A new report has shown Oxfordshire had a record year for its visitor economy before the Covid-19 pandemic struck.

The latest Economic Impact Report for Tourism in Oxfordshire, commissioned by Experience Oxfordshire, shows an increase in spend in 2019 of nine per cent, bringing the annual value of the visitor economy to £2.5 billion.

There was a decline in day visitors but an increase in overnight trips leaving a total number of 30.9 million visitors to the county – one per cent down on 2018 at 30.9 million.

However, numbers of domestic overnight trips rose by 2.1 per cent and their spending rose 8.5 per cent, while domestic visitor numbers across the south east region overall fell eight per cent and their spending fell 5.5 per cent.

The number of jobs supported by tourism in Oxfordshire rose by nine per cent to 42,000 accounting for 12 per cent of all employment in the county.

Overseas visitor numbers rose 9.1 per cent against an increase of 4.5 per cent across the south east.

The main reasons for visits were holidays (accounting for 45 per cent) but the proportion of business trips rose from 19 per cent to 29 per cent.

The largest proportion of visitor spending was on food and drink (32 per cent), followed by shopping (23 per cent).

However, since the pandemic Experience Oxfordshire has been fighting for support and has been advising the sector of funding sources to help them survive. More than 8,000 enquiries have come its way.

Chief executive Hayley Beer-Gamage said: “The figures in this report are bittersweet as it clearly shows that 2019 was a record year for our visitor economy and we were delivering on our ambition in terms of growth and productivity.

“However, it shows just how far we have to go in terms of recovery for our sector.

“Never has it needed more support to be able to, not just thrive again in the future, but survive the now.

“The pandemic has shown us that we cannot be complacent, and Experience Oxfordshire are doing all we can to support businesses at this time and ensure warm dialogue across domestic and international trade to plan for recovery.

“These figures reflect the journey we have been on to achieve the growth levels that we have been aspiring to and we will work hard to return to this baseline. The increase in jobs in the sector last year was phenomenal with visitor economy jobs accounting for 12 per cent of all jobs across Oxfordshire.

“I remain concerned for the job losses that will continue to be seen across our sector as a result of this pandemic and the businesses and livelihoods it will impact”

Experience Oxfordshire is inviting potential partners and stakeholders to make contact at partnership@experienceoxfordshire.org

Image by Chensiyuan – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52257860

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