A label that placed Liverpool in the same category as global tourism hotspots, such as Venice and Dubrovnik, has been lost. This announcement could not have come at a worse time, as the city looks to international tourism for economic recovery in the coming years.

A loss of international tourism

Domestic tourism demand may not be massively impacted by the loss of Liverpool’s world heritage status. However, international demand could be. Many international tourists visit Liverpool to experience the culture and history of the city. Cultural tourism is now big business, with 29%* of the global travel market typically undertaking this type of trip. The loss of its heritage status could take the shine of Liverpool’s cultural appeal and result in international tourists visiting other UK destinations that have kept this label, such as Bath.

International tourists spend significantly more on average compared to domestic tourists. According to GlobalData, in 2019 (the last ‘normal’ year for tourism), average overseas tourism expenditure per resident stood at $1,057, while average domestic tourism spend per resident in the UK stood at $263. Liverpool needs to attract as much international tourism as possible in the coming years, as this drives tourism revenues. With its heritage status now gone, international demand could be negatively impacted and recovery could be prolonged.

Benefits of being a world heritage site

Liverpool is now set to lose out on several different benefits due to the recent announcement. As alluded to already, the increased press and publicity that comes with being a world heritage site increases international tourism and acts as a powerful marketing tool, which the city has to pay little towards. Having world heritage status almost acts as a quality label for the international market to see. This is especially influential for the powerful Chinese source market that is known to be influenced by tags that denote quality or excellence. Under the status, heritage sites are also eligible to receive funds for protection and maintenance.

These benefits will now evaporate, meaning Liverpool will now have to pay for increased marketing efforts to appeal to international markets and could now have to fork out maintenance costs for once protected buildings, which could prolong economic recovery even further post-pandemic.

Liverpool needs international tourism to return

International visitors to the city increased from 824,314 in 2018 to 844,556 in 2019, with an annual growth rate of 2.5%. Of the total international visitors to the city, 45.2% visited for leisure and vacation, with many of these trips involving visitors experiencing the culture and history of Liverpool.

International visitation would have taken time to recover in the aftermath of the pandemic. However, this growth could take even longer to recover now that Liverpool has lost its world heritage status. The city now needs to be proactive in how it handles this news, whether this is by creating new marketing campaigns for the international market or by quickly appealing this decision to regain its cultural attraction.


*GlobalData’s Q3 2019 Consumer Survey

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