Month: July 2015

New question posted in the “Forum: ask questions get answer” section

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Colleagues in Southend are seeking information from the British Destinations membership on the use of online events application processes.  Do you or anyone else you know take event application online? What does good practice look like? Or have you tried it and failed?  As ever any substantive lesson learnt will be shared with the full membership.  See more at:


More thoughts on the future for VE and VB (corrected version!)

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Lest by omission yesterday’s pessimistic crystal ball gazing  about the potential future for VE, left anyone in doubt about my thoughts on the future of international tourism and in particular VB, I don’t for one moment think that VB or international tourism to the UK would come out better off from an apparent future emphasis on growing the international market, over and above any needs that the “mature” domestic market might have.

In most, but not all cases, the basic product from vista to built environment, from accommodation through transport to food and drink etc. are the same for both; it’s just the origin, motivators and sometime the means of the visitor that are subtly  different.  Failing to support product development for either market (or is it essentially both?) in a rush to promote to and redirect international visitor around the UK would be to starve the very thing they and the domestic visitor come or stay to see and do.

Of more immediate concern, however, is the logical, likely source of any VE challenge fund if it were largely or exclusively earmarked for international promotional activity.  In a harsh cost cutting environment is that really going to be additional to VB’s already thinly spread international market resource? It would be nice to think so but my jaded experience suggest its more likely to be a smoke and mirrors job that ends up presenting a relatively small pot of money as “new and additional” when in truth it is derived from, say, deep cut to VE’s already minimal core operating budget and a reallocation of some of the money taken in equally deep cuts from VB’s own marketing funds.  This is entirely speculative but I think it is speculation that needs to be aired in order to help ensure it doesn’t in some nightmare scenario come to fruition.

I don’t for one minute doubt DCMS officials are doing their very best to protect what they can of VE and VB and to retain as much of their joint and separate funding.  From what I heard said and from what I am seeing in print, I just doubt they properly understand the complexities of the relationship between domestic and international tourism, or that they fully appreciate the unintended consequence of a policy that will essential robs Peter to pay Paul.  Ultimately both end up much the poorer for it because a vibrant visitor economy is not simply about promotion and the money to pay for it.

Yesterday’s musing on VE’s future, for those that missed them, can be accessed at:

Important industry updates from British Destinations

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I’m now back from a two-week military exercise in Kenya.  Old soldiers never die; they just get to go to more interesting places than ever before!

In my absence there have been several interesting developments, three of which are worthy of note here.  I have also added a notes after the third item below to evidence my concerns about DCMS views on VE’s future direction which are aired within items 1 and 2 below:

1. The DCMS/Government new 5 point plan for the tourism sector, which is worth scanning, if not reading in full. The PM’s endorsement, by way of a forward, is excellent and timely news giving DCMS, in the best case scenario, a tool to lever in more resource or, in the worst case, a weapon to help protect VisitBritain’s (VB)and VisitEngland’s (VE) resources during what is likely to be a very difficult Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) this Autumn.

1.1 One note of caution: the 5 point is exclusively about international tourism and VB’s role in growing its value and volume and the individual home nation tourist boards role, with particular emphasis on VE’s role (DCMS being its direct sponsor department), in spreading the benefits nationally.  The plan makes no reference to vital function of the domestic market and by omission ignores the domestic marketing and other domestic product development roles identified for VE in the recent Triennial Review findings.

1.2 This is a worrying trend and adds weight to my growing suspicion that DCMS are positioning VE to become principally, or exclusively, an international tourism organisational/managing/coordinating body with VB delivering the marketing messages abroad.   Anyone bothering to read and understand the Triennial Review of VisitBritain and VisitEngland would see that this was not the independent adviser’s intent. Unfortunately very few of us have read the report in detail, and even fewer are willing to point out at best the omissions or at worst the potential misrepresentation of a whole raft of the report’s key recommendations.

2015 Backing the Tourism Sector -A Five Point Plan

2. The Tourism: Government Response to the Culture Media and Sports Committee’s Sixth Report of Session 2014-15, is a mixed bag, again worth reading in full if you can spare the time and, if not, a must to scan, if only the paragraph headings which you can then dip into where they appeal to local interests. There are some very encouraging comments, especially in relationship to international tourism; however, overall it’s disappointingly short at 14 pages, as compared to the original comprehensive and inquiring, inquiry.  There are the usual “haven’t we all done wells” and some standard Government fending off responses offered up to counter many of the committee’s views and asks.  Disappointing there are also some frankly weak and/or near meaningless statements, for example:  “Government understands that there are powerful arguments on both sides of the debate on the permanent introduction of Daylight Saving Time across the UK” . To my mind this and some other similar response, don’t come near to attempting to address the issues, let alone demonstrate an understanding of them.

2.1 The major concerns, as with the 5 point plan above, is the apparently deliberate down playing of the domestic market and, in addition in this case, the seemingly repeated, disingenuous interpretations offered up around the Triennial Review recommendation as they relate specifically to domestic tourism and VE’s roles in it.  The omission in 5 point plan of any reference to the domestic market and VE’s future roles in supporting it, are difficult to challenge and can be relatively easily excused.  The omission in the response to an inquiry that raised numerous pertinent points, concerns and issues around the domestic market and majored on the need for a strong role for VE in managing them can’t and shouldn’t be ignored.

