‘Signs of green shoots’ in 2021 inbound tourism forecast

Overseas visits to the UK are expected to increase slowly in 2021 following a slump in tourism due to the coronavirus crisis, according to Britain’s tourist board.

VisitBritain’s annual forecast suggests a gradual increase in the value of inbound tourism between January and March, which could continue into Easter should national restrictions be eased.

But by the end of the year, inbound tourism is not expected to be back to, or even close to, normal levels, according to the forecast.

It suggests there could be 16.9 million inbound visits in 2021 – an increase of 73% on this year, but less than half of the 40.9 million visits the UK saw in 2019.

Meanwhile, inbound visitor spending is forecast to reach £9 billion next year, according to VisitBritain.

Although up 59% from 2020, this is less than a third of the all-time spending high of £28.4 billion in 2019.

Tourism minister Nigel Huddleston said the Government was committed to bringing inbound tourism “back to full strength”, referring to the Covid-19 vaccine rollout and the new test to release scheme.

Travellers arriving in England from a country not on the travel corridor list will be able to end their quarantine period with a negative coronavirus test after five days from Tuesday, reducing the current 14-day requirement.

“This forecast shows our tourism industry can look ahead to 2021 with renewed optimism for recovery,” Mr Huddleston added.

Visits from short-haul European markets are forecast to recover quicker than long-haul, although expected to be half (13.6 million) of the 27.3 million seen last year.

VisitBritain said that for long-haul markets, the forecast is for 3.3 million inbound visits to the UK in 2021, less than a quarter (24%) of the 13.6 million in 2019.

VisitBritain director Patricia Yates said: “Beginning to see signs of some green shoots is encouraging news for the industry and the economy as we look to 2021 and beyond.

“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.”