TOURISTS and other visitors to Oxfordshire gave the county's economy a £2bn boost last year, with a significant increase in the amount being spent.

The Economic Impact Report for Tourism commissioned by tourism board Experience Oxfordshire shows the county bucking the national trend with a big increase in visitor spend in 2018.

The study revealed an impressive increase of 5.1 one per cent, taking the value of visitor economy spend in Oxfordshire to £2.28bn, meeting the county’s target of five per cent growth, despite a predicted national increase of less than one per cent growth.

The figures were boosted by an increase of one per cent in overseas visits to Oxfordshire, versus a national decrease of three per cent compared to 2017.

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Oxford itself received a £900m injection, up three per cent on the previous year but that has not prevented some high street businesses from struggling, including family-run department store Boswells, which has announced it is to close.

Susan Brown, leader of Oxford City Council, said: "These are a positive set of results and we are encouraged to see that Oxford is still a destination of choice for a significant number of visitors.

"The visitor economy is a vital part of our local economy with more than 15,400 of our residents dependent on it for employment, up three on last year, and contributing more than £900m to the city’s economy.

"I’m encouraged by the increase in day visitor spend in Oxford in particular, up by approximately 8.3 per cent to over £300m.

"Going forward we will be working with Experience Oxfordshire to be promoting more overnight visits to the city."

The report showed the county welcomed almost 32 million visitors last year, which supported nearly 39,000 jobs across Oxfordshire – accounting for 11 per cent of all employment, resulting in the creation of an estimated additional 1,800 jobs compared to the previous year.

Chief executive of Experience Oxfordshire Hayley Beer-Gamage said: "These results clearly show the increasing importance of the visitor economy to Oxfordshire and we are delighted that we have exceeded our target for increased visitor spend, against a challenging national picture.

"This is the fifth consecutive year of growth in the county’s visitor economy sector, with an increase in value of over 5.1 per cent to £2.28bn in the last year.

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"These latest results support our own destination ambition for Oxfordshire of increasing the length of stay and attracting more overnight international visitors.

"Experience Oxfordshire works hard to ensure that we are attracting the most productive type of tourism that enables sustainable growth across the visitor economy that best balances the sector’s impact and contribution to the county."

The main reason visitors come to Oxfordshire is for holidays (53 per cent), followed by visiting friends and relatives (22 per cent) and business (19 per cent).

The largest proportion of visitor spend was on food and drink (33 per cent), followed by shopping (23 per cent), travel (22 per cent), accommodation (12 per cent) and attractions and entertainment (10 per cent).

The study demonstrates both an increase in domestic and overseas day trips and overnight stays and increased spend in both day visits and overnight visits, with an average of more than £158m now being spent in the county each month by visitors.

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While 28.9 million day trips last year brought £1.26bn to the county, over £960m was spent in Oxfordshire as a result of just 2.8 million staying trips.

The spend per visit for an overseas visitor is an average of £457 per trip compared to £194 per trip for domestic visitors.

The largest proportion of visitor spending takes place in Oxford (37 per cent) and the largest number of visits are to North Oxfordshire (26 per cent) with Oxford city next with 25 per cent of the total visits.

Ian Hudspeth, leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said: "The county council has a strong interest in tourism, ranging from encouraging people to get married in beautiful Oxfordshire, through to developing sustainable transport options such as park-and-ride so people can spend quality time in our historic towns and city.”