Prospects 2017 report

Tuesday January 17, 2017

Panellists at the Tourism Society’s Prospects event held in London on January 17th commented that 2017 will be ‘a year to remember’, although not all for positive reasons.

The discussion covered a wide range of topics that will impact on inbound and outbound travel, such as exchange rates, VAT, the importance of green credentials, ageing demographics, refreshed products, and the Foreign Office.

The panel was chaired by Noel Josephides (chairman, ABTA) and included Richard Nicholls (Head of Research and Forecasting, VisitBritain), Kurt Janson (Director, Tourism Alliance), Denise Bridges (Managing Director, Albatross Travel) and Derek Moore (Chairman, AITO).

Inbound visits to the UK were predicted to rise by 4% and spending by 8% in 2017. This would generate up to 150,000 new tourism jobs, but there was concern about where the workforce would be found with continuing uncertainty surrounding the movement of workers and Britain’s relationship with the EU. All the panellists agreed that tourism and travel remained good sectors to work in. In addition to the more obvious opportunities for product and marketing roles it was highlighted that there is also a need for accountants, designers and other skills, and with changes ahead in how the UK works with the rest of the world, there are good opportunities for entrepreneurs and start-ups.

On VAT, while the industry would still like to see a reduction the government was now more concerned about its balance of payments. With a weaker pound and record visitor numbers in 2015 and 2016 it was harder to present a strong case for a reduction in VAT, so any movement looked unlikely.

Older customers will be a key market across all sectors, with time available and money to spend. But while they may feel young at heart these clients will need to be realistic about what they can achieve and operators will have to offer itineraries and facilities that reflect this. Refreshed itineraries, including more experiential and unusual elements, will also be more in evidence as customers choose to do more than just visit a destination.

Gregory Yeoman, Executive Director at the Tourism Society, commented: “With so much political activity on the horizon it has been a tough job for the speakers to give confident and unqualified predictions this year; the level of debate has been excellent as always, though, and the delegates left with plenty of great insights into what will influence their businesses in the months ahead.”

Prospects 2017 was sponsored by BDRC Continental and The Crown Estate.