Economic landscape is proving to be positive for hoteliers

At a time when much of post EU-referendum Britain is considering future economic relationships with the rest of the world, the tourism and hospitality industries are enjoying a period of real optimism.

The picture painted by Visit Britain, the Government-funded national tourism agency, shows an industry which is in rude health. Its 2015/16 annual review also outlines some key statistics which illustrate the current state of the industry:

Tourism is worth £127 billion a year
Ten per cent of UK jobs are tourism-related and the industry incorporates more than 200,000 Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Last year, 36.1 million visits from overseas visitors led to a £22.1 billion spend - both record figures and 2016 figures are continuing this record trend
£19.6 billion was spent by British residents on overnight trips in England (another record figure and an increase of 8%)
And it’s not just our capital which is benefitting from this upsurge in visitors and spending – while London recorded over 18 million visits by international tourists for the first time ever last year, the rest of England welcomed over 15 million guests from around the world.

So, why are we seeing a renewed interest in the Cool Britannia brand?

For those of us who already regularly spend time holidaying in our native land, it is not hard to understand the appeal. From cosmopolitan cities to historic towns, and from the stunning rural landscapes to so many beautiful coastal destinations, we’re spoilt for choice.

It’s a part of the British psyche which means we play down or joke about our own country – and particularly it’s unpredictable weather! But if you find yourself enjoying a drink in a beer garden overlooking Lake Windermere on a sunny day, or taking a romantic stroll on a crisp December evening through the streets of Bath – then this land of ours is a match for anywhere in the world.

From a less poetic perspective, those in the tourism and hospitality industries point to some economic factors which are contributing to this boom period.

The reasons why 67% of members of tourism trade association UKinbound said they are confident bookings and visitor revenues will increase in the coming year relate primarily to the current economic climate.

In its Business Barometer Survey 2016, UKinbound asked those hotel owners, tourist attractions and tour operators who had seen an increase in visitor numbers what they felt were the underlying factors. Answers included the weakness of the pound, favourable exchange rates, and increased demand from European markets.

Deirdre Wells, UKinbound CEO, commented: “It’s incredibly encouraging to hear that confidence levels have spiked for our members, exceeding those experienced pre and post-Brexit.

“Further positive news was reported via our survey with 44% of our members stating that bookings and visitor numbers in July and August 2016 were up year-on-year. The weakness of the pound, increased demand from European markets and better weather were all cited as reasons behind the increase.”

Long may these fortunes last, although the industry will need to continue working hard to market itself to domestic and international visitors. It is not enough to simply rely on the fluctuations of currency values.

Those in the hospitality industry will be keeping a particularly close watch on the post Brexit negotiations. Any additional burdens or restrictions placed on foreign visitors or migrant workers would pose a significant challenge for this industry and organisations such as the British Hospitality Association will certainly want these issues to be fully debated and at the forefront of Government thinking.