Britain's tourism agency predicts first signs of recovery as pandemic impact eases
Overall, VisitBritain forecasted 16.9 million inbound visits for 2021, up 73 percent increase from 2020. But it would be less than half of the 40.9 million visits Britain saw in 2019.
Inbound visitor spending was forecasted to reach 11.9 billion U.S. dollars in 2021, up 59 percent from 2020. It is less than a third of the all-time spending high of 37.6 billion dollars in 2019.
The forecast shows a gradual increase in the value of inbound tourism from January to March 2021 with a step-change heading into Easter and the spring, if national COVID-19 restrictions are eased as expected, particularly from short-haul European markets.
Tourism Minister Nigel Huddleston said "this forecast shows our tourism industry can look ahead to 2021 with renewed optimism for recovery. We are committed to bringing the inbound tourism sector back to full strength. Let there be no doubt about this government's support for tourism."
VisitBritain Director Patricia Yates said "UK tourism businesses usually welcome tens of millions of overseas visitors each year with those visitors spending billions, supporting jobs and local economies right across the country."
"Tourism is also a fiercely competitive global industry and the key to success will be attracting visitors, those who can travel now, stimulating demand and bookings to drive the quickest return of international tourism spend."
VisitBritain said visits from short-haul European markets were forecasted to recover quicker than long-haul markets, although still expected to be half, 13.6 million, of the 27.3 million seen in 2019.
The agency said it plans to launch a campaign in early 2021 across its major European markets including Germany and France, its third and fourth most valuable tourism source markets, respectively, to drive future bookings highlighting messages of welcome and reassurance.
For long-haul markets, 3.3 million inbound visits to the UK were forecasted for 2021, less than a quarter of the 13.6 million in 2019.
Major events planned for 2021 include Coventry kicking off a year long program as Britain's City of Culture, commemorations marking 400 years since the Mayflower set sail from Plymouth, taking the first pilgrims to America, and the planned opening in May of the Royal Horticultural Society's largest gardening project in Europe, with a new spectacular 154-acre garden near Manchester.