More tourists than ever before visit Birmingham & the West Midlands - here’s why

The West Midlands welcomes an unprecedented number of visitors and leads the UK Covid recovery for tourism
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An unprecedented 141.2 million visitors came to Birmingham and the West Midlands in 2022 - smashing the previous record set before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The figures represent a 38% increase on tourist numbers in 2021, and a 5% rise compared to 2019 data - which was the last research to be carried out before the tourist industry was severely impacted by the global pandemic.

With the UK government’s aim to recover both domestic and inbound visitor numbers to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2023, Birmingham and the West Midlands is leading the country’s Covid recovery 12 months ahead of schedule.

The region hosted the most popular Commonwealth Games ever staged in the UK during the 2022, other events which attracted tourists during the year included the Birmingham Festival 2022 (March – September); the British Art Show 9 in Wolverhampton (January – April); Coventry UK City of Culture (until May); the Sandwell & Birmingham Mela (August); and the Rugby League World Cup in Coventry (October).

Spending by visitors to the West Midlands in 2022 rose to £14.1 billion, up by £4 billion (39%) from 2021 and £1 billion (7%) more than pre-Covid figures in 2019.

Tourists spent most on the West Midlands’ retail (41%), food and drink (21%) and recreational (15%) offer, when visiting the region.

Birmingham alone attracted a record 45.5 million visitors in 2022, a 6% increase compared to 2019. The city’s visitor economy is worth £7.9 billion.

The findings were revealed by the West Midlands Growth Company – the region’s economic development agency – and independent tourism research body Global Tourism Solutions.

The Commonwealth Games factor

A record 1.5 million spectators bought tickets for Commonwealth Games events. More than five million people came to Birmingham city centre during Games-time – a 200% increase on the same period 12 months earlier.

Hotel occupancy in Birmingham averaged 90% during the 12-day Commonwealth Games period, with an unprecedented 95% peak on Saturday 6 August. West Midlands hotels received an additional £19.4 million in room revenue compared to the same period in 2019.

For the first time, the West Midlands’ annual visitor economy report includes short-term letting and peer accommodation data, analysing information supplied by Airbnb to incorporate new visits, visitor nights and expenditure to the region.

Separate research carried out by Transport Intelligence for VisitBritain/VisitEngland shows that Birmingham’s popularity as a short-term rental destination has significantly increased.

The city has climbed four places in the list of most popular UK destinations for short-term rents, from 10th in 2019 to 6th in 2022, thanks to major events such as the Commonwealth Games. The West Midlands also experienced the second largest increase of all UK regions for reserved nights (up 138% compared to 2019), behind the North East (194%).

(Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)(Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

What West Midlands Growth Company has said about the growth of tourism

Neil Rami, Chief Executive of the West Midlands Growth Company, said:The West Midlands was the place to be in 2022, reflected by record visitor numbers to our region’s tourism and hospitality settings, accommodation venues and public spaces.

“The past 12 months have reinforced the value of attracting and hosting major international sporting events and festivals. Not only do they significantly boost the West Midlands’ visitor economy, but they also leave a positive, lasting impression with tourists.

“Our three-year global Business and Tourism Programme capitalised on the halo effect of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, targeting UK, Australian, Canadian and Indian visitors. By delivering more than 400 travel trade meetings and developing new travel trade bookable products, we have raised the profile of the West Midlands’ tourism destinations. Evidence has shown that our activity has positively changed how the region is perceived domestically and overseas.”

What Mayor Andy Street has said about the surge in visitors to Birmingham and the West Midlands

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, added: “After what no one could dispute has been a challenging time for the world’s tourism industry, it’s great news to see that our region has defied national predictions to bounce back more rapidly than expected.

“The relative strength and resilience of our tourism sector is why I remain hopeful that we can get more local people into tourism related jobs in the months and years ahead – something I know is a priority for our regional Tourism & Hospitality Advisory Board.”

What Birmingham City Council has said about the record tourism numbers

Cllr John Cotton, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said:"The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games shone a global spotlight on our city and the wider West Midlands, as we really made the most of a once in a generation opportunity.

"We welcomed over 5 million visitors - many from right across the Commonwealth - and I’m confident many of our Games visitors will be back, because they experienced at first-hand that our warm, friendly city region is a world class destination for business and leisure tourism, with award-winning museums and galleries, world class cultural institutions and festivals, major sporting events, family friendly attractions, amazing parks, and scenic waterways.”

What Airbnb has said about the tourism figures for Birmingham and the West Midlands

Amanda Cupples, General Manager for Northern Europe at Airbnb, said:People travelling on Airbnb flocked to the West Midlands last year, with local Hosts supporting an extra one million visitor nights and increasing the region’s economic value by over £120 million.

“Home sharing spreads the benefits of tourism beyond hotel districts to communities that guests might otherwise have missed, and we are excited to be working with the West Midlands to showcase the region and unlock new economic opportunities for local families battling a cost of living crisis.”

To find out more about the West Midlands’ visitor offer, including the region’s festivals and events calendar, log on to visitbirmingham.com.