York employs ‘behaviour experts’ to help city reopen safely

Plans are underway for reopening York safely after lockdown – and could include advice from a team of behaviour experts to encourage people to visit the city responsibly.

City leaders say summer 2021 is likely to be similar to 2020 – with open air dining areas created.

But businesses are cautious about promoting the city. Council economy boss Simon Brereton said people are wary of scenes from 2020 where large crowds were seen visiting beaches in Bournemouth for example.

And he said that it is difficult to make plans until the government outlines dates for lifting restrictions.

He said: “Interestingly there’s a lot of caution from the business community in terms of not over-promoting.

“A lot of people were quite chastened by what happened through December when trade was down but we certainly had plenty of visitors coming from all across the UK. I think everyone found that very difficult to deal with.”

Tourism and business leaders are already making plans to reopen the city safely. Mr Brereton said people will want to visit York, but the challenge is to make sure they do so safely while also ensuring the city’s businesses make some money.

“We’re beginning to plan what we might do in terms of practical events on the ground,” he said, adding: “All the indications are that perhaps summer 2021 will be like summer 2020, which was a good summer for businesses in York.”

Priming and prompting

A marketing campaign based on behavioural insights will also be launched by the council in preparation for the reopening of the city.

Also known as nudge theory, the programme will try to encourage tourists to behave safely when they visit the city.

Claire Foale, head of communications at the council, told the outbreak management advisory board: “We are working with behavioural insight specialists to look at how we can prepare the city to reopen and that’s really about priming and prompting visitors to the city to know what they need to do to keep themselves and us safe.

“It’s an attempt to mitigate some of the risks of people coming back into the city. Learning from behavioural insight experts will help us prepare the city better and we’ll be sharing their expertise.”

The larger pedestrian zone in the city centre will remain in place until September.

Council leader Keith Aspden said: “It is incredibly important that the Government publish a national roadmap of how we’re going to safely return back to normal, when the science allows us to do so.

“Businesses, teachers and communities all need clarity, with proactive and open communication from the Government, to protect people’s lives and livelihoods.”