Figures released recently by Treasury show that overall spending by visitors increased by 1.6% to £107million in 2013.
The 2013 Passenger Survey showed a fall of 1% in the total number of visitors due to a fall of 8% in the number of visiting friends and relatives (VFR). However, the number of visitors staying in paid-for accommodation (leisure visitors) increased by 5% and business visitors increased by 1.2%.
The number of leisure visitors to the Island has grown every year since 2008 and 2013’s figure of 111,911 visitors is 15% higher than in 2008. This significant growth in leisure visitors and how much they spend is evidence that the Visitor Economy Strategy is working.
The growth in business visitors is consistent with the acceleration of growth in 2013 compared to 2012.
The decline in visiting friends and relatives illustrates the impact of falling real incomes in the UK (average UK household incomes have declined 7.6% since 2008) which has caused many to reduce discretionary spending including leisure breaks.
The Department’s Political Member for Tourism and Motorsport David Cretney MHK commented:
‘The Department has been working hard with others in both the public and private sectors over recent years to support the Visitor Economy, so it is encouraging to see the growth in both overall visitor spend and leisure visitors.
‘Vision2020 acknowledges the importance of the Visitor Economy to the Isle of Man. As well as directly supporting many jobs it helps to provide a level of travel and leisure activities that our population of 85,000 people could never sustain on its own.
‘Our three year Visitor Economy strategy was launched in 2012 and this clearly set out the need to develop the Island as a year-round, distinctive and unique visitor destination.
‘We focused the strategy on targeting high-value niche markets as well as having a greater focus on targeting specific geographic regions, such as South East England and North West of England which enjoy easier accessibility to transport links to the Island.
‘As a result, it makes our Island a more enjoyable place to live, which is vital as we seek to retain and attract the highly skilled workers and their families that we need to grow our economy.
‘It was disappointing to see the drop in the VFR market but this is entirely consistent with the fall in discretionary spending that is being seen in the UK, our main market. However we are planning a number of initiatives with our industry partners to try and address this fall as well as continuing to grow the number of leisure visitors to the Island.
‘There is substantial investment currently taking place in hotels and other related facilities, as well as considerable interest for further investment. As a result, I am confident the Visitor Economy will continue to play a growing and vital role in our community.’
The Island now has 439 registered accommodation properties with 5,111 bed spaces, of which 42% have 4 or 5 star ratings and this figure continues to rise. Visitor spending aids a wide range of businesses. For example, around 25% of all spending in restaurants is by visitors (source Government Economic Affairs, January 2014).
The Department is working directly with a number of industry partners: air and sea carriers; other Government bodies; and local accommodation, hospitality and leisure providers, to provide a more joined-up, co-ordinated approach. These include maximising the use of technology and improving the overall visitor experience through increased quality and better customer service.
On Thursday of this week the Department also hosted an Open Day for its industry partners within the Visitor Economy which incorporated presentations on marketing and industry trends, networking and opportunities for industry bodies and leisure providers to promote themselves.