An influx of bookings in the final two months of 2018 has boosted confidence among UKinbound members, despite Brexit uncertainty.

The positive outlook was revealed by the association for inbound tourism at its annual convention, being held in Glasgow (February 6-7).

The figures come from UKinbound’s regular Business Barometer, compiled by Qa Research, which also revealed that businesses are expecting cultural experiences to be at the top of inbound visitors ‘to do’ lists in 2019.

The Business Barometer found 59% of UKinbound members said they were confident about business in the upcoming 12 months, the highest rate recorded since September/October 2017.

An influx of forward bookings in November and December; the value of the pound; and increased interest from North American and Asian markets all contributed to the increase in confidence.

Furthermore, 81% of businesses reported that bookings/visitor numbers/customer orders were similar to or higher than November/December 2017; while 88% reported that yield had remained stable or improved compared to 2017 figures.

Respondents said inbound tourists mostly wanted cultural experiences, followed by tailored activities. Luxury goods/shopping was third on the ‘to do’ lists, with activity holidays in fourth place and spa and wellbeing in fifth.

However, Brexit remains the most worrying challenge, with uncertainty affecting staff recruitment and retention.

Joss Croft (pictured), UKinbound chief executive, said: “It is encouraging that even with the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, our latest Business Barometer shows that forward bookings are strong and that there is an increase in confidence levels amongst some of our members.

“However, we remain concerned about the government’s proposed immigration strategy post Brexit, which will look to restrict employing EU nationals to those only earning over £30,000.

“Recruitment and retention of staff in the industry is already a challenge – due in part to Brexit, and this proposed restriction could have a real impact on the industry, which relies heavily on its EU employees due to their language and customer service skills.”

UKinbound’s Annual Convention is taking place at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, with speakers including political commentator Ayesha Hazarika, Irene Roberts (Expedia), and Andrea Nicholas (Green Tourism).

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