UKinbound members have expressed their optimism for 2012 in the first insight survey carried out by only trade association to represent and unite the UK’s inbound tourism businesses.
In her welcome speech to delegates attending UKinbound’s annual Convention currently taking place in Belfast, Rita Beckwith, chairman of UKinbound, outlined the sanguine findings but warned that government was still not doing enough to facilitate inbound tourism’s vital contribution to the UK’s struggling economy.
According to the survey, confidence levels are particularly high among the accommodation sector, as well as with tour operators, despite booking patterns being down in quarters two and three when the Queen’s Jubilee and London 2012 Olympic Games take place.
The attractions sector however, feel the least confident and are concerned by the impact such events will have on the demographic of visitors to the capital during the crucial summer season.
While supportive of any measures to entice visitors to the UK, including the marketing support being given to Visit Britain and Visit England overseas, Beckwith was still keen to highlight the barriers that remain to inbound tourism despite increasing evidence of the harm being caused to the UK’s competiveness when compared to European counterparts.
The confirmed increase of APD and prohibitive visa processes continues to deter would be visitors to the UK, pushing them towards European competitors and depriving the UK of much needed revenue for 2012.
Taking the survey findings into account and the estimated decline in bookings by tour operators alone (10-25 per cent in quarter two and 50 per cent in quarter three), this could result in a loss of three million visitors and £1.5 billion to the UK economy.
Mary Rance, chief executive, UKinbound said: “This first annual insights survey has resulted in some key findings for the inbound tourism industry. Some sectors are positive for the year ahead, but more so, for the coming years when members hope to avail of the legacy of the London 2012 Olympic Games and see the Government use this platform as a catalyst for change.”
She continued: “Inbound tourism used to be the UK’s third largest exporter but this has recently slipped to sixth, proving the damage being done to the country’s competitiveness and demonstrating the fact that there is still a lot for the Government to do to encourage and entice visitors from growing economies such as China and India.
“Lobbying the existing issues and providing a platform for discussion at conventions such as this plays an important part in the process and hopefully puts UKinbound and its members at the heart of the action, rather than at the fringes.”