BRIGHTON and Hove was hit by a drop in visitors last year, the latest figures show.

In 2017, the city drew in a total of 10,856,000 visitors, down by 3 per cent on 2016, which had a total of 11,234,000 visitors.

Total expenditure was down 2 per cent to £837 million from £855m.

In Brighton and Hove, there was a 2 per cent decrease in day trips but the total value of trips was up marginally by 1 per cent to £322 million from £318 million.

The number of staying trips made by overseas visitors in Brighton and Hove rose by 2 per cent from 379,000 to 387,000

Overall, visitor nights spent in the city decreased by 2.5 per cent from five million in 2016 to 4.9 million in 2017, in line with the drop in domestic overnight tourism across England and the South East region.

Councillor Alan Robins, chairman of tourism, development and growth, councillor, said: “While Brighton and Hove significantly out-performed the region as a whole, the lower figures are perhaps an indicator of a tightening economy following the EU referendum and slowing of UK growth.

“In particular, day visits to seaside and coastal locations fell significantly across England, by 20 per cent, so it’s not surprising this correlates with the south east’s overall performance.

“While it’s disappointing to see a decrease in any of the figures, it’s encouraging to see Brighton and Hove holding its position through a period of apparent downturn.

“Our tourism offer is strong and we will continue to work hard with tourism partners across the city to make improvements where we can.

“Tourism accounts for more than 21,000 jobs and equates to around 15 per cent of employment in Brighton and Hove so we know how important the industry is to so many people, including the businesses that contribute hugely to making the city the popular destination it is.”

After a number of years of growth in visitor numbers across the UK, 2017 figures compiled by Tourism South East show a reversal of that trend for domestic visitors, in both trips and expenditure.

This picture is echoed across the south east overall though, in nearly all cases, international visitor trips have continued to grow to record levels – perhaps in correlation with the added value offered to overseas visitors, due to a weaker pound.

Brighton and Hove, while mirroring the downward trend in some areas, significantly out-performed the rest of the South East in terms of the percentage drop.

In the South East region, the total number of trips was down by 5 per cent and visitor spend decreased by 13 per cent.

England as a whole saw a decrease of 3 per cent in day trips while the South East region saw a decline of 4 per cent in the number of trips and an 18 per cent decrease in the value of trips.

On a national level, the South East performed least well, although the region still generates, by far, the largest value from the visitor economy outside London.

Howard Barden, Brighton and Hove City Council’s head of tourism and venues, said: “Conferencing attracts high spend visitors and 2017 was a particularly buoyant year for the city.

“The Brighton Centre alone hosted notable events with a combined attendance of almost 18,000 delegates, including the Labour Party Conference, British Society of immunology, National Union of Students and Unison National Delegate Conference.

“The rest of the South East region does not have the venue capacity to host such large scale events, so it is reasonable to assume that the business tourism sector contributed significantly to our resilience in terms of visitor spend.

“Evidence suggests that average spend per trip is significantly higher in Brighton than most other destinations in the South East. We believe that this is due to the nature and scale of our offer, which includes new attractions such as the BAi360, a comprehensive events programme and a high calibre food, accommodation and shopping offer, which far exceeds that of many of our competitors in the South East.”

“We also have a strong tourism network in the city led by the council’s tourism arm VisitBrighton which works with over 540 tourism businesses to market Brighton and Hove as a year-round destination.

The team kicked off 2017 by bringing over 800 international tourism stakeholders to the city for VisitBritain’s flagship tourism event, Explore GB, and this undoubtedly raised the profile of the city to an influential, national and international audience”.