Published: Monday, 10 August 2020

Oxford City Council and the Oxford Mail have joined forces to help boost city centre businesses and cultural attractions by encouraging people to Rediscover Oxford.

The campaign, which will run for at least the next six weeks, aims to encourage Oxford and Oxfordshire residents to visit their home city for day trips, and those from further afield within the UK to visit for staycations.

It will aim to achieve this by showcasing Oxford’s brilliant businesses, beautiful green spaces and must-see attractions through coverage in the Oxford Mail and Oxford Times and digital and non-digital advertising.

The campaign will also encourage local residents to reengage with their city through cultural activities.

Throughout the campaign, the City Council and Oxford Mail will be encouraging people to rediscover the city safely, including by promoting the use of masks on buses and in shops, and supporting people to maintain social distancing.

Although many people are now returning to shop or visit hospitality businesses or salons, the coronavirus pandemic has meant significantly fewer tourists are visiting Oxford than normal.

Footfall is down by 61.6% compared to last year. Oxford city centre had 294,257 visitors during the week 27 July to 2 August 2020, compared to 765,492 during the same period in 2019.

This drop in footfall is affecting shops, restaurants, pubs and cafes in Oxford city centre, especially those which rely on the summer tourist trade.

Oxford Mail offers

The Oxford Mail will be running editorial every day, both in print and online, under the Rediscover Oxford banner to encourage Oxford and Oxfordshire residents to revisit their city.

The paper will also be dedicating an issue of Oxfordshire Living to the Rediscover Oxford campaign.

Businesses in OX1 to OX4 will also be able to take part in a limited edition promotion offer: a six-week advertising campaign in the Oxford Mail and Oxford Times for as little as £99.

A small number of businesses will also receive free advertising in the Oxford Mail or the Oxford Times during the six weeks of the campaign.

To take up one – or both – of the offers, businesses in OX1 to OX4 should contact the Oxford Mail by emailing

Oxford City Council offers

The City Council will be carrying out a multi-channel advertising campaign to encourage Oxford and Oxfordshire residents, and those from further afield within the UK, to Rediscover Oxford, at the same time retaining the safety and public health messages it has promoted since lockdown easing started.

Oxford-based creative agency Monchü has been commissioned to produce the Rediscover Oxford brand and marketing material, including logo, posters and social media content.

A new dedicated website – – has also been created to provide suggestions for activities, daytrips and staycations in Oxford city centre, as well as competitions people can take part in.

As part of the campaign, the City Council will also launch an art competition, called ‘Oxford – My Treasure Island’, that will see Oxford residents invited to create a personal map of Oxford city centre highlighting their favourite spots – think The Hobbit’s map, or Lyra’s Oxford from His Dark Materials.

The City Council has also teamed up with Oxford Bus Company to offer free City Sightseeing bus tours for Oxford residents. Residents will be able to cut free tickets out of the Oxford Mail and Oxford Times newspapers, while under 12s will also be able to get a free ticket by taking part in the ‘Oxford – My Treasure Island’ art competition.

Rediscovering Oxford safely

Throughout the campaign, the City Council will be encouraging people to stay safe when they rediscover Oxford.

The City Council has worked with Oxford Bus Company and Stagecoach Oxfordshire to encourage people to wear masks on buses, and has introduced one-way pedestrian flows and designated rest areas in the city centre to help people maintain social distancing.

The Rediscover Oxford campaign has been funded using part of the £134,000 Government grant that the City Council received earlier this summer. The funding – part of £50m provided to councils across the country – was provided to the Government by the European Regional Development Fund.

Wider support for businesses

The City Council and Oxfordshire County Council are providing free car parking at all Oxford’s five park and ride sites – Pear Tree, Redbridge, Seacourt, Oxford Parkway and Thornhill – throughout August.

Drivers will not have to do anything new when they arrive at the park and ride sites; they will be able to simply park their vehicles, wear a face covering and get straight on the bus – or walk or cycle into the city centre.

People are encouraged to roam beyond Oxford city centre to visit shops, restaurants, cafes and pubs and other businesses in local centres including Summertown, Headington and Cowley Road.

The City Council is also supporting the city’s hospitality businesses by enabling restaurants, pubs, bars and coffee shops to install tables and chairs outside their premises.

So far the initiative includes tables and chairs areas in Cornmarket Street and in St Michael’s Street, which the City Council has part-pedestrianised to provide space for the scheme.

The City Council is in discussion with further city centre businesses to open more areas in the coming weeks, including in Broad Street.

Meanwhile, the Government is supporting the hospitality industry through the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which offers a 50% discount when people eat in at a restaurant on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays throughout August.

“We are very proud to call this city home and want to do what we can to support its regrowth following the devastation of coronavirus.

“With fewer people coming into the city for tourism or work, it’s no secret that many local, independent businesses and national brands are finding it tougher.

“Throughout lockdown we ran #StillOpeninOxfordshire but we are very pleased to be working in partnership with Oxford City Council on this campaign.

“If you’re a resident of Oxford or the wider area, there’s never been a better time to come in to the city and discover all of the shops, restaurants and historic places you may not have visited for years, if ever.

“We are all very lucky to live in an iconic city and we hope this campaign reignites your love for it.”

Samantha Harman, Editor of the Oxford Mail and Oxford Times

“Oxford is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and at this time of year we would normally be sharing it with visitors from every corner of the globe.

“But this year we’re hosting almost no international tourists, and that is having a profound impact on the city centre’s shops, restaurants, bars and cafes. These businesses are the lifeblood of our city, and are vital for so many jobs, so we have teamed up with the Oxford Mail as the latest in a range of support initiatives we’re taking.

“Over the coming weeks we’ll be promoting all the incredible things Oxford city centre has to offer for Oxford and Oxfordshire residents, including the hidden treasures that are off the beaten track and you may never have experienced before.

“At the same time, the Government is offering discounted meals through the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme, and the City Council and Oxfordshire County Council are offering free parking at all five of Oxford’s park and rides.

“So this summer, why not be a tourist in your own city? Now is the time to explore our wonderful city, its golden colleges, its plethora of parks and riverside walks, its world-famous museums and galleries, and its wide range of international and independent retailers and brand businesses. Now is the time to rediscover Oxford.”

Councillor Mary Clarkson, Oxford City Council Cabinet Member for City Centre, Covered Market and Culture

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