Oxfordshire Destination Management Organisation (DMO), Experience Oxfordshire has released new data showcasing a significant recovery in the volume of trips to the county and related expenditure in 2021 – compared to the year prior.
The Economic Impact Report for Tourism in Oxfordshire (2021) showcases a 56% increase in both the number of visitors and related expenditure in 2021 compared to 2020, rising from 14.5m to 23.3m visitors and from £1 billion to £1.6 billion in expenditure. In contrast the record-level 2019 figures were 30 million and £2.5 billion respectively.
In 2020 jobs supported by the visitor economy had dropped from 42,000 to 25,000. 2021 saw a 13% recovery to 28,830 tourism-related jobs – a vast improvement, but with report data also evidencing the long way that remains to go, in order to return to pre-pandemic figures.
Earlier this year we launched the Visitor Economy Renaissance Programme – funded by the government’s Contain Outbreak Management Fund – a £1.64 million programme of activity set up to back the sector’s ongoing re-emergence from Covid-19 through a variety of positive interventions allowing the strengthening of the sector post-pandemic.
Key elements of the programme that have since emerged include the Visitor Economy Grant Scheme – being delivered by OxLEP Business – and a series of marketing campaigns being delivered by the DMOs for the county, Cotswolds Tourism and Experience Oxfordshire itself.
Cotswolds Tourism continues to champion local produce and independent suppliers and retailers this December, with its ‘Made Here’ campaign, showcasing all that the county has to offer locally, particularly in the run-up to the festive season.
Experience Oxfordshire’s current ‘Only in Oxfordshire’ campaign sets out to highlight the unique – and iconic – offer here in the county, with world-renowned attractions and county quirks providing the perfect backdrop to a decidedly ‘Oxfordshire’ Christmas, for visitors both local and from across the globe.
Further elements of the Visitor Economy Renaissance Programme, set to be delivered by March 2024, include a training provision focusing on missing skills that some may have within the sector, particularly digitally – that may prevent those in the sector responding with full agility to the effects of pandemic. Support for a virtual conference desk to reattract high value business visitors and the strengthening of sector leadership through the coordination and development of a Visitor Economy Vision and Action Plan are also key components of the programme.
Pre-Covid 19, Oxfordshire had a thriving visitor economy which attracted 30 million visitors a year, generating £2.5 billion for the local economy and acting as the largest employer of women in the county, providing vital employment and apprenticeship opportunities for young people, offering flexible employment opportunities and providing a route back into work for people seeking to return to employment.
A key aim of the Visitor Economy Renaissance Programme is to ‘attract visitors and ensure that Oxford and Oxfordshire maintain its position as one of the UK’s most desirable visitor destinations for local, national, and international visitors, with a focus on attracting value from all visitors and encouraging green and sustainable tourism and practices’, whilst being mindful to continue to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission linked to the visitor economy, through measures to enable residents and visitors to be and to feel safe.
Oxfordshire has a world-renowned reputation for the beauty of the county and the areas of vast countryside within – including the Cotswolds – and iconic historical attractions bring visitors from across the globe, including the University of Oxford colleges and Blenheim Palace. The Economic Impact Report for Tourism in Oxfordshire clearly showcases the impact the pandemic has had on visitor economy numbers within the county – but that there is hope of coming out the other side, with an upward trend in figures.
With key initiatives including the Visitor Economy Renaissance Programme – and support from the county’s DMOs and visitor economy businesses and stakeholders afoot – this paves the way for the county’s vital visitor economy to return to its former outstanding economic position.