New report shows Thanet tourism industry making recovery in 2021 from impact of covid restrictions

Thanet coastline Photo Frank Leppard

Thanet’s tourism industry is showing early signs of recovery after the impact of covid and associated restrictions, according to a report by Visit Kent.

The Economic Impact Model for 2021 published today (Tuesday 13 December) was commissioned by Visit Kent in partnership with Thanet District Council.

It shows the value of Thanet’s visitor economy increased to £212 million, up 70% from 2020 which stood at £124million due to restrictions on movement, but not yet at 2019 levels of £351million.

In total 3.9 million combined day and overnight trips were undertaken in the district in 2021.

While the tourism and hospitality picture remained challenging throughout the region in 2021, the latest findings show that Thanet’s visitor economy performed above the national average in several areas.

Photo Rob Yates

Thanet had extremely high levels of domestic tourism spending. Against a national projection of 64% growth compared to 2020, Thanet’s domestic overnight tourism spend increased by 106%, generating almost £52 million in 2021, as visitors flocked to the isle’s beaches.

Over a third (36%) of all overnight trips in Thanet for 2021 were visits to friends and relatives (VFR), showing the impact that ongoing support from Kent’s residents had on local businesses during a hugely difficult year.

The number of total tourism jobs across the district also increased by 16% between 2020 to 2021. They accounted for 5,831 jobs or 14% of total employment in Thanet last year, despite the Government furlough scheme finishing in September 2021. However, there is still a way to go to reach tourism job numbers in 2019 which amounted to 8,664 roles.

Photo via Friends of Kingsgate and Botany Bay

The study of Thanet’s tourism and hospitality sector during 2021 was carried out via industry the Cambridge Economic Impact Model, measuring the volume and value of tourism and the effect of visits and visitor expenditure on the local economy throughout this disrupted period.

The results reflect a year where England entered its third national covid lockdown on 6 January 2021. Next came the 4 Step roadmap for lifting lockdown restrictions, which only formally ended in July 2021. The Government then also announced the ‘Plan B’ measures in December 2021 following the rise of the Omicron variant.

Councillor Reece Pugh, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Economic Development at Thanet District Council said: “Everyone involved in Thanet’s tourism industry should feel very proud. They have worked hard to rebuild our visitor economy, following the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This research shows an encouraging picture of recovery. Domestic tourism has increased significantly and we are committed to supporting businesses to continue to build on this.

“I would like to thank our local residents who acted as ambassadors for their towns and villages, welcoming friends and family to experience them first-hand. This research underpins that visitors to the area are vital to help support our local businesses during challenging times.”

“The regeneration of our towns will also play a huge role in supporting local businesses and the wider economy, including the visitor sector. The Town Deal and Levelling Up funded projects that we are currently working on across the district, will bring huge benefits as they progress.”

Visit Kent Chief Executive, Deirdre Wells, OBE, said: “After our sector was devastated by the Covid-19 crisis throughout 2020, it is encouraging to see the results for 2021 which show vast improvement across all areas of the visitor economy, demonstrating the resilience and hard work of Thanet’s brilliant tourism, leisure, and hospitality sector during what was still a chaotic and uncertain time.

“The results show that whilst footfall was not yet back to 2019 levels, the vast increase in domestic visitors and more people staying overnight is extremely encouraging. We are delighted that our domestic overnight tourism spending was far above the projected UK national average, indicative of the strong tourism product in Kent that appealed to consumers.

Photo Dan Thompson

“The findings around the importance of local spend, and VFR demonstrates that Kent’s residents continue to be the biggest advocates for our industry. We are extremely grateful to our residents who have shown unwavering levels of support to local businesses, during an extremely challenging time.”

Visist Kent will be running an international business events campaign in January, showcasing businesses’ purpose-built event spaces as in-person meetings and ‘away days’ properly return,.

You can view the full report on the Visit Kent website.

Thanet tourism 2021 in numbers

3.9 million trips were undertaken in the area

3.6 million were day trips

0.3 million were overnight visits

1.2 million nights spent in the area as a result of overnight trips

£179 million spent by tourists during their visit to the area

£15 million spent on average in the local economy each month.

£70 million generated by overnight visits

£99 million generated from day trips.

A total £212 million spent in the local area as result of tourism

5,831 jobs supported – 5,134 direct jobs and 697 non-tourism related jobs supported


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