A top holiday spot... tourism in the South West

The South West is one of the premier tourist destinations in the UK for both local and international tourists. The majority head for the sand and sea of Cornwall and Devon, and the Cotswolds are a highlight on any international tourist's agenda. The South West attracts tourists not only to its coastal areas, but a variety of other heritage, conservation and botanical sites. These include Stonehenge in Somerset, the Eden Project in Cornwall and the Roman Baths in Bath. Almost a fifth of the region's land area is designated as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and it is home to two National Parks, Dartmoor and Exmoor (SWRRG, 2003).

The current situation

Tourism contributes 10% to the South West's economy, and accounts for 10% of employment - about 78,000 jobs. Visitors to the region are predominantly domestic holidaymakers, making 24.4 million trips in 2001. This is 19% of all England's domestic tourist trips and brings in an income of £3,900 million . Overseas visitors made a total of 1.9 million trips and spent an estimated £635 million. The majority of tourists visited Devon (31%) and Cornwall (29%). Most visitors from the UK arrived by car (91%), with coach and rail accounting for approximately 8% (GOSW, 2002; South West Tourism, 2003 and SWRRG, 2003).

Places to stay

Over 16,600 accommodation establishments were in operation at the end of 2002. Bed & Breakfasts and guesthouses provided 60% of this accommodation, with serviced accommodation, such as hotels and inns, accounting for just under 40% (SWRRG, 2003).

The most frequent form of accommodation for domestic tourists was staying with friends or relatives (31% of bednights). The next most favoured places to stay were serviced accommodation, holiday centres and self-catering. As would probably be expected, most overseas tourists stayed in serviced accommodation, but staying with friends and relatives was also common.


Tourists in the South West spent an estimated £4,535 million in 2001. Both domestic and overseas visitors spend the largest portion of their money on eating out, with shopping a close second. A little under £2,500 million was spent by tourists on food and drink, of which an estimated 49% was produced locally ( SWRRG, 2003) .

Best practice and a desire to expand

If recent media releases and reports are anything to go by, the South West tourism industry is ready to expand. Current expectations suggest an 80% increase in trips from 1999 figures by 2020 (LSGSW, 2000).

With this expansion in mind, a number of scenarios were developed to examine the implications of increasing tourism in the region. In addition, scenarios were also developed to illustrate best practice opportunities, and how they could be applied to the industry's current activities, in order to reduce the ecological footprint associated with tourism. The scenarios are reported under four components: energy, waste, transport and water. Minimum and maximum tourist ecological footprints were also estimated, taking into account all tourism scenarios developed. This estimate, as well as an additional tourism scenario on food can be found in Additional Information.