Monday 15 February 2021 11:50 am

Five charts that show the impact of Covid-19 on the tourism industry

The travel and tourism industry has been one of the sectors hit hardest by the pandemic, with lockdowns and travel restrictions all but shutting business at times.

Today the Office of National Statistics released its latest analysis of the impact of Covid-19 on the industry, and it doesn’t make for pretty reading.

In 2018 the tourism industry made up 6.7 per cent of the UK’s GDP, but based on the current situation, a meaningful recovery remains some way off.

Here are five charts which show the devastation that the coronavirus has wreaked on travel over the last year.

Air travel woes

Domestic and international air passenger traffic fell to less than 2 per cent of February 2020 levels in April 2020. (ONS)

As the virus spread around the world last year, airlines reacted quickly, cancelling vast swathes of flights as demand for international travel all but dried up.

At UK airports, international passenger footfall fell to 1.9 per cent of February 2020’s levels by April.

Although it climbed back to about a third of normal levels in the summer, subsequent restrictions saw it nosedive again at the end of the year.

Eurotunnel shows pent-up demand

After an initial decline, passenger vehicle traffic on Eurotunnel responded strongly to the easing of restrictions (ONS)

Data from the Eurotunnel road link to the continent tells a story of two halves: travel plunged during each of the three lockdowns, but quickly surged back when restrictions were lifted.

For example, passenger traffic rose to a peak of 267,942 in August, a decrease of 28.2 per cent from the same month in 2019 – but a markedly stronger recovery than that seen in aviation.

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ONS said that this was likely because people have to stay in their cars when using the service – making social distancing very easy.

Hotel room occupancy plunges

The South-west saw the highest rates of hotel room occupancy, in accommodation businesses that were open, in 2020 (ONS)

As travel restrictions came into effect, ministers began singing the virtues of the so-called “staycation” in a bid to provide a little hope to those anxious about their summer holidays.

It didn’t quite pan out the way that officials hoped, if hotel occupancy figures are anything to go by.

Apart from in the southwest, where a peak of 72 per cent of hotel rooms were occupied, no other region got above 58 per cent.

Tourist trade dries up

Turnover for tourism and travel businesses fell to 26.0 per cent of February’s levels in May 2020.

Barely a business avoided taking some damage from Covid-19, but the ONS’ figures show just how dire it was for tourism businesses.

Turnover in travel and tourism businesses fell to its lowest level in 2020 in May, at just 26.0 per cent of February levels, compared with 73.6 per cent in all other industries.

Accommodation and travel agency businesses saw the sharpest decline in turnover during the first national lockdown, falling to 9.3% of their February levels in May.

Jobs axed as businesses fight for survival

Quarter 2 2020, employment in accommodation for visitors fell by 21.5 per cent compared with the same months of 2019 (ONS)

Overall, the number of people reporting their main job as being in the travel and tourism industry during the third quarter 2020 was 10.8 per cent lower than in the same quarter of 2019. 

Jobs in accommodation providers fell the most – dropping 21.5 per cent over the same period.

All charts via the ONS’ Coronavirus and the impact on the UK travel and tourism industrysurvey