Days after LBN reported rising footfall in Liverpool city centre, new figures show hotel occupancy is almost at pre-pandemic levels. Tony McDonough reports
More than 250,000 hotel rooms were booked in Liverpool city centre in January and February with figures in the latter month almost close to pre-pandemic levels.
Figures collected by Liverpool City Council show there were 139,194 rooms booked, an occupancy rate of 73.3%. In February 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, there were 148,461 rooms booked – an occupancy rate of 74.8%.
In February 2021, as the UK was battling another big COVID wave, February room bookings plummeted to 54,074 – an occupancy of just 24.8%. The data comes just days after the Liverpool BID Company revealed city centre footfall in the week beginning March 7 had exceeded 2019 levels for the first time since the pandemic.
Bill Addy, chief executive of Liverpool BID Company, said: “The pandemic is not over, and we know that footfall data doesn’t necessarily translate into economic spending, but this is a positive sign.”
Prior to the pandemic Liverpool with the region’s visitor economy was estimated to be worth around £5bn a year. However, in February city region economic agency Growth Platform predicted the tourism sector would not fully recover until 2025.
Up until 2020, the tourism sector supported more than 55,000 jobs across Liverpool, Wirral, Sefton, Knowsley, St Helens and Halton. In 2019 Liverpool was the fifth most visited city in the UK by international visitors.
According to the Growth Platform report, in 2020 alone income for the city region visitor economy’s 7,840 businesses plummeted by 58%. By way of support, the Combined Authority is injecting £3.1m over two years using Strategic Investment Funding and private sector funding to help rebuild the conference and events sector.
In January it was announced that Liverpool Cruise Terminal will welcome more than 100 cruise calls in 2022, providing an estimated £15m boost to the city with tens of thousands of cruise passengers and crew spending money in the city centre.
With confidence high following Liverpool’s handling of the return of cruising last spring, more operators are turning to the city to make bookings. Inaugural visits are expected from 10 ships including Valiant Lady, Celebrity Apex and Norwegian Dawn.
However, progress on a new, permanent cruise line facility remains in doubt, with changes to the economics of the cruise industry prompting a rethink. In February, Chris Shirling-Rooke, chief executive of industry body Mersey Maritime, said it is “critical” a new terminal is built.