MANY areas of the economy have been hit hard by coronavirus and the subsequent lockdown but few as badly as tourism. And for a city like Oxford which relies on visitors, that is serious news.

The bad times began to bite long before the lockdown.

Tourists from China and other parts of the Far East have been cancelling trips since the start of the year – and probably before that – in response to the emergence of the virus in Wuhan.

'Tourism industry won't recover until 2024'

Things have got steadily worse since, with travellers from the Americas Europe and everywhere else soon following suit.

Lockdown acted as a guillotine, stopping travel – international, national and local – dead. Even as lockdown has been relaxed, numbers have been slow to recover – and understandably so.

It is not just fear of the disease which has hit tourism. With attractions closed or awkward to visit, and hotels and restaurants offering restricted services, why should people come?

The fun and spontaneity has gone. Tourism anywhere which doesn’t involve lying beside a pool or on a beach, is awful, uncomfortable and stressful.

And while we had been allowed a little optimism in recent weeks, that has now evaporated as yet more restrictions are imposed.

For those whose livelihoods depend on the industry, our hearts go out to you.

Of course this decline, and painfully slow predicted recovery, does not just affect hotels and attractions. Visitors bring in vital funds for museums, churches, and of course shops – not just those flogging Harry Potter wands or University of Oxford hoodies, but all of them. They use buses, trains, taxis, restaurants, pubs and everything else.

In short, many of us rely on them in some form or other.

Hayley Beer-Gamage, the chief executive of Experience Oxfordshire, hopes that things will “creep up” quickly, but it is hard to share her cautious optimism.

If things don’t improve, yet more jobs will go and livelihoods destroyed.