The percentage of UK inbound tourism businesses reporting a rise in bookings and revenues fell dramatically throughout last year, a new survey has revealed.
While 81% of UKInbound members who responded to the survey reported a rise in bookings in January and February last year and 83% saw an increase in bookings, these figures shrivelled throughout 2017 and stood at just 34% and 33% respectively in December.
However, the figures were still an improvement on those recorded immediately prior to the EU referendum in June 2016, when just 30% of members reported a rise in revenue and 27% a rise in bookings.
Although there was much talk last year of the weaker pound stimulating demand, and 57% of UKInbound members said the favourable exchange rate had triggered more visitors or bookings, one in five said they had felt no additional benefit.
Worryingly, in January this year, 33% of members said they were not experiencing growth from any overseas markets, up from 25% in the previous two months.
Growth from the UK’s main markets of the US and China reached the lowest level since March 2017 in January, when members seeing an increase was down to just 16% and 15% respectively. France remains the main declining market, with 11% of members seeing a drop in business, mainly due to the French government banning school trips to churches and shopping centres.
Terror attacks in London, Manchester and elsewhere were one of the causes of the slump, with 50% of UKInbound members saying they suffered cancellations to existing bookings and 47% reporting cancellations of future bookings following such incidents.
The Business Barometer showed that only 54% of UKInbound members remained confident of future business in January, which was down from 82% in January 2017.
With Brexit just over 12 months away, 64% of UK tourism businesses said EU migrant restrictions will have a negative impact, and 71% said free movement of visitors from the EU should be a ‘top priority’ for Brexit negotiations.
The latest Business Barometer, the results of which were released at UKinbound’s annual convention in Cardiff, showed that 41% of respondents ranked more awareness of regional product or attractions as the key to enticing more international visitors.
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A quarter of members felt that improved transport links would encourage tourists to explore more of the UK, while 23% stated the lack of group accommodation was the main problem hindering visitation. Better flight connections from northern Europe to regional airports and a single pass across all local transport systems were two specific examples cited.
Members were also asked which transport infrastructure improvements should be made, with 59% stating that the UK train network should take priority. A further 24% stated that an increase in international airline routes to regional airports should be top of the list.
Commenting on the results, UKinbound’s CEO Deirdre Wells said : “It’s apt that our latest Business Barometer addresses the key tools our industry needs to grow UK-wide visitation, as we host our 2018 Annual Convention in Cardiff, a city brimming with fantastic tourism product and accommodation inventory.
“We share our members’ views that further promotion of our regional attractions, better transport connections and increased group accommodation would encourage more international guests to visit the UK’s nations and regions. We will continue to call on the Government to deliver a world-class transport infrastructure which can help our businesses grow.”