Experience Oxfordshire survey highlights the importance of destination marketing in supporting visitor economy business growth in the county

Experience Oxfordshire’s annual Business Confidence Survey gives the destination management organisation and official Local Visitor Economy Partnership* the opportunity to gather information from a cross-section of businesses operating within Oxfordshire’s visitor economy.

This year’s survey shows a mixed picture as the sector seeks to benefit from the post pandemic market recovery. 80% of those responding said that business overall had improved on 2022 with 43% saying performance was much better. 45% said their businesses had performed better or much better than expected over the 2023/24 Christmas and New Year period.

As we look towards the summer season, 70% of respondents said pre-bookings were as expected for 2024 and 75% expressed a level of confidence for trading this year. The remaining 25% of respondents were less sure.

Although Covid prevention measures are no longer a live issue for most travellers, patterns and behaviours established during the pandemic have become entrenched e.g. travellers booking closer to their trip dates and expecting corresponding flexibility from operators.

Businesses are continuing to face ongoing challenges impacting on business growth including staff retention, seasonality, an over reliance on the domestic market and supply chain disruption. They are responding to this by adjusting their pricing, taking measures to reduce operating costs and delaying investment in the business.

When asked which interventions would help business development it is not surprising that a reduction in VAT for businesses in hospitality and tourism was a top choice, but from a list including sector specific grants and other support measures, businesses rated higher the need for greater investment in destination marketing.

Similarly, when asked to choose from a list of measures to help develop the year-round visitor economy the top three choices related to marketing and communication including investing in marketing campaigns, building a focus on off-peak periods, showcasing different parts of the county and building relationships with repeat visitors.

Due to the nature of Oxfordshire’s visitor offer (historic city, attractive market towns and villages, access to countryside and rural experiences, an eclectic collection of attractions, country houses and a palace), businesses are able to attract visitors from all potential market sectors from home and from around the world. For most of the survey respondents, summer is the busiest time of year, with 55% of operators saying they would expect to account for up to 50% of their business during this time and for 16% it accounts for over 75%. The shoulder periods of autumn and spring are relatively busy, but the survey reveals an opportunity to attract more business during the winter months when 72% of respondents said that they received less than 25% of their business.

Commenting on the insights arising from the survey Hayley Beer-Gamage, CEO said: “The annual Business Survey gives us a snapshot of sentiment regarding the current business operating environment, which as expected is one of optimism for the potential growth in visitor numbers and concern regarding economic and social issues. We were interested to see the recognition of the importance of promoting the destination’s profile and building stronger loyalty amongst our visitors, as well as the opportunity for developing the winter breaks market.

“Experience Oxfordshire has a strong record of providing cost effective high impact marketing campaigns and we hope to collaborate with local stakeholders to be able to continue to invest in this area so that Oxfordshire remains front of mind as a great destination to visit.”

The latest annual figures available show overall that visitor economy in Oxfordshire was responsible for servicing over 26 million visitor trips to the county, generating over £2.27bn for the local economy and supporting 37 thousand jobs. VisitBritain, the national tourism agency, is predicting that in 2024 the UK will see 97% of the 2019 record figures for tourism, with a full return in 2025.


*Experience Oxfordshire was one of the first English destinations to gain Local Visitor Economy Partnership (LVEP) status. Developed and administered by VisitEngland, the national portfolio of strategic and high-performing LVEPs support collaborative working locally and nationally on shared priorities and targets to grow the local visitor economy.

The article Experience Oxfordshire survey highlights the importance of destination marketing in supporting visitor economy business growth in the county first appeared in TravelDailyNews International.

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