In a sign that the Liverpool visitor economy is well placed to recover strongly from the pandemic new figures show a surge in hotel occupancy in the city in late summer. Tony McDonough reports
Liverpool’s visitor economy is showing signs of recovery after it was revealed hotel occupancy surged during the summer.
Regenerating Liverpool revealed that occupancy levels in city centre hotels hit 81.8% in August – the highest since October 2019. From June 1 to August 31 as many rooms were sold than in the previous eight months.
While it is early days with occupancy levels now almost back to 2019 levels there is optimism the city may regain the momentum that began during the city’s Capital of Culture years in 2008.
In late June it was revealed that more than 31,000 jobs have been lost in the Liverpool city region tourism sector due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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%).
Those in charge of tourism in the city region will be watching closely to see how the the loss of World Heritage Status will impact on the number of visitors coming to the city from overseas.
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.
Speaking in the summer, 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.”