Experience Oxfordshire, the Destination Management Organisation (DMO) for the county, have released new data on the economic impact of tourism showing a huge spike in growth in 2019.
This year’s Economic Impact Report for Tourism in Oxfordshire, a report commissioned by Experience Oxfordshire, shows the county bucking the national trend with a significant increase in visitor spend in 2019. The study shows an impressive increase in spend of 9%, taking the value of the visitor economy in Oxfordshire to £2.5 billion per annum, exceeding the county’s target of 5% growth for value.
The report shows that the county actually welcomed less visitors with a slight 1% decline in volume to 30.9 million (from 32 million) visitors during 2019 which aligns with the Experience Oxfordshire ambition of encouraging visits that offer the best balance of impact and contribution to the county. The decline was in day visitors with overnight visitor trips significantly increasing.
The report also shows an impressive increase in jobs supported taking the number of jobs in the sector to just over 42,000 across Oxfordshire an increase of 9% on the previous year– accounting for 12% of all employment across the county which resulted in the creation of over 3,000 additional jobs compared to the previous year.
In terms of domestic overnight trips visitor nights were up by 2.1% with spend up by 8.5% which outperformed the South East region which saw domestic visitor nights decrease by 8% and associated expenditure decrease by 5.5%.
Oxfordshire also outperformed nationally and regionally for overseas visits. Nationally there was an increase of 3% and regionally across the South East an increase of 4.5% however Oxfordshire saw an increase in overseas visits of 9.1%. Experience Oxfordshire have been proactively targeting international markets over recent years and these figures reflect the work that has been done in this area.
The strategic importance of encouraging visitors to stay overnight in Oxfordshire is also clear from the report: While 28 million day-trips last year brought £1.23 billion to the county, over £824 million was spent in Oxfordshire as a result of just 2.8 million staying trips.
The impact assessment clearly highlights the particular importance of the overseas markets to Oxfordshire with the average length of stay being longer and the spend per visit for an overseas visitor being an average of £492 per trip compared to £215 per trip for domestic visitors.
The study also showed a re-balancing of the reasons to visit Oxfordshire with a significant increase in delegates coming for a business visit which increased from 19% to 29%. However, the main reason for visiting was for a holiday at 45% and visiting friends and relatives accounting for 20% of visits. Experience Oxfordshire have re-engaged with the business visits and events sector over recent years and the figures reflect the work that is being done in this area.
The largest proportion of visitor spend was on food and drink (32%), followed by shopping (23%), travel (22%), accommodation (13%) and attractions and entertainment (10%).
The report shows that domestic visitors account for 54% of visitor expenditure across Oxfordshire and overseas visitors account for 46%.
The report highlights that the visitor economy is extremely important across the whole of Oxfordshire; with the largest proportion of visitor spending taking place in Oxford (40%) and the largest number of visits to North Oxfordshire (26%) with Oxford City closely followed with 25% of the total visits.
The findings of this report show a stark contrast to the current situation across Oxfordshire where businesses from across the visitor economy are facing extremely challenging times due to the Covid-19 pandemic. As the DMO, Experience Oxfordshire, have been lobbying hard for support for the sector and providing advice on how to access funding and support. Experience Oxfordshire have dealt with over 8000 Covid-19 enquiries from businesses in the sector across Oxfordshire.
Chief Executive of Experience Oxfordshire, Hayley Beer-Gamage, commenting on the report said:“The figures in this report are bittersweet as it clearly shows that 2019 was a record year for our visitor economy and we were delivering on our ambition in terms of growth and productivity. However, it shows just how far we have to go in terms of recovery for our sector. Never has it needed more support to be able to not just thrive again in the future but survive the now.
"The pandemic has shown us that we cannot be complacent, and Experience Oxfordshire are doing all we can to support businesses at this time and ensure warm dialogue across domestic and international trade to plan for recovery. These figures reflect the journey we have been on to achieve the growth levels that we have been aspiring to and we will work hard to return to this baseline. The increase in jobs in the sector last year was phenomenal with visitor economy jobs accounting for 12% of all jobs across Oxfordshire. I remain concerned for the job losses that will continue to be seen across our sector as a result of this pandemic and the businesses and livelihoods it will impact”
Nigel Tipple, Chief Executive of the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP), said: “Unfortunately, over the past nine months, Coronavirus has created an unprecedented situation and will continue to cause concern and real disruption to visitor economy-focused businesses for the foreseeable future. It is however a sector that we all enjoy and one that we hope will flourish again very soon.
“Given the current Government regulations, our visitor economy – and in particular, those operating across hospitality and cultural industries – do need access to meaningful support to boost recovery and maintain jobs, preserving one of the finest sectors we have in the county.
“As the Local Enterprise Partnership for Oxfordshire, we are very much committed to this approach, working alongside Experience Oxfordshire and partner organisations. This already includes significant investment allocated to the sector by OxLEP, including a total of 25 visitor economy-led organisations benefitting from our business resilience grant scheme and just under 200 businesses so far receiving personalised business support plans.”