Growth of visits from China helps boost UK tourism confidence

Our latest tourism Business Barometer sees the tourism industry facing 2019 with growing confidence.

The survey, conducted for UKinbound, found members more optimistic – despite concerns about the uncertainties linked to Brexit.

Results were revealed at the UKinbound Annual Convention in Glasgow, and also revealed that businesses are expecting cultural experiences to top inbound visitors’ to-do lists this year.

The key headlines from members surveyed in November and December:

  • 59% of UKinbound members stated that they were confident about business in the upcoming 12 months, the highest rate recorded since September/October 2017
  • 81% of respondents reported that bookings / visitor numbers / customer orders were similar or higher compared to November / December 2017
  • and 88% reported that yield had remained stable or improved compared to 2017 figures.

Looking ahead to 2019

The survey also found the top activities that UKinbound members expect to be the most in demand from overseas tourists:

  1. cultural experiences
  2. closely followed by bespoke activities
  3. luxury goods and retail
  4. activity holidays
  5. spa and wellbeing.

The most pressing challenge faced by the industry in 2019 is the uncertainty regarding the UK’s future trading relationships with the EU.

Staff recruitment and retention, improving the UK’s offer for visitors, attracting visitors from new markets, and currently fluctuations were also cited as general concerns.

Revenue on the rise

The warm UK summer, good exchange rate and an increase in Chinese and Japanese visitors all helped improve members’ bookings and revenue in 2018.

In January / February 2018, 56% of members stated that bookings / visitor numbers / customer orders were similar or up on 2017 figures.

By November / December 2018 this figure had risen to 81%, compared to the same period in 2017.

Other findings included:

  • China and and the US remained the top two growth markets throughout 2018
  • confidence levels fluctuated dropping to an annual low in September/October
  • a key challenge for many members continued to be the reduction of available EU workers.

UKinbound chief executive Joss Croft said: “It is encouraging that even with the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, our latest Business Barometer shows that forward bookings are strong and that there is an increase in confidence levels amongst some of our members.

“However, we remain concerned about the Government’s proposed immigration strategy post Brexit which will look to restrict employing EU nationals to those only earning over £30k.

“Recruitment and retention of staff in the industry is already a challenge – due in part to Brexit, and this proposed restriction could have a real impact on the industry, which relies heavily on its EU employees due to their language and customer service skills.”

The Business Barometer surveys UKinbound members on a bi-monthly basis.

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For more information about our work with the tourism sector contact Richard Bryan, Managing Director at richard.bryan@qaresearch.co.uk and 01904 632039