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