Bristol is England’s most vibrant city as hospitality sector drives post-Covid recovery – report

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Bristol has been named as one of the UK’s most vibrant cities, with the hospitality sector driving post-Covid recovery, according to a report by international data and insight consultancy CGA and Wireless Social.

The Top Cities research combines CGA’s sales data with device log-in data from Wireless Social, the leading connectivity solutions provider for hospitality and leisure businesses, to provide a ‘vibrancy’ ranking of Britain’s cities.

The survey indicates that trading in Britain’s ten most populous cities has improved on the benchmarks of 2019 in six consecutive four-week periods this year.

Sales over the latest four-week period, to 2 July, were an average of two per cent higher than in the same time in 2019.

It shows that over the first half of the year, Glasgow has secured the highest average ranking, scoring best for vibrancy in three of the six four-week periods.

Bristol and Birmingham rank second and third on average.

At the other end of the rankings, London has consistently finished bottom over the first half of the year, with sales there down by eight per cent on 2019 in the latest four weeks to July 2.

A slower than hoped return of office workers and tourists—made worse by rail strikes in June—has held down sales in central parts of the capital, though there are signs that sales are now approaching pre-COVID levels.

The research also indicates that device log-ins remain well down in all ten cities compared to 2019.

CGA client director Chris Jeffrey said: “Britain’s cities were badly hit by two years of Covid restrictions, but this research shows how hospitality can help revitalise them. While so much retail activity moves online, restaurants, pubs and bars are giving people reasons to visit cities, and keeping their central areas vibrant.

“However, operators face huge inflationary pressures, which is making real-terms sales growth difficult, and the cost-of-living crisis is constricting consumers’ spending. Hospitality can continue to fuel Britain’s economic revival, but it deserves proper support from government to help sustain fragile businesses over this challenging period.”

Julian Ross, founder and CEO of Wireless Social, said: “The first six months of the year have been a hugely welcome return to form for hospitality businesses, with footfall and sales data approaching and, in some cases, exceeding 2019 levels in certain parts of the country.

“What has been more alarming is the slow pick up in London, where flexible working patterns have hit city centre businesses that are hugely reliant on trade from office workers.

“This, coupled with 40-year inflation highs, a crippled supply chain, fluctuating consumer confidence and, most recently record-breaking temperatures, has created a melting pot of operational challenges.

“It’s vital that the sector receives as much support and backing as it can possibly get, only then will hubs like London truly return to form.”