Image Source: Riik@mctr
Manchester Airport.
Matthew Neville

Leaders from North of England’s visitor and travel economy call for Government support

Following the relaxation of travel rules for inbound international visitors, leaders from across the North of England’s visitor economy have written to the UK Government requesting support to restore the region’s international visitor markets and the investment opportunities that depend on direct flight connectivity.

The letter, addressed to secretary of state for transport, Grant Shapps MP and secretary of state for digital, culture, media, and sport, Nadine Dorries MP and signed by Marketing Manchester and 11 other Northern Destination Marketing Organisations, highlights the value of inbound tourism and suggests a change of direction to help rebuild inbound tourism.

The north of England had 5.31m inbound visitors in 2019, up 2.3 per cent on 2018, creating a combined total expenditure of £2.63bn, up 2.9 per cent on the previous year.

Furthermore, over the last decade international connections into regional hubs including Manchester Airport, Liverpool John Lennon Airport, Newcastle International Airport, and Leeds/ Bradford Airport have grown significantly with new and expanded routes from Europe, USA, China, and India.

However, international visitors to the North of England have barely returned to a fraction of 2019 levels, and after the introduction of pre-departure and PCR testing in November passenger numbers at airports such as those managed by Manchester Airports Group dropped by 13 per cent week-on-week.

The removal of these restrictions, which takes effect from today, is expected to provide a boost to consumer confidence, and Northern DMOs are now asking the Government to recognise the impact of the remaining restrictions on the inbound travel sector and the knock-on effects for the wider visitor economies in destinations across the North.

Sheona Southern, managing director at Marketing Manchester, comments: “Every day that restrictions remain in place represents another dent in consumer and business confidence, along with damaging the long-term recovery of the inbound tourism market at what is a vital time of year for forward bookings.

“Tourism as a sector has doubled globally between 2010 and 2020, yet even in this period the UK tourism sector grew at a slower pace and has continued to lose market share, especially as competition from new destinations has increased with support from their respective Governments.

“Now, following the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK and destinations like Greater Manchester are facing a huge uphill battle to kickstart the inbound visitor market, which is already behind the curve and suffering issues with negative perceptions.

“We must act now and ensure that we do not miss the opportunity to fast track our economic recovery by encouraging uplift in international arrivals in 2022.”

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