The first week of Spring has brought unexpected sunshine - providing a timely reminder that whatever may be happening in Westminster at the moment, the world spins on and the seasons will change.
The first week of Spring marks National B&B Week, to encourage people to make use of these great venues across the UK. I visited a B&B in Ludlow, and was pleasantly surprised to hear they operate at 95% occupancy, proving that at any point in the year South Shropshire’s natural, cultural and gastronomic excellence continues to draw in visitors from around the UK and overseas.
Greater access to technology has helped breathe new life into the B&B sector, with the internet now providing direct contact between guests and owners. Where once B&Bs relied on passing traffic, yellow pages ads and word of mouth, they can now be found by anyone searching online – giving consumers much greater choice, and owners access to a much wider market.
Tourism plays a vital role in our economy, accounting for 9.6% of all employment and 9% of GDP. It sustains 3.1m jobs and contributes £126.9bn to the economy each year. The government has recognised this, and is working with industry to deliver a Sector Deal, with four key aims; making tourism and hospitality a career for life; making the UK the most accessible tourism industry in the world; sharing industry data to identify growth opportunities in new and emerging markets; and increasing accommodation capacity.
With South Shropshire’s popularity for walkers and cyclists, we could benefit significantly from any increase in tourism. The number of accommodation & food services businesses in Shropshire has already increased by 14.3% since 2010, with the number of people employed in accommodation & food services businesses increasing by 47.6%, making it the third fastest growing sector in the county - so the potential for further growth and job creation is clear to see.
If this summer’s weather follows last, I suspect more people will be encouraged to ‘staycation’, to the benefit of our local economy and the wider UK. If you are looking for inspiration about places to visit in the UK, do take a look at the VisitBritain website, www.visitbritain.com, for some great ideas.