31,000 Mersey tourism jobs lost due to COVID-19

In 2019 Liverpool city region’s tourism sector generated £5bn but the devastating impact of the pandemic has seen that fall by 58%, with 31,000 jobs lost. Tony McDonough reports

Pier Head, waterfront, Beatles statue
Visitor numbers in the city region plummeted during the pandemic. Picture by Tony McDonough


More than 31,000 jobs have been lost in the Liverpool city region tourism sector due to the COVID-19 pandemic, new figure reveal.

Independent research commissioned by the Visitor Economy Team at Growth Platform – the Liverpool City Region Growth Company, reveals the income generated by the sector locally – totalling £5bn in 2019 – had fallen by 58% in 2021.

Local and national lockdowns linked to the pandemic saw nationally inbound visits down 73% and many companies in the tourism sector struggling to survive. Bars, restaurants, hotels and visitor attractions bore the brunt of the crisis.

The research showed inbound visitor spend in the city region fell by 79% last year, with average hotel occupancy down by 51%. Other figures showed that the region attracted 26.14m visitors – down from 66.27m (-61%). Day visitors were 23.88m – down from 60.86m (- 61%) and staying visitors were 2.25m down from 5.4m (-58%).

READ MORE: How own Merseyside hotel adapted to survive

Throughout the pandemic Growth Platform has worked alongside city region business support organisations and local authority partners to collectively support thousands of businesses to access Government schemes. That support included small business grants, specifically for hospitality and leisure as well as providing advice and guidance to help keep them in business and build their resilience during this pandemic.

Local grant schemes such as the Hospitality and Leisure and Expanded Hospitality grants, amongst others, sat alongside ground-breaking initiatives such as Liverpool Without Walls which has been hailed as a lifeline for the hospitality industry during the pandemic, enabling venues to continue to trade outside during the pandemic.

Laura Pye, chair of the Visitor Economy Board for the city region, said: “The visitor economy has been one of the hardest hit sectors by COVID-19, and until last year had seen an encouraging climb in economic growth.

“Despite this, the sector remains of the highest importance to the Liverpool city region. The focus is now firmly on recovery, which is already showing encouraging signs as we move out of restrictions.

“The new Visitor Economy Recovery Strategy for the region, soon to be published, will be instrumental in this and with emphasis on investment. There are already a number of initiatives underway to help, ranging from marketing to business support and skills.”

As part of the city region’s recovery efforts, Growth Platform is working closely with the Visitor Economy Network and its partners to develop a new two-year recovery strategy.

It is linked closely to Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport national tourism recovery strategy and is focused on the importance of the sector to the city region and the priorities for supporting businesses and protecting jobs.

The recovery plan for the city region visitor economy will cover a range of initiatives including skills training, business support and destination marketing.

These figures are published by the STEAM (Scarborough Tourism Economic Activity Monitor) model, which is used throughout the UK tourism industry to measure economic impact of the visitor economy. Hotel Occupancy data is provided by STR. For a full version of the report please click here.

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