person per trip = £246) and 115% more than a domestic visitor (spend per person per trip = £137).


Stacey Healey, Marketing Manager, York Minster, said, “We were delighted to be chosen as a key partner in this innovative project.  York’s new app is set to transform the visitor experience by showcasing the cathedral to new, technologically motivated audiences, which will offer visitors the chance to engage with York Minster in a completely new way.”


Built on the site of Constantine’s imperial proclamation, York Minster has survived nearly 2,000 years of war and religious conflict, making it a rich source of compelling human tales.  With the new app visitors will be able to explore the stories of York Minster through the sharp eyes of their guide, 19th century Choirboy Robert Swinbank, who raised the alarm on spotting the fire in York Minster in 1829. 


Visitors can find out who cut off the heads of the church’s grand stone statues, marvel at John Thornton’s enormous stained glass window, which predicts the end of the world and hear the dramatic tale behind the Minster’s devastating fire of 1829.


England’s Heritage Cities is a consortium of English historic cities from Canterbury to Durham and Salisbury to Carlisle. They offer diverse experiences and all of them are well-connected via rail, making it easy for visitors to travel to more than one at a time.

The new app, ‘England’s Historic Cities’, is available to download for free in google play and on the app store or at  Visit York successfully applied for funding for this project from the Discover England Fund, which is administered by VisitEngland.  ENDS


Notes to editors:

About England’s Heritage Cities

England’s Heritage Cities is a consortium of cities who work together principally focused on marketing, lobbying and research. The consortium includes the destination management organisations representing Bath, Cambridge, Carlisle, Chester, Durham, Greenwich, Lancaster, Lincoln, Oxford, Salisbury, Stratford-upon-Avon and York. More information is available on


About Make It York

Make It York’s purpose is to develop and promote the city and its surroundings – nationally and internationally - as a vibrant and attractive place to live, visit, study, work and do business.  The company’s remit covers leisure and business tourism, city centre management, festivals and events, business support and inward investment.


Visit York is a part of Make It York and is the leisure tourism brand

Under the brand Visit York, Make It York’s aim is to market York as a must-see world-class destination to the leisure visitor and ensure investment to develop the quality of tourism in York.



Key tourism facts:

6.9 million visitors annually, £564 million total visitor spend, supporting 19,000 jobs


*Data is sourced from the annual Economic Impact Survey using the Cambridge Model – (one of the standard tourism models, the other being STEAM), using Visit York’s locally collected data from the Annual Visitor Survey as inputs.

For more information contact:

VisitBritain Media Team

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