Guest Comment: Andrew Stokes

VisitEngland director Andrew Stokes gives a run down of tourism in England today – the good news? Staycations are massive and there is a free business advice hub to tap into!

Girls standing in yurt doorway
Photo: Visit Britain/Joanna Henderson

Tourism is one of the UK’s most valuable export industries and growing faster than many other sectors. Worth £127 billion to the economy overall, the UK’s tourism industry makes up 9 per cent of GDP and supports 10 per cent of all jobs. It is full of innovators and is an industry which spans the country and where small changes have a big impact on our economy. Tourism needs no trade deals and can attract large inbound investment from around the world.

National tourism agency VisitBritain/VisitEngland builds England’s tourism product and raises Britain’s profile worldwide, increasing the volume and value of tourism exports and developing England and Britain’s visitor economy.

At VisitEngland we are looking forward to another busy and exciting year as we work with the industry to boost growth in visitor numbers and spending across the country, shining the spotlight on our outstanding destinations, experiences and visitor attractions right here on our doorstep.

£11 billion staycation market

More Brits have been taking holidays at home with our research showing that the ease and convenience along with the certainty of budgeting and the range of quality destinations and tourism products are all contributing factors to people taking more domestic holidays. The latest full year statistics show that Brits took 47.2 million staycations in England during 2017, spending £11 billion.

Short-breaks of one-to-three nights have contributed to the growth in domestic staycations in recent years, with Brits taking more than five and a half million more short breaks in England than a decade ago. Our research also shows that camping and caravanning is an important part of the domestic holiday market; more than 10 million domestic holidays in England in 2017 involved staying in camping or caravan accommodation, almost one in four trips (23 per cent).

Tourism is fiercely competitive and all about choice and we know there are destinations that would welcome more visitors, so as an industry we need to keep telling people about unexplored locations and new experiences. And we need to get better at telling the story of places, inspiring visitors to discover more, travel further and stay longer.
With more than a quarter of all domestic holidays in England taken in July and August, boosting tourism across the shoulder seasons remains crucial. So does increasing the value of visitor spending. Domestic day trippers in England spent £34 per day on average in 2017, while spending on holiday trips was £70 per night, so driving that conversion to overnight visitors and getting them to stay longer is important.

Exterior of accomdation in national park
Photo: Visit Britain/Andrew Pickett

Campaigns to inspire

Our global campaign ‘I Travel For…’, is all about shining the spotlight on unexpected experiences and less-explored destinations to boost tourism across the UK, alongside our globally renowned and iconic landmarks and attractions.

Domestically, our ‘Join the World – #MyMicrogap’ campaign is getting more young Brits to take short breaks at home and discover new experiences, with a focus on travel across the shoulder seasons, from glamping at an Alpaca camp in Sussex to staying in a Kudhva, an architectural hide-out in North Cornwall, or sleeping under the stars in a luxurious pod in Devon. Working with destinations and tourism businesses, we can ignite the passion for domestic travel in young people, inspiring them to take a holiday at home right now and throughout their lifetimes, boosting the economy and driving growth from tourism in the future.

VisitEngland’s focus is also on product development for English tourism under the Discover England Fund. The three-year £40million fund has brought more than 50 tourism projects to life, delivering a step-change in England’s tourism offer and creating exciting new reasons to explore more of England.

As the voice of English tourism VisitEngland shines a spotlight on the industry and all it does to help grow the economy. This year we will again be supporting English Tourism Week (ETW) which runs from 30 March to 7 April, to raise the profile of the industry and its importance to the economy. Also during ETW, VisitEngland’s Tourism Superstar Competition reaches its finale, celebrating those individuals in our industry who go the extra mile to ensure tourists in England have an amazing visitor experience.

Business advice for tourism businesses

VisitEngland provides a free resource to help tourism businesses grow with the Business Advice Hub. It is packed full of practical tips and guidance, including toolkits to help target overseas markets and make the most of digital platforms. The hub also links to local support organisations, legislation information, guidance on managing employees and more. For more information go to

At the end of last year the UK government confirmed that the tourism industry’s bid for a sector deal as part of its industrial strategy has now moved to an official negotiation. This is fantastic news and securing this is set to ensure our industry grows and thrives year-round.

As we look ahead to our 50th anniversary this year, our priority continues to be to work collaboratively with businesses and organisations across the tourism landscape and with the UK government, driving growth and innovation in the sector and cementing the competitiveness of one of our great industries.

Exterior of yurt
Photo: Visit Britain/Joanna Henderson


Andrew leads on the development and delivery of the £40 million ‘Discover England Fund’ to ensure ‘bookable’ English regional product is being created for international markets that will also benefit domestic tourism. He is responsible for developing an England Action Plan that focuses on the Discover England Fund and on business visits and events tourism.

About Open Air Business 1380 Articles
The voice of outdoor hospitality - in print and online. If you liked this article, subscribe to the printed magazine here. We produce industry e-news between issues - please sign up here