Visit Britain has published its latest figures on the number of day visits to Great Britain. These statistics are particularly interesting as they give us a picture of domestic tourism day visits post pandemic. They also show the sector has a long way to go to full recovery, which will not be without its challenges.
Plenty of new regulations are coming through the UK and Welsh Governments that seek to curb the impact of overnight visitors (for example the tourism tax in Wales and short-term let registration in England). It is interesting therefore to see the potential scale of impact from day visitors on local communities. However, the latest stats also prove vital in demonstrating the value of British tourism to the economy.
The survey conducted by Visit Britain defines day visits in a number of ways:
A 3+ hour leisure day visit
-Lasts three hours or more including travel time
-Undertake one or more leisure activity
-Must not be overnight
Tourism day visits
-Be undertaken less than once a week
-In most cases be in a different local authority to where the trip started (except for in the case of visiting a visitor attraction, a live sporting event, or a public event)
Activities core to tourism
-Went to a visitor attraction (e.g. a historic house)
-Went sightseeing and exploring areas
-Retreat or meditation
-Attending an organized public event (e.g. exhibition, concert, fair, live sport)
-Art galleries, museums and local culture centres
The data from Visit Britain compares the months of April-December in 2021, with the same months in 2022. Data is not available for 2020 as heavy lockdown restrictions were in place. For context, from April 2021, many non-essential attractions opened in the UK and there was a steady lifting of restrictions with domestic overnight holidays allowed in May.
Number of visits
There was a 42% rise in the number of tourism day visits in April-December from 2021 to 2022. During these months in 2022, there were 888m trips, up from 624m in the same period of 2021.
For 2022 as a whole, 1.1bn tourism day visits within Great Britain were made. While this shows a healthy recovery from the pandemic, the number of trips remains below pre-pandemic levels. In 2019 there were 1.65bn domestic tourism day visits, meaning as of last year, visits only recovered to 67% of pre-pandemic levels.
Although these statistic should be treated with caution as there were still restrictions in place for the first quarter of 2022, it can still be argued that there is a long way to go before the sector can recover entirely.
The 1.1bn visitors in 2022 spent a total of £45bn. Again, this shows recovery was not at pre-pandemic levels with total spend in 2019 of £67 billion. However, for the period April-December 2022, there was a 46% rise in spending compared to the previous year.
The average visitor spend went up by £1, from £40 to £41 (2%). With the cost-of-living crisis and high inflation, we would expect in the next full year (2023) visitor spend increasing at a higher rate as the same trips begin to cost consumers more.
In all of 2022, taking a tourism day visit to a large city/town was the most popular main type of destination visited in Britain (45%). Around one quarter (26%) of visits were to a small town and just under one fifth (19%) were to the countryside.
Despite overall growth, recovery in each quarter of 2022 varied significantly by type of destination. Tourism day visit spend grew in each quarter of 2022 against 2021 baselines for large cities/towns, small towns and the countryside. However spend in seaside or other coastal destinations fell from the 2021 baselines in quarters three (-10%) and four (-20%).
This could indicate that as overseas travel was more likely in 2022, fewer day trips were made to British coastal resorts. Growth in all destinations slowed significantly in the latter quarters of 2022, indicating that while the recovery trend in most destinations is still going upwards, the rate is stalling and recovery to pre-pandemic levels will take longer.
Recovery in Wales has been slower. In England the number of visits grew by 41% from 2021 to 2022 (April-December), however growth for the same period in Wales was only 34%. Total visitor spend recovery in Wales is healthier with 44% growth, although growth in England is still higher at 47% (April-December, 2021 to 2022).
We still do not have the data to fully assess the impact of Covid on the visitor economy as we are yet to have a full year of data with no Covid restrictions impacting visitor behaviour. Yet, the data from Visit Britain suggests growth is slowing, and we are years away from returning to pre-pandemic levels.
We are also yet to see the full impact of the cost-of-living crisis and inflationary pressures on the tourism industry. While there may be some favourable outcomes for tourism day visits as it becomes more expensive to go abroad (underlining the staycation trend), many households are experiencing having less disposable income that will inevitably have an overall negative impact on leisure spending. Something to consider for CLA members with rural businesses within the sector.