Lana Crouch
26th January 2022

Visit Kent’s latest Economic Impact Model for 2020 published today shows the severe initial impact on the county’s visitor economy from the COVID-19 pandemic, with a 50% drop in visitors overall compared to 2019, and a 61% decline in value.

Independent research commissioned by Kent’s official Destination Management Organisation has revealed that £106 million was spent on average in the local economy each month in 2020, as a direct result of the county’s tourism and hospitality industry (compared to £278 million on average in 2019).

The number of tourism jobs across the Garden of England also showed a decrease of 39% between 2019 and 2020, to 50,026, accounting for 7% of total employment in Kent last year. 

These latest figures provide a detailed – and incredibly important - picture of the impact on Kent’s tourism and hospitality sector from the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw the first UK National Lockdown taking place from March 2020.

Using the industry-respected Cambridge Economic Impact Model, the study measured the volume and value of tourism within the county in 2020, and the effect of visits and visitor expenditure on the local economy.

While the tourism and hospitality picture was exceptionally challenging throughout the region in 2020, these latest findings do show that the county’s visitor economy performed above the national average across several areas.

When looking specifically at trip purpose, the proportion of those travelling to visit friends and relatives overnight in the Garden of England during 2020 rose by 5% (up from 44% in 2019 to 49%). This demonstrates the incredible influence that ongoing support from Kent’s residents – who acted as ambassadors for their county, welcoming friends, and family to experience it first-hand - had on local businesses during a hugely difficult year.

The advocacy of Kent locals is strengthened further by findings from a separate study conducted by Visit Kent into resident’s perceptions of the impact of tourism across the Garden of England. This research highlighted that 88% of those surveyed during the summer of 2020 supported tourism in their local area. The same study showed that 80% of respondents felt as though tourism can improve local investment and development opportunities, and 67% considered their local area to be a tourist destination.

Visit Kent Chief Executive, Deirdre Wells OBE, said:After a strong performance in 2019, our sector’s bold plans for 2020 were utterly disrupted by the Covid-19 crisis. This latest research is a stark demonstration of the direct impact on Kent’s brilliant tourism, leisure, and hospitality sector, which is one of our county’s biggest employers, and the life and soul of our high streets. The findings from 2020’s Economic Impact Study demonstrate exactly why our industry continues to need long-term support from central Government, to enable a sustainable destination recovery.”

“We are extremely grateful to our Kent residents who have shown unwavering levels of support to their local businesses throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. From eating out to help out and pledges of support, to venue visits with loved ones and switching up their shopping habits, the sense of pride throughout the county has kept our industry going through these unprecedented times.”

The release of the county’s latest Economic Impact findings coincides with Kent’s recent recognition by global travel authority Lonely Planet, who have named ‘Kent’s Heritage Coast’ as number four on a list of the world’s best regions to visit in 2022. This latest accolade is particularly welcome as Kent’s tourism and hospitality sector, which was worth £4.1 billion to the local economy pre-pandemic, works hard to rebuild for the future.

Deirdre continued: “Our partners across the region have been working extremely hard over the last 18 months to welcome visitors back safely and to continue providing a first-class experience, with many proudly displaying VisitBritain's We're Good to Go kitemark as a way of reassuring customers and staff that processes are in place to welcome them back with confidence.

We are hugely honoured to see ‘Kent’s Heritage Coast’ cited as one of Lonely Planet’s best travel destinations for this year. This award coincides with Visit Kent’s 20th anniversary and marks the biggest year to date in terms of the long-term recovery of our region’s tourism and hospitality sector. Accolades such as Lonely Planet’s ‘Best in Travel’ are exceptionally important for reminding visitors of exactly what makes our corner of the world so special. Thanks to incredible collaborations county-wide, we’re confident that we can build a vibrant, sustainable, and resilient industry for the future, together.”

Leader of Kent County Council, Roger Gough, added: “The Visitor Economy is vital to Kent, both in terms of business and employment, and in showcasing the great things that the Garden of England has to offer. The Economic Impact Study shows the drastic effect of the pandemic and lockdown, but also the resilience of the sector in the face of this adversity. We will support Kent’s Visitor Economy to recover and grow, and to make the most of great opportunities such as the Lonely Planet’s recognition of our coastal communities as among the best places in the world to visit in 2022.”

To access the full Kent Tourism Economic Impact Study 2020 report, along with a selection of district-specific reports, please visit:  

For more information about Kent, please visit


About the Cambridge Economic Impact Model

The figures were derived using the Cambridge Economic Impact Model undertaken by Sergi Jarques at Destination Research on behalf of Visit Kent. The Cambridge Economic Impact Model is an industry respected tool for measuring the economic impact of tourism in a given area. It utilises information from national tourism surveys and regional/local data (e.g., accommodation stock, domestic and inbound trips) of the level of tourism activity within a given local area.

Please note that all figures in the research reports have been rounded, therefore there might be marginal discrepancies in subtotals and totals.

Is it estimated that 2,415 actual jobs are supported by Bluewater, raising the total employment in that area to 6,186, or 10% of all employment in Dartford. Whilst it contributes to Kent’s visitor economy, the shopping and retail nature of the destination must be taken into consideration.