Huge impact of covid on Thanet’s tourism economy shown in latest Visit Kent report

Margate visitors Photo Frank Leppard

Thanet suffered a 49.6% drop in visitors during 2020 – compared to the year before – due to the impact of the covid pandemic.

Visit Kent’s latest Economic Impact Model for 2020 published today (January 26) shows the severe initial impact on the isle’s visitor economy with a 64.7% decline in value.

Independent research commissioned by Kent’s official Destination Management Organisation and Thanet District Council has revealed that £9 million was spent on average in the local economy each month in 2020, as a direct result of the region’s tourism and hospitality industry, down from  £25 million on average in 2019.

The number of tourism jobs across the district also showed a decrease of 41.9% between 2019 and 2020, to 5,036, accounting for 12% of total employment in Thanet last year.

Ramsgate Photo Frank Leppard

These latest figures provide a detailed picture of the impact on Thanet’s tourism and hospitality sector from the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw the first UK National Lockdown taking place from March 2020.

Using the Cambridge Economic Impact Model, the study measured the volume and value of tourism within the county in 2020, and the effect of visits and visitor expenditure on the local economy.

While the tourism and hospitality picture was exceptionally challenging throughout the region in 2020, the latest findings do show that the county’s visitor economy performed above the national average across several areas.

The proportion of those travelling to visit friends and relatives overnight in Thanet during 2020 rose by 7% (up from 33% in 2019 to 40%).

A separate study conducted by Visit Kent into resident’s perceptions of the impact of tourism across the Garden of England highlighted that 88% of those surveyed during the summer of 2020 supported tourism in their local area. The same study showed that 80% of respondents felt as though tourism can improve local investment and development opportunities and 67% considered their local area to be a tourist destination.

Councillor Reece Pugh, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Economic Development at Thanet District Council, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on the volume and value of tourism to the Isle, and on the number of jobs that it supports.

“This research highlights the importance of having a strong visitor economy, and we are committed to supporting businesses to help rebuild this.

“This research does contain positive figures however. Thanet saw a 2.4% increase in spend per night and a 9% increase in spend on food and drink in 2020, compared to 2019.

“I would like to thank our local residents who hosted family and friends when COVID-19 restrictions allowed. They are great ambassadors for the destination and visitors to the area helped to support our local businesses during challenging times.”

Visit Kent Chief Executive, Deirdre Wells OBE, added: “After a strong performance in 2019, our sector’s bold plans for 2020 were utterly disrupted by the COVID-19 crisis. This latest research is a stark demonstration of the direct impact on Thanet’s brilliant tourism, leisure, and hospitality sector, which is one of the district’s biggest employers, and the life and soul of our high streets.

“The findings from 2020’s Economic Impact Study demonstrate exactly why our industry continues to need long-term support from central Government, to enable a sustainable destination recovery.

“We are extremely grateful to our Kent residents who have shown unwavering levels of support to their local businesses throughout the pandemic. From eating out to help out and pledges of support, to venue visits with loved ones and switching up their shopping habits, the sense of pride throughout the county has kept our industry going through these unprecedented times.”

Photo Steven Collis

The release of the county’s latest Economic Impact findings coincides with Kent’s recent recognition by global travel authority Lonely Planet, which named ‘Kent’s Heritage Coast’ as number four on a list of the world’s best regions to visit in 2022. This is particularly welcome as Kent’s tourism and hospitality sector, which was worth £4.1 billion to the local economy pre-pandemic, works hard to rebuild for the future.

Deirdre added: “Our partners in Thanet, and across the county, have been working extremely hard over the last 18 months to welcome visitors back safely and to continue providing a first-class experience, with many proudly displaying VisitBritain’s We’re Good to Go kitemark as a way of reassuring customers and staff that processes are in place to welcome them back with confidence.

Westgate Photo Frank Leppard

“We are hugely honoured to see ‘Kent’s Heritage Coast’ cited as one of Lonely Planet’s best travel destinations for this year. This award coincides with Visit Kent’s 20th anniversary and marks the biggest year to date in terms of the long-term recovery of our region’s tourism and hospitality sector.”

To access the full Isle of Thanet Tourism Economic Impact Study 2020 report, along with a selection of district-specific reports, please visit

For more information about Thanet attractions visit


  1. Visitor numbers are not a reliable measure. TDC’s policies do nothing to encourage people to come here and spend. We need more hotels and a fit for purpose parking strategy. Day trippers park at beaches for free and spend zero.

  2. Perhaps there is a further tranche of the Welcome Back Fund in prospect ? Clearly the scope for short visits especially from the ‘gray pound’ to Dr Margate needs exploitation – and can we please do something to brighten up the Margate High Street employing all those willing ‘creatives’ and empty shop windows – we failed dismally on M&S last year and it’s council controlled !

      • Arlington House is only a “blight” if you don’t like the look of 60s tower blocks. It needs to be cleaned and restored, and the derelict shops should be cleared away.

  3. With cases rising rapidly again, and the government about to re.ove all “restrictions” tomorrow, we ca expect to see lockdowns in the spring.

  4. Because Margate doesn’t have a Town Council unlike Broadstairs and Ramsgate, nothing is done to the Town. No Christmas Tree no fireworks and NOTHING done or in preparation for the Queens Platinum Jubilee this year…..unlike Broadstairs and Ramsgate….

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