VisitBritain downgrades inbound forecast as recovery slows

VisitBritain has downgraded its latest forecast for the inbound tourism market as the sector’s recovery from the pandemic has slowed.

The tourism agency’s latest inbound tourism forecast estimates £32.5 billion will be spent by international visitors in the UK this year, up 5% on 2023, and up 14% on 2019. Looking at visits to the UK, 38.7 million visits are forecast, up 2% on the 38 million seen in 2023 but still 5% shy of 2019 levels.

However, it said: “This is a downgrade on the previous forecast, due to the slower than expected numbers for late 2023 and indications of a similar start to 2024. The previous forecast was for 39.5 million visits and £34.1 billion spend.”

Figures from VisitBritain/VisitEngland also show that visitors spent an additional £1.26 billion across Britain from April 2021 to July 2023, as a result of activity by the national tourism agency.

It means that for every pound invested in the agency visitors spent an additional £15 in Britain.

Domestically, the agency’s latest research shows that more than a third of Brits, 35%, are more likely to choose a UK trip rather than an overseas trip in the next 12 months.

Nick de Bois (pictured), British Tourist Authority chairman, said it had been “fantastic” to see the double-digit growth in visitor spending from the US, as well as the overall growth forecast this year, but noted there had been a slowdown in the pace of recovery and there was fierce competition from European neighbours.

“Working in partnership with industry and government, getting the right structures and policies in place, we can boost Britain’s competitive position, unlock growth and drive inward investment so more local communities feel tourism’s benefits, and not within years but within months,” he said.

To drive spending to Britain, VisitBritain’s international GREAT Britain campaigns will focus on markets showing strong growth.

These include the US, its largest and most valuable market, forecast to be worth £6.3 billion in 2024, as well as Australia, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and its major European markets.

“Many businesses are battling rising costs and staff shortages while competing for visitors,” added de Bois.

“Supporting our industry will continue to be at the heart of our strategic activity. Working with the government and industry we will play our part in building a more resilient, sustainable and accessible visitor economy, making the strongest possible case for tourism and cementing the future of one of our greatest industries.”

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