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Will tourism boost British restaurant trade?

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Advertising campaigns and impressive events such as the Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics have helped push the notion of the UK as a major destination for international travellers, with official tourism agency VisitBritain focusing on attractive elements of the country such as its historic past and varied scenery as major drivers of trade.

The figures involved are certainly impressive - some £18 billion was spent by visitors to the UK last year, ensuring that the industry remains in a relatively strong position despite the problems caused by the global recession.

As well as contributing roughly £115 billion to the country's GDP, tourism employs around nine per cent of the British population.

Furthermore, VisitBritain hopes to drive up the numbers even more, with plans to encourage 40 million tourists to visit the UK by 2020 through an extended campaign.

This would represent a three per cent jump in the number of people taking holidays in Britain and could create a major opportunity for hoteliers, restaurateurs and other people working in the leisure and hospitality industries.

According to VisitBritain, achieving this aim would deliver roughly £8.7 billion to the economy at today's prices and support more than 200,000 additional jobs, potentially many of these in restaurants buying new kitchen equipment to cope with the increased demand from tourists.

Chairman Christopher Rodrigues said: "Tourism is the industry that can deliver the economic legacy of the 2012 Games. It is an industry that can deliver jobs quickly - right across Britain and at all skills levels - and much needed economic growth."

On the other hand, some analysts have suggested that increasing visitor numbers may not have the positive effect optimistically forecast by VisitBritain, with the Olympics an example of how many businesses cannot take advantage of this shift.

Many warned before the Games that the benefit for the economy could be largely London-centric, as this is where many of the visitors would be based and where most of the events were taking place.

Additionally, even London operators worried that congestion measures would mean the centre of the city would see a drop in foot fall and reduced customer levels.

In the wake of the Olympics, food service insights firm Horizons calculated that many UK firms had actually lost out over the course of the event.

Full service restaurants lost around £26 million, the income of quick-service restaurants dropped £27 million, pubs were down by £11 million and hotels lost £14m to produce an overall cut of £78 million, reports the Caterer, Hotelier and Licensee News Group.

However, the report stated: "It is important to keep all this in perspective because, while the impact may have been significant for some companies, the overall impact was equivalent to less than 0.1 per cent of total UK eating out expenditure this year."

Arguably, it is difficult to assess what impact increased numbers of tourists will have on the British leisure and hospitality industry, but it could nevertheless be prescient for firms to prepare for the possibility of a boost in trade. Those who are ready to cash in could find themselves moving ahead in a crowded market.ADNFCR-16001031-ID-801492253-ADNFCR

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