I get a bit over-excited when I come across tourism statistics, which I think is the journalist in me sniffing out a story…

So, when the Office for National Statistics released its provisional overseas travel and tourism figures for quarter two of 2018 last week and, with Brexit looming large and domestic tourism on the rise, I was keen to take a look.

The report highlights that there was an 8% decrease in visitors from overseas in the period from April - June 2018, compared with the same time last year. This surprised me. You may recall that during that period there was a certain wedding that I had assumed would pull in a few extras from overseas - especially America.

Those who did visit spent 10% less than visitors in the same period the previous year. This did not surprise me. The fragility of the pound at the moment means overseas visitors are getting more money on exchange but prices in the UK are rising and they’re probably being more careful about what they spend.

On the other hand, contrary to what was predicted, the number of UK residents travelling abroad stayed about the same as the year before but spend was up by 1%. Could this be a last ditch attempt at getting a decent, blow-out holiday abroad if, as the headlines state, travelling will become harder once we leave the EU?

With those figures in mind I started to wonder what this might mean for rural tourism in the next year or so and I’ll be interested to see what the stats say this time next year.

It’s my opinion that until the Brexit dust settles (or not) that the number of overseas visitors will continue to decline. Noone really knows what will happen to the pound, at the borders or even to flights once we leave the EU next spring. So maybe step away from trying to attract overseas visitors as part of your strategy and concentrate on the ones closer to home.

I also think that the number of people travelling abroad from the UK will drop next year too. There have been a lot of scaremongering headlines lately about how flights will be grounded and we’ll need visas to visit Europe in the post-Brexit blur. Without being a fly on the wall at Westminster, I can’t say what will happen but I expect even those exaggerated (IMO) headlines will make overseas travellers more cautious about booking.

So, what will that mean for rural tourism? I think (and hope) it will continue to rise and businesses should be prepared for an increase in bookings and footfall next spring and summer.

People will still want a holiday and while cities like London, York and Edinburgh will continue to pull in the crowds, families in particular will still be looking for adventure and entertainment. And now is the time for you to plan for it.

The time between Christmas and the new year is a hotspot for holiday bookings, so by planning content now to go out before and over that period highlighting what your business can offer tourists, you might see your website hits start to go up.

Think about sharing reviews from past visitors on social media, share emotive images of your business looking full of the joys of spring and highlight some of the other attractions in the area that might appeal to your target market in a blog.

Another great way of attracting hits is to announce something new - even if it’s a upgraded breakfast menu. Make sure you email past visitors and let them know about any changes you’ve made, but be careful not to lose the things they love the most about visiting you.

If you’re not sure how to plan your content, don’t forget the the Rural PR Academy is enrolling throughout October and will show you how to tell your story, increase bookings and grow your business.

Similarly, speak to us about our PR packages and let us do the hard work for you.