Visit Kent’s latest Economic Impact Model for 2020 published today shows the severe initial impact on the Isle of Thanet’s visitor economy from the COVID-19 pandemic, with a 49.6% drop in visitors overall compared to 2019, and a 64.7% decline in value.
Independent research commissioned by Kent’s official Destination Management Organisation and Thanet District Council has revealed that £9 million was spent on average in the local economy each month in 2020, as a direct result of the region’s tourism and hospitality industry (compared to £25 million on average in 2019).
The number of tourism jobs across the district also showed a decrease of 41.9% between 2019 and 2020, to 5,036, accounting for 12% of total employment in Thanet last year.
These latest figures provide a detailed – and incredibly important – picture of the impact on Thanet’s tourism and hospitality sector from the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw the first UK National Lockdown taking place from March 2020.
Using the industry-respected Cambridge Economic Impact Model, the study measured the volume and value of tourism within the county in 2020, and the effect of visits and visitor expenditure on the local economy.
While the tourism and hospitality picture was exceptionally challenging throughout the region in 2020, these latest findings do show that the county’s visitor economy performed above the national average across several areas.
When looking specifically at trip purpose, the proportion of those travelling to visit friends and relatives overnight in Thanet during 2020 rose by 7% (up from 33% in 2019 to 40%). This demonstrates the incredible influence that ongoing support from the district’s residents – who acted as ambassadors for their region, welcoming friends, and family to experience it first-hand – had on local businesses during a hugely difficult year.
The advocacy of Kent’s locals is strengthened further by findings from a separate study conducted by Visit Kent into resident’s perceptions of the impact of tourism across the Garden of England. This research highlighted that 88% of those surveyed during the summer of 2020 supported tourism in their local area. The same study showed that 80% of respondents felt as though tourism can improve local investment and development opportunities, and 67% considered their local area to be a tourist destination.
Councillor Reece Pugh, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Economic Development at Thanet District Council said:
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on the volume and value of tourism to the Isle, and on the number of jobs that it supports. This research highlights the importance of having a strong visitor economy, and we are committed to supporting businesses to help rebuild this.
“This research does contain positive figures however. Thanet saw a 2.4% increase in spend per night and a 9% increase in spend on food and drink in 2020, compared to 2019.
“I would like to thank our local residents who hosted family and friends when COVID-19 restrictions allowed. They are great ambassadors for the destination and visitors to the area helped to support our local businesses during challenging times.
Visit Kent Chief Executive, Deirdre Wells OBE, said:
“After a strong performance in 2019, our sector’s bold plans for 2020 were utterly disrupted by the COVID-19 crisis. This latest research is a stark demonstration of the direct impact on Thanet’s brilliant tourism, leisure, and hospitality sector, which is one of the district’s biggest employers, and the life and soul of our high streets. The findings from 2020’s Economic Impact Study demonstrate exactly why our industry continues to need long-term support from central Government, to enable a sustainable destination recovery.
“We are extremely grateful to our Kent residents who have shown unwavering levels of support to their local businesses throughout the pandemic. From eating out to help out and pledges of support, to venue visits with loved ones and switching up their shopping habits, the sense of pride throughout the county has kept our industry going through these unprecedented times.”
The release of the county’s latest Economic Impact findings coincides with Kent’s recent recognition by global travel authority Lonely Planet, who have named ‘Kent’s Heritage Coast’ as number four on a list of the world’s best regions to visit in 2022. This latest accolade is particularly welcome as Kent’s tourism and hospitality sector, which was worth £4.1 billion to the local economy pre-pandemic, works hard to rebuild for the future.
Deirdre continued: “Our partners in Thanet, and across the county, have been working extremely hard over the last 18 months to welcome visitors back safely and to continue providing a first-class experience, with many proudly displaying VisitBritain’s We’re Good to Go kitemark as a way of reassuring customers and staff that processes are in place to welcome them back with confidence.
We are hugely honoured to see ‘Kent’s Heritage Coast’ cited as one of Lonely Planet’s best travel destinations for this year. This award coincides with Visit Kent’s 20th anniversary and marks the biggest year to date in terms of the long-term recovery of our region’s tourism and hospitality sector. Accolades such as Lonely Planet’s ‘Best in Travel’ are exceptionally important for reminding visitors of exactly what makes our corner of the world so special. Thanks to incredible collaborations county-wide, we’re confident that we can build a vibrant, sustainable, and resilient industry for the future, together.”
To access the full Isle of Thanet Tourism Economic Impact Study 2020 report, along with a selection of district-specific reports, please visit visitthanetbusiness.co.uk.
For more information about the Isle of Thanet, please visit www.visitthanet.co.uk