On Monday 16 May 2022 award-winning travel trade association UKinbound hosted its second directors’ roundtable discussion of 2022, bringing together over 20 CEOs, Managing Directors, business owners and Directors from across the UK’s inbound tourism industry.
Taking place at the Gloucester Guildhall, the afternoon’s agenda focused on discussions around recovery and the implications of both the pandemic and Brexit, the return of international visitors, a sustainable recovery and levelling up.
There was overwhelming agreement that the UK’s lifting of all restrictions in March, although greatly welcomed, had resulted in the key winter booking period being lost with potential international visitors opting to book 2022 holidays to other destinations.
However, there was positive acknowledgement that both the luxury and US markets are confident to travel and are now opting to visit the UK. Changing booking trends were discussed, with consensus that visitors were now more likely to book an attraction last minute, or turn up on the day, rather than pre-booking in advance.
In-depth discussions took place regarding recruitment issues facing tourism businesses across the country, which has led to many reducing their opening hours and/or capacity with plans to keep these restrictions in place until staffing issues ease. Concerns were also raised that these restrictions will likely lead to early closures in the shoulder season, when many international travellers visit the UK, effecting businesses’ ability to sustain themselves until Spring 2023.
The return of the valuable and important Chinese market was highlighted, although there was acknowledgement that this likely wouldn’t be returning until 2023. There was also an acceptance that other countries return entry requirements were putting some international visitors off travelling, and therefore dampening demand.
A number of companies also acknowledged that they had lost 2022 business as their clients had not been able to secure the relevant visa in time, due to delays at the UK Home Office.
Joss Croft, CEO of UKinbound commented “We were delighted to host our second roundtable of the year in Gloucester and very pleased to see such a positive turn out from the industry, with some insightful discussions.
“Figures from VisitBritain, the World Travel and Tourism Council and our own research suggest that inbound tourism to the UK should recover to anywhere between 50% and 75% of 2019 levels by the end of 2022, but these figures mask the extensive challenges businesses throughout this sector are facing.
Our session highlighted that demand is returning and businesses are excited to welcome back international visitors but a range of both supply and demand side issues, from recruitment to visas, were likely to slow down recovery, especially as we head into autumn and winter 2022.
It is Therefore imperative, as an industry, that we continue to educate and lobby the UK Government to make policy changes that support tourism jobs and careers across the whole of the country; make the UK more accessible to international visitors and enable tourism to continue to support the UK’s levelling up ambitions.”