VisitBritain predicts first signs of recovery for inbound tourism in 2021

VisitBritain’s inbound tourism forecast predicts first signs of recovery for overseas visits to the UK in 2021.The forecast predicts a slow increase from January to March 2021, with larger increases in the value of inbound tourism heading into Easter.

VisitBritain has forecast 16.9 million inbound visits in 2021 (an increase of 73% on 2020) but lower than the 40.9 million visits in 2019.

Tourism Minister Nigel Huddleston said: “This forecast shows our tourism industry can look ahead to 2021 with renewed optimism for recovery. With the announcement of our ‘Test to Release’ international travel scheme, the backing of the Global Travel Taskforce report, and the Covid-19 vaccine rollout, we are committed to bringing the inbound tourism sector back to full strength. Let there be no doubt about this Government’s support for tourism.”

Inbound visitor spending is predicted to reach £9 billion in 2021 (up 59% on 2020) but less than a third of the 2019 spending of £28.4 billion.

The forecast predicts that short-haul European visits are likely to recover quicker than long-haul, although this is expected to be half what was seen in 2019 (13.6 million visits in 2020 vs 27.3 million in 2019). For long-haul markets, the forecast predicts 3.3 million inbound visits in 2021, a quarter of the 13.6 million in 2019.

VisitBritain Director Patricia Yates said: “UK tourism businesses usually welcome tens of millions of overseas visitors each year with those visitors spending billions, supporting jobs and local economies right across the country. This year of course has been very different with international travel largely at a standstill and businesses having lost months of vital trading. Beginning to see signs of some green shoots is encouraging news for the industry and the economy as we look to 2021 and beyond.

“Tourism is also a fiercely competitive global industry and the key to success will be attracting visitors, those who can travel now, stimulating demand and bookings to drive the quickest return of international tourism spend.”

Inbound consumer sentiment research shows that a third of international travellers state they’re ‘in the mood’ for travelling abroad in 2021. A quarter of those surveyed state they will have time and means to travel abroad but are unlikely to book far in advance. One in five have not chosen their destination for 2021. A similar number have postponed plans for 2020 to 2021.

Earlier this year the ‘We’re Good to Go’ industry standard was launched, the scheme highlighted tourism businesses which had followed government and public health guidance to reassure both domestic and international visitors.

Tourism was previously worth £127 billion annually to the UK economy.