York & North Yorkshire

York visitor centre recruits Mandarin speaker

Singaporean Susan Lee is a Mandarin-speaking volunteer at York's tourist information centre
Image caption Singaporean Susan Lee is a Mandarin-speaking volunteer at Visit York

Growing numbers of visitors to York from the Far East have led the city's tourism body to take on a Mandarin-speaking volunteer.

Visit York has enlisted the help of Singaporean Susan Lee at the visitors centre for several hours a week.

Ms Lee, 38, came to the University of York in October to study for an MA in film and literature.

"Visitors from China and Hong Kong are always surprised I can speak fluently in Mandarin with them," Ms Lee said.

"When they arrive in the visitor centre people usually start the conversation in English, but when you start speaking in Mandarin they're happy to continue from there.

"They really warm up because somebody can speak their language. It helps a lot."

Ms Lee said she grew up speaking Mandarin at home, and learned English at a bilingual school.

Visit York said it had seen a surge in visitor numbers from 390,000 to 900,000 since it opened new premises on Museum Street two years ago.

It said tourist information staff had noticed more visitors from the Far East in particular.

David Horton, previously Lord Mayor of York, said: "We are well aware that the Chinese are the second largest population in York after the indigenous English population.

"We attract a lot of people from the Far East to the universities to give them a high quality education."

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