Tourism is leading UK economy growth

26 September 2014
Tourism is leading UK economy growth

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) recently revised its GDP data and found that the UK had not suffered a double-dip recession and that economic growth over the past year had been appreciably higher than initially thought. Coupled with data that shows the UK's unemployment rate is now down to 6.5% - the lowest since December 2008 - there is considerable cause for optimism about the future.

Of course, this good news begs the question - where did the UK's growth come from? Interestingly, one of the most significant reasons for the UK's recovery is the growth of our tourism industry.

Take the inbound tourism industry. Since 2010, revenue spent by overseas visitors in the UK economy has increased by over £4b a year (24%). Last year alone, it increased by £2.4b (13%). This created an additional 43,000 jobs for the UK economy.

On the domestic side, the staycation effect has resulted in domestic tourism revenue increasing by an average of over 5% per year since 2010. Again, this has
created a large number of new jobs throughout the UK economy.

In fact, employment figures from the ONS indicated that almost a third of the 900,000 additional jobs that were created in the UK over the three years between 2010 and 2013 were in the tourism industry.

And it's an analysis of the jobs created by the tourism industry that shows just how important the sector is to the UK's recovery.

Firstly, tourism jobs are spread relatively evenly throughout the UK - there are only two regions that have under 100,000 people working in the industry - and tourism jobs have been created across rural, urban and seaside communities.

Second, tourism is very good at tackling problem unemployment, such as youth unemployment (currently at around 17%) and in the employment of ethnic minorities (where unemployment levels among the young are approaching 50%).

While the average business in the UK has 19% of its staff aged under 30, this rises to 39% for tourism businesses. Also, 14% of employees in tourism businesses are from ethnic minorities, compared with the average of 9% across other UK businesses.

These are the type of figures that really grab the attention of politicians. And despite the accusation that tourism only provides low-skilled jobs, the ONS research has found that 18% of tourism jobs are classified as "managers, directors and senior officials" compared with just 10% in other businesses, and on average, more people have A-levels in the tourism industry than in other businesses.

So we have a great story to tell. And the Tourism Alliance is working hard to ensure that all parties recognise this in the lead-up to the election next year so that tourism features in the party manifestos. As part of this work, we have put together a video that we are using to highlight the benefits of tourism to the UK economy. You can view this on our website at

Kurt Jansen is policy director at the Tourism Alliance

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