At the end of last year, Deloitte published the findings of a report commissioned by VisitBritain to explore the economic contribution of the UK’s tourism industry.
The findings are remarkable – tourism is currently the UK’s fifth largest industry with a total yearly contribution of £127 billion to the UK’s Gross Domestic Profit (GDP). By 2025, tourism will account for 13.2% of UK jobs or 4.6 million jobs. The economic benefit of overseas visitors to the UK is also set to rocket. Deloitte forecast that the value of inbound tourism will grow from £21 billion in 2013 to £57 billion by 2025.
The National Trust plays an important role within the UK’s tourist economy. Last year alone, the Trust received 19.2 million visitors, had 3.93 million members, and had a record-breaking 70,494 volunteers. As a result of the revenue raised by tourists visiting National Trust properties, the Trust is able to carry out vital heritage and conservation work. In 2012 to 2013, £51.8 million was spent on property conservation projects. Such major projects include the restoration of the Red Wing at Croome Park in Worcestershire and the re-roofing of Castle Drogo in Devon. In turn, the National Trust actively supports the tourism industry by managing over 300 historic and cultural assets, which are conserved for people to continue to visit and enjoy in the future.
The Eden Project in Cornwall is a brilliant case study of tourism as a catalyst for the wider regeneration of an area. The Eden Project works in partnership with other Cornish organisations to promote neighbourhood planning, and strives to create local opportunities through its ‘Post-Mining Alliance.’ Further afield, the Project is working with communities in the Seychelles to combat habitat loss and to conserve rare plant species. These activities show that initial tourism-based investment can lead to much wider social, cultural and environmental opportunities.
However, if we only judge the value of tourism in monetary terms we ignore other, often less quantifiable knock-on effects of tourism investment. Tourism and heritage attractions occupy a vital role in education and learning, as well as conserving at-risk sites and environments. Social factors such as visitor enjoyment and satisfaction, local awareness and personal interest, are often what keep visitors coming back to tourist attractions on a regular basis. Being a tourist or traveller can also bring new experiences and contribute to a greater quality of life and sense of well being. For example, the National Trust’s ‘Great British Walk’ festival or ’50 things to do before you’re 11¾’ both aim to encourage participants to get outside and to enjoy the many benefits of the countryside.
Whilst it seems all is well with the UK’s tourism economy for the moment, the Deloitte report does highlight caution for the future. Deloitte’s report shows that it is unclear whether the rise of the UK tourism industry is due solely to the “Olympics factor” or whether this indicates more of a long term trend. The impact of withdrawing investment and funding to the tourism economy too soon could also be significant. In the Government’s 2010 Spending Review, VisitBritain and VisitEngland’s budget was reduced by 34% by 2014/15. Deloitte found that the most popular attractions are plagued by poor infrastructure, and inadequate educational and visitor facilities. Continued investment is needed to maintain a competitive edge (for example, the new National Trust visitor centre at the Giant’s Causeway).
The tourism economy is also at the mercy of unavoidable and unpredictable events. Events such as the foot and mouth outbreak of 2001 and the heavy flooding of recent years inevitably effect tourism. This, along with emerging trends such as the rise of the “staycation” (in the past five years domestic holidays have increased by 12%) suggests that the tourism industry needs to strive to be more competitive and appealing in the future.
You can read the report for yourself here. We’d love to know your thoughts on the future of the UK’s tourism economy.
Blog by Charlotte Banks, Media and External Affairs Intern