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Oxfordshire’s visitor economy severely impacted by Covid-19, says report

Experience Oxfordshire, the DMO for the county, has released new data on the economic impact of tourism for 2020 which shows the severe impact the pandemic has had on Oxfordshire’s visitor economy.

The Economic Impact Report for Tourism in Oxfordshire, a report commissioned by Experience Oxfordshire, shows a 59% decline in the value of tourism (from £2.5bn to £1bn) and a decline of 39% in jobs supported by sector (from 42,000 to 25,000). 

The report also found a 51% decline in trip volume from 30m in 2019 to 14.5m in 2020. Cherwell received the most visits during 2020 (27%), closely followed by Oxford city (24%) with the highest visitor spend continuing to take place in the city at 33% of all spend across the county.

According to VisitBritain, spending by domestic tourism in Britain in 2020 was down 63% compared to 2019, with inbound visitor spend down by 73%. Whilst domestic tourism spend in Oxfordshire was down by 61% in Oxfordshire and inbound down by 77% across the county.

Oxford city was impacted the most severely with a decline in visitor spend of 66% and 51% decline in jobs in the sector. In contrast, in 2019 the county had a record year for the visitor economy. 

The report also highlights the importance of overnight stays and inbound visitors to the county. The main reason for visiting Oxfordshire was for a holiday (62%) which was an increase on 45% the previous year. Business visits were significantly impacted with just 9% of visitors coming for a business visit in 2020 compared to 29% in 2019.  

The findings of the report demonstrate how important the visitor economy is to Oxfordshire and the impact that the pandemic had on the county in 2020.

As the DMO, Experience Oxfordshire has been lobbying hard for support for the sector and providing advice on how to access funding and support. Experience Oxfordshire has dealt with over 10,000 Covid-19 enquiries from businesses in the sector across Oxfordshire since the start of the pandemic.

Experience Oxfordshire also supports its partners and the wider sector through a range of promotional initiatives which have included the Oxfordshire Hospitality Guide and Escape the Everyday in Oxfordshire campaigns.

Hayley Beer-Gamage, chief executive of Experience Oxfordshire, said: “We knew that the impact of the pandemic on Oxfordshire’s visitor economy would be significant, but these figures show just how severe the impact was in 2020 and this continued throughout 2021 and now into 2022. The range of support for the sector from government throughout the pandemic has been welcomed but more is needed to ensure that businesses remain viable for the future and the county can prosper again.

"The sector needs to be ready to welcome visitors back again and be recognised as a national and international destination of choice. We hope to see the return of inbound tourism this year as international visitors account for nearly 50% of all visitor spend across Oxfordshire in ‘normal’ times and is vital for recovery and growth.”