New research by travel trade association UKinbound suggests that the resurgence of the UK’s inbound tourism industry is being led by couples and empty nesters, adults whose children have left home, from international markets, but supply chain capacity and staffing issues could slow down recovery.
The association, which represents over 300 UK tourism businesses that service international tourists visiting the UK (inbound tourism), undertook its latest business barometer member survey in June/July 2022.
Conducted by Qa Research, businesses stated that couples and empty nesters were the fastest returning international demographic, closely followed by families. Additionally, the US market continues to recover the strongest, with more than one in three businesses seeing growth from this market.
In contrast, businesses were asked, looking at the remainder of the year, what they expect to be their biggest barriers to recovery. Supply chain capacity is a leading concern, closely followed by the recruitment and retention of staff. The UK’s international competitiveness, alongside inflation and energy costs, were also highlighted as concerns.
However, 78% of UK tourism businesses stated that they are confident about the impending 12 months, compared to just 11% in April 2020.
The survey also asked members to compare their 2022 summer forecast (July, August and September) to the same time pre-pandemic. Over half (54%) expect international visitor bookings and numbers to be lower than pre-pandemic, while, one in five expect them to be higher during this period.
Nearly a third of inbound tourism businesses are expecting higher revenue levels compared to pre-Covid, however this trend was not shared across all businesses. 71% of attractions and 57% of tour operators expect to have lower revenue compared to pre-pandemic.
Joss Croft, CEO of UKinbound commented:
“From couples and empty nesters to families, it’s fantastic to see international consumers returning to experience the UK’s diverse tourism offering. The opening of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham this week is just one of the many reasons international visitors are choosing to holiday in the UK this year.
“We’ve also seen real pent-up demand from the US market, with people taking their deferred 2020 and 2021 holidays in the UK this summer, but international tourism is very competitive, and we can’t assume this boom will continue.
“Our industry is facing a number of challenges to its recovery, with supply chain capacity being heavily affected by businesses’ ability to secure the skilled staff that they need, alongside inflation and rising energy costs.
“Additionally, if we are to retain our crown as a world-leading tourist destination, and the economic benefits that come with this, we need to ensure that the UK has competitive visa, immigration and border systems, invests in the promotion of Britain abroad and that visitors receive a first-class welcome.”
“Looking forward, it’s critical that the impending new Government implement policies and funding that support the recovery and growth of businesses across this sector.”