Record visitor numbers as West Midlands leads UK’s Covid recovery

02 June 2023

The West Midlands welcomed an unprecedented 141.2 million visitors in 2022, smashing the previous record set before the Covid-19 pandemic.

The figures represent a 38 per cent increase on tourist numbers in 2021, and a five per cent rise compared to 2019 data, which was the last research to be carried out before the tourist industry was severely impacted by the global pandemic.

With the UK government’s aim to recover both domestic and inbound visitor numbers to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2023, the West Midlands is leading the country’s Covid recovery 12 months ahead of schedule.

Spending by visitors to the West Midlands in 2022 rose to £14.1 billion, up by £4 billion (39 per cent) from 2021 and £1 billion (seven per cent) more than pre-Covid figures in 2019.

Tourists spent most on the West Midlands’ retail (41 per cent), food and drink (21 per cent) and recreational (15 per cent) offer, when visiting the region.

Birmingham alone attracted a record 45.5 million visitors in 2022, a six per cent increase compared to 2019. The city’s visitor economy is worth £7.9 billion.

The findings were revealed by the West Midlands Growth Company – the region’s economic development agency – and independent tourism research body Global Tourism Solutions.

Neil Rami, chief executive of the West Midlands Growth Company, said: “The West Midlands was the place to be in 2022, reflected by record visitor numbers to our region’s tourism and hospitality settings, accommodation venues and public spaces.

“The past 12 months have reinforced the value of attracting and hosting major international sporting events and festivals. Not only do they significantly boost the West Midlands’ visitor economy, but they also leave a positive, lasting impression with tourists.

“Our three-year global Business and Tourism Programme capitalised on the halo effect of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, targeting UK, Australian, Canadian and Indian visitors.

“By delivering more than 400 travel trade meetings and developing new travel trade bookable products, we have raised the profile of the West Midlands’ tourism destinations.

“Evidence has shown that our activity has positively changed how the region is perceived domestically and overseas.” 

The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games gave the West Midlands its time to shine on the international stage – and a record 1.5 million spectators bought tickets for events, making it the most popular Commonwealth Games to be hosted in the UK.

More than five million people came to Birmingham city centre during Games-time – a 200 per cent increase on the same period 12 months earlier.

Hotel occupancy in Birmingham averaged 90 per cent during the 12-day Commonwealth Games period, with an unprecedented 95 per cent peak on Saturday 6 August.

West Midlands hotels received an additional £19.4 million in room revenue compared to the same period in 2019.

Other major events enticing crowds to the West Midlands in 2022 included the Birmingham 2022 Festival (March – September); the British Art Show 9 in Wolverhampton (January – April); Coventry UK City of Culture (until May); the Sandwell & Birmingham Mela (August); and the Rugby League World Cup in Coventry (October).

West Midlands mayor Andy Street added: “After what no one could dispute has been a challenging time for the world’s tourism industry, it’s great news to see that our region has defied national predictions to bounce back more rapidly than expected.

“The relative strength and resilience of our tourism sector is why I remain hopeful that we can get more local people into tourism related jobs in the months and years ahead – something I know is a priority for our regional Tourism & Hospitality Advisory Board.”

Pictured: Chamberlain Square in Birmingham city centre

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