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Oxford tourism numbers rebound after the pandemic

Oxford tourism numbers are now surpassing pre-pandemic levels, after having been among the most reduced in the UK during COVID. Eight and a half million visited the city over the summer, according to the council’s data.

The city centre has defied the nation-wide trend, with a 14.6% increase in summer visitors compared to the UK’s average 0.3% decrease. The council has attributed these changes to the City Centre Action Plan, which was introduced last year in an attempt to strengthen the city centre. 

The Covered Market has had consistently improved levels of activity. To meet and help fuel increased demand, the Market introduced longer opening hours which were warmly received in the 2022 consultation. The Council’s redevelopment plan also includes refurbishment to the structure and a potential pedestrianisation of Market Street which is set to be trialled next spring. 

Compared to other cities, Oxford has a drastically lower vacancy rate of 5.6%. This is less than half of the southern average and nearly a fifth of the northern. While still above pre-pandemic levels, the numbers are going down rapidly, at 32 available units from 49 this time last year. 

Councillor Susan Brown is optimistic about the future of the city centre, saying: “This summer’s rise in footfall shows Oxford city centre continues to be a thriving destination, despite national trends and despite the challenges of the Botley Road Bridge closure. 

“It’s been wonderful to see the city’s streets and businesses busy over the summer and we have a lot of exciting projects planned – including the redevelopment of the Covered Market and the Clarendon Centre – that will help to keep the city centre vibrant.”  

The City Centre Action Plan is set to be completed in 2030. Part of the plan includes diversifying activities available, making the city safer and, controversially, limiting congestion. The council has expressed its hope  that Oxford will continue to grow as a tourist destination and a desirable place to live, with an aim to improve the local economy and retain talent.

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