Brighton & Hove’s tourism stays strong despite regional downturn

After a number of years of growth in visitor numbers across the UK, 2017 figures compiled by Tourism South East, show a reversal of that trend for domestic visitors, in both trips and expenditure. 

This picture is echoed across the south east overall though, in nearly all cases, international visitor trips have continued to grow to record levels – perhaps in correlation with the added value offered to overseas visitors, due to a weaker pound.  

Brighton & Hove, while mirroring the downward trend in some areas, significantly out-performed the rest of the South East in terms of the percentage drop.

In 2017, the city drew in a total of 10,856,000 visitors (down by 3% on 2016) while total expenditure was down 2% to £837 million. In the South East region, the total number of trips was down by 5% and visitor spend decreased by 13%.

England as a whole saw a decrease of 3% in day trips while the South East region saw a decline of 4% in the number of trips and an 18% decrease in the value of trips.  In Brighton & Hove, the decrease in day trips was just 2% and the total value of trips was up marginally by 1% to £322m.

The number of overseas visitors staying in Brighton & Hove rose by 2% but overall, visitor nights spent in the city decreased by 2.5%, to 4.9m, compared with 2016 figures, in line with the drop in domestic overnight tourism across England and the South East region.

On a national level, the South East performed least well, although the region still generates, by far, the largest value from the visitor economy outside London.  

Commenting on the figures, BHCC’s Head of Tourism and Venues, Howard Barden cited a combination of factors for the city’s robust response to the national and regional downturn:

“Conferencing attracts high spend visitors and 2017 was a particularly buoyant year for the city. The Brighton Centre alone hosted notable events with a combined attendance of almost 18,000 delegates, including the Labour Party Conference, British Society of immunology, National Union of Students and UNISON National Delegate Conference. 

“The rest of the South East region does not have the venue capacity to host such large scale events, so it is reasonable to assume that the business tourism sector contributed significantly to our resilience in terms of visitor spend.

“Evidence suggests that average spend per trip is significantly higher in Brighton than most other destinations in the South East. We believe that this is due to the nature and scale of our offer, which includes new attractions such as the BAi360, a comprehensive events programme and a high calibre food, accommodation and shopping offer, which far exceeds that of many of our competitors in the South East.  

“We also have a strong tourism network in the city led by the council’s tourism arm VisitBrighton which works with over 540 tourism businesses to market Brighton & Hove as a year-round destination.   The team kicked off 2017 by bringing over 800 international tourism stakeholders to the city for VisitBritain’s flagship tourism event, Explore GB, and this undoubtedly raised the profile of the city to an influential, national and international audience”. 

BHCC’s chair of Tourism, Development & Growth, Councillor Alan Robins added: “While Brighton & Hove significantly out-performed the region as a whole, the lower figures are perhaps an indicator of a tightening economy following the EU referendum and slowing of UK growth. 

“In particular, day visits to seaside and coastal locations fell significantly across England (20%) so it’s not surprising this correlates with the south east’s overall performance.

“While it’s disappointing to see a decrease in any of the figures, it’s encouraging to see Brighton & Hove holding its position through a period of apparent downturn.  

“Our tourism offer is strong and we will continue to work hard with tourism partners across the city to make improvements where we can.  

“Tourism accounts for over 21,000 jobs and equates to around 15% of employment in Brighton & Hove so we know how important the industry is to so many people, including the businesses that contribute hugely to making the city the popular destination it is.”

Download the 2017 Economic Impact Assessment