The Economic Impact of the Self Catering Sector in England

With a colleague, Ewa Krolikowska, we recently published a report for the English Association of Self Catering Operators, on the economic impact of the self-catering accommodation sector in rural and coastal England.  This was the first national study of its kind and you can download the report from the EASCO website by filling in your name and email address here.

James Kennell & Ewa Krolikowska at the House of Commons launch for the report
James Kennell & Ewa Krolikowska at the House of Commons launch for the report

There has been a lot of public attention given recently to the sharing economy in tourism, especially air bnb and uber, and although this is an important new entrant to our visitor economy, it isn’t yet clear what the future of this sector is on many levels, not least in terms of its social and economic sustainability, and its integration with the country’s wider tourism product.

In contrast to this, Self-catering accommodation is an established, well-regarded and often very high quality product that makes a significant contribution to our tourism industry, especially in our rural and coastal communities.  Despite this, it is hardly ever mentioned in the many reports, policies, strategies and destination management plans that have been produced by government and industry alike.

One of the reasons for this is its lack of visibility – paradoxically, one of the great strengths of this accommodation sector is a weakness in this regard.  Self-catering is a low-impact, sustainable solution for integrating visitors into a local economy – it creates jobs in family businesses, as well as domestic SMEs, and makes use of accommodation and services like village pubs and public transport that might otherwise struggle to survive without tourists.

We’ve carried out the first national study of the economic impact of this accommodation, using actual booking information, that has allowed us to estimate the economic impact of self-catering accommodation in rural and coastal areas in England. We’ve used the same multiplier calculations that are used by our public tourism bodies.  We’ve actually been quite conservative in our calculations.  We haven’t made assumptions about how much self-catering tourists spend, we’ve just looked at how much they pay to book their accommodation and what happens inside these properties.

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We have calculated that these self-catering properties contribute an additional £3.04 billion to English GVA each year.  We haven’t looked at the impacts of additional spending by these tourists, but it is clear to us that this figure would significantly increase this impact.

In addition to this, the sector supports more than 20,000 FTE jobs in our rural and coastal communities.

There are three main conclusions that we have drawn from this:

 

  1. It is clear that the more than £3bn economic contribution made by self-catering properties alone to rural and coastal economies in the UK is significant, and under-acknowledged.  To give some context, the government’s own statistics suggest that the entire contribution of agriculture and fishing to these same communities economy is only £10.7bn
  2. It is clear from the booking data that we have analysed that this economic impact involves a significant transfer of economic activity from the prosperous regions of the UK, especially London and the South-East to the countries rural and peripheral areas, not least the south-west and the north-west.  This has implications for the rebalancing of the economy and the government’s approach to our rural economy
  3. The sector should receive much more attention, not just from researchers, but from policy-makers and tourism agencies, who have a sustainable, high-quality, services industry available to them to support growth in often disadvantaged areas, with high potential for future growth.

We hope that this report helps politicians and policy makers to look at the self-catering sector with fresh eyes and makes a contribution to the current debates taking place within government about how to grow the English economy outside of London.

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