The figure represents a 72% increase compared to visitor numbers in 2020, when tourist volume fell sharply to 59 million, due to social contact restrictions and lockdowns. With government guidance still in place for several months of 2021 – including no indoor mixing between different households and visitor attractions remaining closed until April – the annual total remains short of the record 133.9 million visitors attracted to the West Midlands in 2019.
Analysis from the West Midlands Growth Company and independent research company Global Tourism Solutions shows that the region’s visitor economy was worth £10.1 billion in 2021, up 78% on the previous 12 months.
The number of full-time equivalent jobs supported by direct and indirect tourism activities rose from 60,960 in 2020 to 101,332 in 2021, a 66% increase.
Andrew Lovett, Chair of the West Midlands Tourism & Hospitality Advisory Board, said:
“It is encouraging to see that the West Midlands’ visitor economy is on the road to a full recovery following the turbulence and unpredictability of the first 12 months of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Data shows us that, in 2021, tourists to the region had a higher average spend than in previous years, as they sought to enjoy the West Midlands’ varied visitor offer, particularly during the summer months when outdoor attractions performed well.
“We anticipate tourist volumes in the West Midlands to recover to pre-Covid-19 levels by 2024, but remain fully aware of the need to address ongoing issues around recruitment, retention and skills to ensure that the sector is attractive to new and existing talent.”
In 2021, Coventry commenced its year as the UK City of Culture with a celebration of events, music, dance, theatre and large-scale spectacle. The West Midlands’ accommodation scene was boosted by new openings including the Grand Hotel in Birmingham, the Telegraph Hotel in Coventry and the West Midland Safari Park’s new luxury lodges.
Roundhouse Birmingham and The Eastside Rooms opened to visitors and event delegates respectively, while the MADE Festival in Sandwell, new cricket tournament The Hundred and Walsall’s hosting of leading international cycle race The Women’s Tour kept music and sports fans entertained in the region.