NEW data shows the crushing impact Covid-19 has had on Lancashire’s tourism and hospitality businesses.

Visitor numbers down are down 68.9 per cent from 67.7m in 2018 to 21.37m in 2020, while the amount tourists spend is down 63.4 per cent from £4.4bn in 2018 to £1.61bn in 2020.

The 2020 figures - benchmarked against 2018 as figures were not collected for 2019 - take into account the range of unprecedented circumstances faced by the sector; from national lockdowns, enforced periods of closure, varying local restrictions across the county, the introduction of the furlough scheme and reduced operating capacity resulting from the implementation of social distancing measures.

In the six years up to 2018, figures have shown visitor numbers in Lancashire had increased by 10.2 per cent, rising from 62million to 68million, and economic impact had increased by 29.7 per cent to £4.41bn from £3.40bn.

Despite the crisis, many of the tourism and hospitality businesses showed great resilience and innovation throughout turbulent times.

Whitehall Hotel, Darwen, run by Neil and Tracey Bullows, set up a distillery and launched their own gin, signing a deal to supply it to Blackburn Rovers Football Club.

Crow Wood Hotel and Spa, Burnley, run by Andrew Brown for 20 years, faced an ongoing struggle to keep his business afloat.

At the beginning of 2021, he said that Crow Wood was losing around £250,000 a month. Crow Wood, along with Whitehall Hotel, has just been listed in the Forbes Reinvention and Resilience 2021 Top 50 Businesses.

Rachel McQueen, chief executive of Marketing Lancashire said “Whilst the sector has demonstrated incredible resilience and innovation in response to this crisis, there is no doubt that, alongside other economic factors such as Brexit, Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on local tourism, as it has on the lives of many people and families across Lancashire.

“We have all been affected by the pandemic, however, the tourism and hospitality sector which exists to welcome visitors, to provide holidays, leisure and cultural experiences, to host social events and celebrations, found themselves facing unprecedented challenges to their lives and livelihoods.

“Support such as the furlough scheme and the VAT reduction for hospitality businesses, helped Lancashire’s tourism sector rally and once restrictions were lifted, tourism and hospitality businesses demonstrated remarkable levels of creativity and responsibility in both their offer and customer service.

“That resilience and Lancashire grit has driven the ‘bounce back’ that we have seen this summer and, with a county-wide focus on post-Covid recovery, Marketing Lancashire remains committed to working with national, regional and local colleagues and partners to ensure Lancashire tourism returns to the growth track of pre-Covid years or even better.”

Over the last year, Lancashire tourism businesses took part in the NatWest North of England Business Barometer.

By early September 2021, 73 per cent of the Lancashire businesses involved were welcoming visitor numbers at or above those of the same period in 2019 (pre-pandemic levels), with 82% experiencing revenue levels at or above that of the same period in 2019.

70 per cent of Lancashire businesses taking part also stated that advanced bookings (Oct-Dec 2021) were at or above those across the same period in 2019.

Over the coming months Marketing Lancashire is investing in Visit Lancashire campaigns to attract visitors for autumn and winter short breaks, and to highlight events and activities linked to half term, Halloween and Christmas.

On November 27, Lancashire Day, the team at Marketing Lancashire will once again lead a social media campaign championing the county on a local, national and international level.

Ms McQueen said: “We are all learning to manage the risks of Covid-19 and we should be very proud of the way Lancashire’s tourism and hospitality sector has weathered this unbelievably difficult time. This summer, tourism and hospitality businesses across the county have gone to great lengths to build-back visitor confidence and to provide safe environments for holidays closer to home."

Data was collected using the Scarborough Tourism Economic Activity Monitor (STEAM) method.