Overseas visitors are spending less in the West Midlands

By | Category: Travel destinations

Jim Cunningham, MP for Coventry South, asked the government recently what overseas visitors had been spending in the West Midlands.

Shakespeares Birthplace
Stratford-upon-Avon is one of many internationally known tourist attractions in the West Midlands

The answer he got suggests that people are spending less whilst spending overall in the UK has been going up. It should be said that the data isn’t up to date in that 2018 information is unavailable so we are looking at figures from 2009 until 2017.

In 2017, international visitors spent £806.9 million in the West Midlands. This was down on the previous two years (2016 – £854.7 million and 2015 – £816.2 million) at a time when the overall overseas spend in the UK had risen from £21.9 billion to £24.4 billion.

If the decline had been just in one year then you could claim that it was due to one-off factors like the lack of enticing exhibitions, shows at the NEC or there being no major sporting events but for it last two years suggests a trend may be starting. If the downturn has continued in 2018 then tourism officials need to consider what the problems are. It could be something quite simple such as Visit Britain concentrating on other parts of the UK in its promotional campaigns but if it is something like a reduction of flights into Birmingham International or overseas tour operators shifting tours away from the West Midlands, then some answers are needed.

Two years ago, Marketing Birmingham was replaced by the West Midlands Growth Company. This has tourism in its brief although, to me, it still looks like a local enterprise agency rather than a tourism body. Is that something that requires attention as few tourist organisations are commercial partners of the company?

Why does this matter to those of us who live in the UK?

Because there is funding to develop trails, walks, cycle paths and other attractions to entice people to visit the UK. But these amenities are available to those of us that live here as well. If visitor numbers slow will the money be put to other regions of the UK rather than the West Midlands? Or will more be spend to bolster visitor numbers to the West Midlands?

Whatever attitude organisations take about the future when the 2018 figures are released there will be a lot of interest in what they reveal.

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