In December each year, tourism body VisitBritain forecasts the volume and value of inbound tourism and the value of domestic tourism for the coming year. For 2020 these figures were looking good.

Inbound visits looked set to grow by 2.9% over 2019, with spend likely to grow by 6.6%. Final figures for 2019 from the Office for National Statistics put inbound visits at 40.9 million, spending £28.4 billion; putting the projected figure for spend this year at £30.3 billion.

The figures for inbound tourism were revised on 3 June with the understanding that they represent a snapshot in time given the fast-moving and ever-changing situation presented by the Covid-19 pandemic. The scenario at that time is for a 59% decline in visits to 16.8 million, and a 63% decline in spend to £10.6 billion. It represents a loss of £19.7 billion spend. The model assumed the resumption of international travel by July and that the number of visitors would slowly rise during the remainder of the year. It also assumed no second spike and subsequent lockdown.

The agency’s forecast for domestic tourism, updated 29 July, takes into account the re-opening of the hospitality sector on 4 July for England and mid-July for Scotland and Wales. It calculates a 49% decline compared to 2019 (when spending by domestic tourists in Britain was £91.6bn) for both overnight and leisure day trips, that’s a loss of £44.9 billion.

VisitBritain states: “This is a short-term forecast that describes one possible outturn and involves many assumptions and simplifications due to the fast-moving and uncertain situation; it is therefore subject to revision. Two specific assumptions made are: (1) No major second wave of the virus that would necessitate a renewed national lockdown; (2) By early 2021 we are unlikely to be back to baseline (pre-COVID) levels in any purpose/category. This is due to economic factors, supply loss, some continued level of social distancing, and traveller sentiment.”