TOURISM may not return to pre-pandemic levels in south Warwickshire until 2024 a tourism boss has warned.
Helen Peters, chief executive of tourism body Shakespeare’s England, has pointed out while the region was unlikely to see international visitors back before 2022, VisitBritain had estimated pre-pandemic levels of travel were unlikely to return for another three years.
Tourism is a major souce of income fto the south Warwickshire economy, bringing in approaching £700million a year, as visitors from around the world flock to the likes of Shakespeare’s Stratford, the historic castles of Warwick and Kenilworth and the parks and gardens of Leamington.
To make matters worse, Ms Peters added businesses in the tourism and hospitality industry had reopened later than any other sector and had operated under restricted capacity. This was in spite of ongoing fixed costs, persistent low revenues, dwindling cash reserves and the potential closure of businesses.
She said: “The hospitality industry was the first to be forced to close and has been the last to re-open.
“Even now there are mixed messages regarding ‘Freedom Day’ as case numbers have risen recently, and businesses are very aware that to re-grow confidence in both staff and customers, they potentially need to keep many of the mitigations in place like social distancing and the wearing of face masks and coverings.
“International visitors had represented roughly 30 per cent of our visitor base. We are unlikely to see many international visitors back until 2022, but VisitBritain anticipate it being 2024 before we realistically return to pre-pandemic levels.
“Increases in domestic visits via ‘staycations’ and ‘daycations’ will help, but international visitors on average spend three times that of a domestic visitor, so the negative economic impact will still be significant.
“Tourism and hospitality is a sector that is so often overlooked but is a huge contributor to UK GDP.”
Ms Peters believes there needs to be proper long-term funding for the visitor economy with local authorities providing grants to local tourism management bodies proportionate to the area’s economic boost from tourism.
Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership spokesman Craig Humphrey added the organisation’s Growth Hub was also monitoring a range of issues threatening the recovery of the region’s economy during the remainder of 2021.
He said: “Problems range from supply chain difficulties which is leading to significant price increases or stopping production to the well documented shortage of skilled and semi-skilled labour, and from the phasing out of Government support to self-isolation rules and the ‘pingdemic’.
“All of this is contributing to re-opening plans being disrupted for many businesses of all sizes, with some having to reduce hours or services and some being forced to close.”