Attractions industry news

11 Mar 2021

ONS data reveals UK travel and tourism sectors 'decimated' by pandemic

The UK's travel, tourism and visitor attractions markets have been "decimated" by COVID-19 – and remain under immense pressure.

Analysis published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveals how the effect of the pandemic was immediate and has proven long-lasting.

Monthly air passenger arrivals to the UK fell from 6,804,900 in February 2020 to just 112,300 in April 2020 – a fall of 98.3 per cent within a month.

Even when venues and accommodation providers were allowed to reopen during the UK summer months, many struggled to reach profitable levels of business.

Greater London saw the largest fall in room occupancy of any English region, from 2019 to 2020, with just 20 per cent of rooms occupied in July 2020 – compared to 90 per cent in the same month in 2019.

Data from the Monthly Business Survey show that the sector has been particularly badly hit.

Turnover in travel and tourism businesses fell to its lowest level in 2020 in May, at just 26.0 per cent of February levels – compared with 73.6 per cent in all other industries.

Commenting on the figures, David Trunkfield, hospitality and leisure leader at PwC said: “The travel and tourism market has been decimated by COVID-19 and remains under immense pressure.

"While there was a brief resurgence in the summer of 2020, further lockdowns and travel restrictions have since hit demand.

"There remains uncertainty over the timing and profile of any recovery, given the need for restrictions to be lifted (both in the UK and internationally) and the virus to be contained to the extent that people feel comfortable to travel.

“The figures show a complete reversal of normal patterns in the industry, with London particularly impacted as people avoid city centres and levels of international tourist arrivals drop.

"By contrast, more remote areas such as the South West recovered relatively well during periods when restrictions were eased, benefiting from the staycation effect. We would expect to see similar trends during the course of 2021, though much will depend on how and when travel restrictions are eased, both within the UK and internationally.

“These significant impacts have had a knock on impact on employment in the travel and tourism industry. We’ve seen larger declines in employment than other industries, particularly for the 25-34 age demographic, despite the high levels of furlough uptake by the industry. The current ongoing restrictions on travel create a significant risk that we will see further increases in unemployment in the industry as this year unfolds.”

• To access the full ONS report, click here.

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