A new report, produced by Deloitte, has revealed that the total economic contribution of the Visitor Economy to Britain is £114 billion, or 8.2 per cent of total GDP. This is far higher than previous estimates since it takes into account the direct and indirect impact of travel and tourism in the economy. The report reveals that the sector directly employs more than 1.3 million people.The report, jointly commissioned by VisitBritain and the Tourism Alliance, shows the vital role that the Visitor Economy plays in Britain. But it also shows that while the sector has the potential to continue to grow strongly, it faces a series of short-term and longer-term challenges as international competition increases and the world economy deteriorates. It highlights a number of areas where public sector policy failures may also be harming the industry.
In the longer term it predicts that the sector’s economic impact could grow to £188 billion by 2018 although still accounting for around 8 per cent of GDP. The London Olympics in 2012 in particular is expected to provide a significant boost to tourism and travel revenues.
The report however details a number of risks to the sector that would prevent it delivering that target. These include the very real potential for a recession in 2008 and 2009 and a further increase in international competition. Deloitte suggest that - although the longevity and depth of a recession remain unclear - over the next three years, GVA for the visitor economy could be £11 billion lower with 114,000 fewer jobs created as a result of the global economic downturn than would otherwise have been the case.
Deloitte highlight a number of what it calls Market Failures and Policy Barriers that it says “could prevent the Visitor Economy from optimising its potential”. These include a lack of information about what is on offer for visitors, skill shortages, transport difficulties and overcrowding. The report also points to areas where government policy could also risk the success of the Visitor Economy, such as transport infrastructure investment, the high cost of taxes and visas to enter the UK and Climate Change legislation.
While the report examines the long-term potential of the visitor economy and presents the possible impact of the global recession, VisitBritain is calling for more immediate action - a public-private partnership and fund to promote Britain’s value for money in a spring campaign. It will take advantage of hoteliers and carriers with sharp pencils delivering great offers as well as sterling depreciating against both the US dollar and the Euro and remind Britons that holidaying at home supports British jobs.
The report comes as the British Tourism Framework Review (BTFR) is nearing completion. The review, commissioned by the Secretary of State for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport is examining the entire infrastructure surrounding the Visitor Economy to ensure that spending is directed as efficiently as possible and is leading to a restructuring of VisitBritain to separate VisitEngland with its own CEO.
Christopher Rodrigues, chairman of VisitBritain and also chairman of the BTFR, commented: “This is a thorough and hugely important report from Deloitte that shows just how significant the Visitor Sector is within Britain’s economy. It highlights the enormous opportunities, but also the risks that our industry faces in the next few years. With proper Government attention and support the Visitor Economy will grow strongly over the next few years. But if market failure is allowed to continue and policy barriers are not addressed, the economic impact could be considerable.
“The recent fall in sterling and the approaching Olympics in 2012 give us a tremendous opportunity to promote Britain’s attractions as a destination to the world, provided we are given the appropriate financial tools and policy support, but the onset of the global recession makes our work and the support we receive from government ever more critical. The world travel and tourism market is highly competitive, and Britain needs to invest and support this sector to maintain our market share. We believe the BTFR, when complete, will go a long way to support the industry but no single organisation can do it alone. There needs to be wide-ranging backing from the highest levels of Government for the Visitor Economy to achieve its potential.”
Rashid Bashir, the author of the report and a senior economist at Deloitte, said: “The Visitor Economy is critical to Britain and should not be taken for granted. Neglecting the travel and tourism sector could lead to competitive disadvantage and diminished economic outcomes for UK PLC. The current downturn highlights the need for a diversified economy to maximise employment and enterprise opportunities for people at all skill levels.
“Effective support and investment now will position the sector to take advantage of the next upturn, which could gain extra momentum from London 2012. Combined, these two factors could act as a major boost to the UK economy.”