City shrugs off the worst predictions for 2012
The leisure and hospitality sector is a key pillar of Bath's economy. This fact is not lost on the Bath Business Improvement District, which channels a lot of effort into ensuring that this engine of the city's economy keeps purring.
Bath is a city that boasts a variety of world-class attractions and we have a host of tremendous hotels, guest houses and places to eat. But at the beginning of this year, there was definitely a feeling of uncertainty regarding projected business levels in 2012 among the city's leisure and hospitality industries.
In common with other destinations in the UK, there was apprehension about what effect the on-going economic downturn in the UK and Europe would have. And would the 2011 trend of 'staycations' continue, with Brits once again remaining in the UK for their break?
Moreover, evidence from previous Olympics suggested the Games could actually have a detrimental impact on tourist numbers.
So what has been the outcome? The figures are reasonably encouraging. Business levels might be marginally down (feedback indicates two to five per cent in comparison with 2011), but they have held up better than projected and considerably better than many other competing destinations. While visitor numbers generally are slightly down, partly as a result of fewer overseas visitors, visitor spend has been – perhaps surprisingly – good.
What are the reasons for this solid performance in the teeth of tough circumstances? One of them is the proactive approach that the BID and other organisations in the city have taken towards promoting Bath as an attractive destination, and in ensuring that it looks at its best when visitors arrive. This has been reflected in the positive PR and media coverage which has been gained for the city.
One new initiative is the official Bath App for mobile phones, which has been jointly developed and funded by the BID and Bath Tourism Plus. Available from iTunes and Google Play, the app lists all the city's attractions and amenities, functioning as a virtual guide to the city for all those with a smartphone.
An additional factor that has helped Bath, strangely enough, is the poor weather, which has actually benefited the city at the expense of outdoor attractions and seaside destinations. Most of our attractions, including the quality range of shopping, are not weather- dependent, so visitors have gravitated to Bath.
So while the UK economy may still be stuttering, the BID – working with our levy-payers, Bath Tourism Plus and others – is determined to keep the city's leisure sector firing on all cylinders.
Peter Rollins, Bath Business Improvement District board member