Visit Kent’s latest Economic Impact Model for 2021 published today (Tuesday 13 December 2022) shows promising signs of early recovery for Thanet’s tourism industry. Results from the report, commissioned by Visit Kent in partnership with Thanet District Council, show that the value of Thanet’s visitor economy increased to £212 million, up 70% from 2020. In total 3.9 million combined day and overnight trips were undertaken in the area in 2021.
The number of total tourism jobs across the district also increased by 16% between 2020 to 2021. They accounted for 5,831 jobs or 14% of total employment in Thanet last year, despite the Government furlough scheme finishing in September 2021.
These latest figures provide the first look at the rebuild and recovery of Thanet’s tourism and hospitality sector during 2021. Using the industry-respected Cambridge Economic Impact Model, the study measured the volume and value of tourism within Thanet in 2021, and the effect of visits and visitor expenditure on the local economy throughout this disrupted period. This took place against the backdrop of England entering its third national lockdown on 6 January 2021. Next came the 4 Step roadmap for lifting lockdown restrictions, which only formally ended in July 2021. The Government then also announced the ‘Plan B’ measures in December 2021 following the rise of the Omicron variant.
While the tourism and hospitality picture remained challenging throughout the region in 2021, these latest findings do show that Thanet’s visitor economy performed above the national average in several areas. Overall, results show that Thanet benefitted from extremely high levels of domestic tourism spending. Against a national projection of 64% growth compared to 2020, Thanet’s domestic overnight tourism spend increased by 106%, generating almost £52 million in 2021. When looking specifically at reasons for visiting the district, Thanet benefited from a significant amount of domestic leisure tourism, with holidays accounting for 64% of domestic overnight visits.
Over a third (36%) of all overnight trips in Thanet for 2021 were visits to friends and relatives (VFR). This demonstrates the impact that ongoing support from Kent’s residents had on local businesses during a hugely difficult year.
Councillor Reece Pugh, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Economic Development at Thanet District Council said: “Everyone involved in Thanet’s tourism industry should feel very proud. They have worked hard to rebuild our visitor economy, following the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This research shows an encouraging picture of recovery. Domestic tourism has increased significantly and we are committed to supporting businesses to continue to build on this.
“I would like to thank our local residents who acted as ambassadors for their towns and villages, welcoming friends and family to experience them first-hand. This research underpins that visitors to the area are vital to help support our local businesses during challenging times.”
“The regeneration of our towns will also play a huge role in supporting local businesses and the wider economy, including the visitor sector. The Town Deal and Levelling Up funded projects that we are currently working on across the district, will bring huge benefits as they progress.”
Visit Kent Chief Executive, Deirdre Wells, OBE, said: “After our sector was devastated by the Covid-19 crisis throughout 2020, it is encouraging to see the results for 2021 which show vast improvement across all areas of the visitor economy, demonstrating the resilience and hard work of Thanet’s brilliant tourism, leisure, and hospitality sector during what was still a chaotic and uncertain time.
“The results show that whilst footfall was not yet back to 2019 levels, the vast increase in domestic visitors and more people staying overnight is extremely encouraging. We are delighted that our domestic overnight tourism spending was far above the projected UK national average, indicative of the strong tourism product in Kent that appealed to consumers. The findings around the importance of local spend, and VFR demonstrates that Kent’s residents continue to be the biggest advocates for our industry. We are extremely grateful to our residents who have shown unwavering levels of support to local businesses, during an extremely challenging time.”
Deirdre continued: “We have an exciting year ahead – we’ll be running an international business events campaign in January, showcasing businesses’ purpose-built event spaces as in-person meetings and ‘away days’ properly return, hosting 20 leading tour operators in Kent to further drive our recovery, and joining with coastal destinations across the UK to celebrate the Year of the Coast 2023. It is also clear there is a huge appetite for domestic stays in the county, so we’ll work to bring more hotel accommodation to support demand. Thanks to incredible collaborations with partners in Thanet, we’re confident that we can continue to build a vibrant, sustainable, and resilient industry for the future, together.”
For more information about the Isle of Thanet, please visit VisitThanet.co.uk