World Tourism Day

Today’s guest blog is from Kathryn Davis,
Director of Tourism at Visit West

The United Nations World Tourism Organization recognises 27th September as World Tourism Day. Tourism is one of the world’s most important economic sectors, responsible for approximately 1 in every 10 jobs globally.

Tourism Bristol’s Visitor Economy

In 2019, Bristol’s visitor economy was estimated at £1.2 billion, supporting thousands of jobs across the hospitality, cultural, retail, entertainment, nightlife, and transport sectors. 

Visitors come to Bristol for many reasons. We know that international visitors are generally split equally into three groups – for a holiday, to visit friends and relatives, or for business. Of course, often it will be a combination of these, but we know that Bristol is a rising star. We received an award from National Geographic readers in 2018 as the global rising star destination.

What motivates people to visit is fascinating. Visit Bristol has thousands of pages of information to help people plan their stay, discover what’s on and find inspiration. The most popular pages include Bristol’s Street Art, especially the Banksy Walking Tour, Christmas events, family travel and food and drink, as well as what’s on.

As well as the economic value of visitor spend, the soft power of tourism is critical.  Pre-pandemic we would host around 200 media a year, from across the world, generating hundreds of articles inspiring visitors to come and discover what Bristol has to offer. There’s something for everyone in Bristol, from our food and drink scene (see the latest edition of Food and Travel Magazine with 11 pages of Bristol content), to family breaks to festivals to conferences to LGBTQ+ stays

Bristol has been recognised through a series of awards from Group Travel Magazine (Best X destination) to the World Food Travel Association (best Culinary Destination).  It’s not just the city that is a winner, our own convention bureau team are currently shortlisted for two major industry awards, recognising their outstanding contribution to the industry, plus the ‘Bristol from Home’ campaign delivered through the early days of coronavirus, was recognised as by Rough Guides as one of the best in the world.

The Visit West team deliver campaigns and content through our Visit Bristol channels, with millions of visits to the Visit Bristol website every year providing ideas and inspiration through social media.

It’s also important to remember that tourism doesn’t just happen. It is the result of co-ordinated work taking place across years, building relationships with the global travel industry, and taking Bristol to the world. There is a vast network of decision makers and buyers who we work with either independently or in partnership with others. After winning the bid to host the UKInbound convention, in 2020 Bristol hosted around 300 of the key decision makers in the industry, a very significant opportunity for the city. What we didn’t know, was that this was to be the last live industry event for almost 18 months.

The impact of Coronavirus

The impact of the pandemic has hit every world tourism economy, with cities hit hardest of all. Locally, we have seen businesses close and people leave the industry.  Some of these businesses have been partners with us for 20 years and so it has been devastating both professionally and personally.

While businesses may seem busy, it is worth remembering that some have taken on a phenomenal amount of debt to keep going. The industry has a huge challenge in staffing, with hundreds of vacancies meaning some businesses are unable to trade at capacity, so making recovery even more of a challenge.

Our work changes overnight from sending out emails with campaign opportunities to the latest government advice and information on claiming grants. We supported other sectors looking for accommodation for key workers. Actual visits became virtual visits.

What now?

For many, the summer has been a time for cautious optimism. However, consumer confidence is still rebuilding.

The industry has been incredible in its response to visitor safety, and so while things still are a little different, the steps they have taken have been enormous. Around 100 signed up to VisitBritain’s ‘We’re Good to Go’ scheme, demonstrating their commitment to customers.

We are just starting to see the return of our international visitors. We were able to ensure that our first US media trip was able to join a hot air balloon ride at the extended celebration of the Balloon Fiesta. We have our first trade mission next month. Normality seems to be returning.

While you may be thinking about your next trip away, remember to support your local tourism and hospitality businesses. They need you. And there is no better place to visit.