Experience Oxfordshire reports Visitor Economy recovery

Experience oxfordshire

Data shared in December 2023 by Experience Oxfordshire shows a welcome return of visitors to the county but indicates ongoing challenges continue to prevent the sector returning to its pre-pandemic strength.

The Economic Impact Report for Tourism in Oxfordshire (2022), a report commissioned by Experience Oxfordshire, shows a steady recovery in the volume of trips to the county and related expenditure compared to 2021 but that a significant gap still remains when comparing figures against those of pre-pandemic 2019.

Overall, there was an increase in visitor numbers and related expenditure in 2022 compared to 2021, with numbers of trips to the county rising by 14% to 26.5 million.  Spend in nominal terms was up 38% at £2.17 billion, however the cost of living increased sharply across the UK in 2022 and the average annual inflation rate for the year was 8%, reducing the real terms value of this growth. 2022 saw a rise in the number of jobs supported by the visitor economy with some 10% of the county’s workforce employed within the sector.

When considering reasons for visiting Oxfordshire during 2022, the data shows a swing towards pre-Covid patterns. 52% of all trips to Oxfordshire were for holidays and a further 20% of trips made to visit friends and family. 2022 brought the welcome return of the business traveller, with business visits and events showing a significant increase. This valuable sector had suffered a severe dip in numbers over the previous two years with business tourism accounting for only 7% of trips taken to Oxfordshire in 2021. In 2022, that share increased to a healthier 27%.

Of the Oxfordshire districts, Cherwell, home to Bicester Village and the new Banbury Castle Quay Waterfront, received the largest proportion of trips made to the county during 2022 (26%), closely followed by Oxford City (25%) which accounted for the greatest proportion of visitor spend (40%). The largest proportion of visitor spend was on food and drink, 32%, hopeful news for the hospitality sector, with shopping accounting for 23% of spend and accommodation for 22%. The majority of visitors, 59%, stayed in paid accommodation with the remainder staying with friends, family or in second homes.

Responding to the report, Hayley Beer-Gamage Experience Oxfordshire’s CEO said, “Despite the ongoing global recovery of the visitor economy, these are challenging times for businesses. When presenting financial information, the high inflation rate of 2022 can, to a great extent, distract from the operational reality that businesses are dealing with. In 2022, we were still 14% down on the number of trips taken in the county when compared to 2019, with the sector generating 17% less value in real terms. This impacts hugely on businesses’ ability to operate, develop and grow. Employment within the sector has grown by 28% year-on-year, which appears good news, but again that’s still 17% down, in real term value, on 2019.

“Experience Oxfordshire’s ambition is to ensure that, within a highly competitive marketplace, our county maintains its position as a desirable destination to visit. It’s essential that key decision makers, locally and nationally, recognise the potential of our sector and together we can create the environment where both residents and visitors benefit from a healthy visitor economy.”

Councillor Liz Leffman, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council said, “This report shows the continuing need to support the visitor economy’s recovery. We are fortunate in Oxfordshire to have a wealth of experiences to offer potential visitors and, as the Local Visitor Economy Partnership, Experience Oxfordshire is focused on delivering positive growth in visits and value. At county level we continue to work with them on ensuring the sector develops to the benefit of residents and local businesses and we would encourage businesses to engage with them to maximise the opportunities available.”

Over the past two years, Experience Oxfordshire has delivered a series of high-profile marketing campaigns to support the recovery of the county’s visitor economy, including Escape the Everyday in Oxfordshire and Escape to Oxford, run as part of VisitEngland’s national recovery activity. Experience Oxfordshire has also secured a range of high-profile media visits from national and international travel publications to help ensure Oxfordshire is front of mind as a visitor destination. In addition to this, the organisation has continued to monitor consumer and business trends through research and provided a wide range of business support and advice. Click here to find more information on the work that the organisation undertakes on behalf of its partnerships.

Click here to discover more about Experience Oxfordshire.