Economy boss praises Manchester on return to pre-Covid levels

By Gary Lloyd

- Last updated on GMT

Positive numbers: Sacha Lord has praised Manchester but voiced disappointment with last week’s Spring Budget
Positive numbers: Sacha Lord has praised Manchester but voiced disappointment with last week’s Spring Budget

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Data that shows footfall in Manchester has returned to pre-pandemic levels has been praised by Night-Time Economy Adviser for Greater Manchester Sacha Lord.

The latest figures data from Manchester BID and CityCo has revealed March footfall (5-11 March 2023) was up 5.8% year on year, which was double the average national footfall levels of 2.4% and the total number of visitors to the city centre for the year to date is 6.2m, up 27.3% on the same time last year.

Signalling a return to pre-pandemic levels, footfall on Saturday 11 March was up 49.4% on 2019 figures, when the city welcomed more than 124,000 visitors in comparison to 70,605 in the same week in 2019. The figures were buoyed by singer Lizzo performing at the AO Arena and the popular Disney theatre show The Lion King.

The data follows statistics by Northern Restaurant & Bar and CGA by NielsenIQ, released in March, that revealed bar and restaurant sales growth since 2019 has been ahead of the UK average of 4.1% in most key northern cities. Average sales per venue in Manchester were 6.9% higher in 2022 than in 2019, outstripping most cities including London, where sales dropped by 6.5% v 2019.

Strength and attraction

Lord said: “I am pleased city centre tourism is performing well and this data proves the strength and attraction of Greater Manchester as a whole.

“The city region was the hardest hit during the pandemic and has bounced back to become one of the strongest regions in the UK for economic recovery. We all know the trials and tribulations the hospitality industry has faced in the past three years and these figures are testament to the motivation and hard work of the operators across the region.

“While footfall in the city centre and across our urban boroughs is above expectations, there is still a long way to go. Small and medium businesses must remain supported and I was disappointed last week that further energy support for business was not mentioned in the Chancellor’s Budget.”

Unsustainable predicament

He continued: “The tapering off of business energy support from the end of March has been forecasted to add £4.5bn to bills compared to the current scheme and this will place the industry in an unsustainable predicament and create a sinkhole of financial difficulty for venues across the sector.

“I urge the Government and Treasury to reconsider its level of support for the UK’s fifth largest industry to avoid these unnecessary closures and job losses.”

Pre-Covid, the night-time economy contributed £66bn per year to the UK economy, making it the UK’s fifth largest industry, accounting for 1.3 million jobs and 8% of the UK’s total workforce.

Now, in Greater Manchester, the sector employs more than 448,000 employees with the city centre accounting for 11% of all night-time economy businesses.

Related topics Rebuilding the Pub Sector

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