Tourism and Hospitality industry resilience during the Covid-19 pandemic: Evidence from England

This academic article investigates the resilience of the tourism and hospitality industries to the Covid-19 pandemic. Based on a survey of over 1000 businesses during the first national lockdown in England, it finds temporal factors inform differing resilience levels and perceptions between sectors and businesses, such as re-opening timescales, uncertain timeframes, delays in financial support, and seasonality of trade. A novel Business Resilience Composite Score is also introduced, which enables comparisons to be drawn between the resilience of different sectors and businesses to crises.

Date added 19 October 2021
Last updated 19 October 2021

The tourism and hospitality industries have been subject to major disturbance during the Covid-19 pandemic, due to lockdown-related business closures, restrictions on travel, social distancing requirements, and other regulations. This article investigates the resilience of the tourism and hospitality industries to the Covid-19 pandemic, with resilience, although a debated term, generally referring to an urban system’s capacity maintain or rapidly return to desired functions in the face of disturbance through adapting to changes.

The article specifically draws upon a Business Resilience Survey conducted with over 1000 businesses located in English Business Improvement Districts during the first English ‘lockdown’ period, with a focus on a sub-set of 340 ‘tourism-dependent businesses’ identified from this broader sample. Questions were both quantitative and qualitative in nature, focusing on issues around the current situation of the business; the effect of the pandemic on trade; the level of take up of financial assistance; and whether there were ongoing financial outgoings such as business rates; as well as allowing for open comments.

The research introduced a Business Resilience Composite score, to compare the resilience of tourism-dependent businesses to other economic activity in town centres, which included variables such as: business size; business situation; impact on turnover; cease trading estimation; eligibility for government assistance; assistance needed; financial resources; and whether their premises was rented. From applying this score, it was found that, although found to be vulnerable to the pandemic, with the most income-related losses, some sectors had lower resilience levels in early stages of the pandemic, such as personal services and some retail businesses.

However, open comments from respondents revealed that temporal factors also played an integral role in informing the vulnerability of tourism-dependent businesses to the pandemic, indicating further impacts to their resilience levels in the longer-term, such as seasonality of demand, uncertain timeframes around lockdown duration, duration of closures and length of return to ‘normality’, and delays to financial assistance. This indicates the need for further research exploring the longer-term impacts of Covid-19 on the tourism and hospitality industries, and further sector comparisons.