2.2 The Government’s response to the Select Committee report is in my view, the clearest indication yet, with in a series of other recent indicators, that VE’s current and recommended future domestic market, and development roles and functions are being set up for a fall in the coming CSR round. The c 80% plus of the English market that rely on domestic tourism (and the domestic interests elsewhere in the UK that indirectly benefit from VE’s domestic efforts) should not allow this to happen; at least not without a fight.

2.3 I am in process of building support for a preemptive campaign, with and among other major trade and industry association and unless directed to pull back now by the Board or Executive I  will be continuing to do so.  You might also wish to start thinking about the merits of doing the same locally?

2015 Tourism – Government Response to the CMS Select Committee report

3. The Tourism Alliance Annual Report issued last week contains some interesting facts and figures and highlights a number of the key issues and ongoing alliance campaigns, all of which we have been party to developing, through my position as a board member. A useful short read when you can make the time for it. Find it at paragraph 2 of the following protected page:

2015 Tourism Alliance Annual Report

4. For those who doubt that the Triennial Review recommendations are being subtly (?) misrepresented please take a look at the review’s findings at:

2015 Triennial Review VisitBritain and VisitEngland

and in particular para 8 of the executive summary:

………”To do this, VE should manage a challenge fund, supporting partnership working across destination organisations and industry partners in order to promote the development of a range of world-class English tourism experiences that sit alongside and complement the London, Scottish and Welsh offers. These experiences would be marketed domestically by VE and internationally by VB, in accordance with budgets and key performance indicators (KPIs) set as part of the challenge fund process”…………..

4.1 This comment in the summary is then repeated and, critically widened and  expanded upon within the main body text, at among other places: para 1.51, 2.11, 2.18, 2.25, 2.27, 3.13, 3.18 and 5.13.  Recommendation 7 (immediately after para 3.20) is unequivocal about a domestic market role for VE, whilst Annex F, “VB and VE core functions”, confirms the detail of a much wider domestic role for VE aired in the main body (from page A-3 onward).

Enough said I hope?

Coastal Communities Fund update

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I have been asked to clarify what yesterday’s Summer Budget offers in relationship to the Coastal Communities Fund.  The fund is mentioned under two headings: section 1 Public Spending and in substance an almost identical paragraph in section 2 Regional Growth.

The fact that it is in there at all is exceptionally good news for coastal areas and for tourism and the visitor economy as major drivers of growth within them. It is also good news for “tourism” in general, although I accept that those not on the coast might be more reluctant to acknowledge this point?  It is also makes all our joint efforts to get broad political support for the concept of a continuation of the Coastal Communities Fund suddenly seem worthwhile.

The less good news is that commitment, although significant, is still rather vague and subject to the influence of this year’s Comprehensive Spending Review negotiations within, presumable, DCLG in England and between Treasury and the Home Nations for their “share”.  We know already that Crown Estates revenues raised in Scotland are about to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament so, for example, it is unclear whether the £90m quoted includes or excludes the proportion of funds for Scotland? The fact that we also know that unusually monies from  the previous incarnation of the Fund have already been committed up to the end of 2016/17, makes understanding the brief description of £90m until 2020/21 all the more difficult. Is it £90m over the 3 years starting from 2017/18 to 2020/21 or £90m over the 4 or 5 years starting from now or next April? Clearly this makes a difference in the total value of the commitment and to the scale of funds potentially available in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and perhaps Scotland in each year.

The paragraph repeated twice in all most identical form within the budget statement says:

“The government will continue to support community-led growth in coastal areas and this Budget extends the Coastal Communities Fund by at least £90 million until 2020 – 21. This is subject to confirmation of future funding arrangements which will be determined at Spending Review 2015”.

The full Budget Statement and the relevant paragraphs 1.290 and 2.30 can be accessed at: 

More to follow as soon as there is something of more substance to say on the subject.

New Foresight report on regional spread of inbound tourism to Britain in 2014 now available

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The latest edition of VisitBritain’s Foresight which details the regional spread of inbound tourism in 2014 has now been added to the research and statistics library at: .

That report together with all the Foresight edition for the last 12 months can be accessed at paragraph 3 of the following protected page:

The budget what might it mean for tourism and the visitor economy?

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Following today’s budget announcements, the Tourism Alliance have published an initial analysis of key points for tourism. That analysis together with  a Treasury discussion paper on options for managing regional variation within  Air Passenger Duty in England can be accessed at:

A big thanks to Kurt Janson for undertaking this major task so that you and I don’t have to…..

Airport Commission’s Final Report now available via

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Published today the long awaited and very comprehensive 342 page Airport Commission’s final report recommends the provision of a new third, Northwest Runway at Heathrow.  The introduction and executive summary are well worth reading if only to understand what is and what is not being recommended and why, rather than relying on the wave of press and PR hype already being generate around the report and its recommendations.  Helpfully the importance of tourism within the UK economy and the aviation requirements of tourism and the visitor economy are referenced throughout the report.

After two and a half years work and at a reported cost of £20m (?), it is now up to Government to make a final decision, we are told, before the end of this year.

A copy of the full report can be accessed from within the research and statistics library at: