We are still assessing the implications for tourism of some of the key announcements from last week’s Conservative Conference. The most obvious and the one exercising most people’s, minds regardless of their specific area of interest, is the proposed change to the allocation of business rate revenues in England. The devil as always will be in the detail, but many believe that the proposals to allow authorities to collect and keep their own business rates will exacerbate local, sub regional, regional and national inequality in the funding received and, thus, the funding available to fulfil statutory and non-statutory functions, including engagement with and support to business partners and, in our case, tourism and visitor economy partners. Even the optimistic suggestion that there will be some big winners isn’t a certainty, since that assumes that the entirety of the funding made available to any authority or group of authorities will be adequate for all the increasing costs, responsibilities and duties that are falling to them. Whatever the outcome there will be some big changes involved and a need to manage the intended and unintended consequences of that change, which is never easy Very much a case of watch this space.
Meanwhile a far less high profile announcement is also causing some concern. We are told that parents of children fined for truancy may in future have the fines taken directly from Child Allowance payment, presumably reinforcing the points about parental responsibility and consequences. It is very unclear whether this is aimed just at obviously unacceptable persistent truancy or whether by default it also targets other forms of unauthorized and arguably less bad (?) absence, including term time holiday taking. There is a strong domestic tourism lobby that argues that in term holiday taking should be considered on an individual case by case basis (as it once was) and that outlawing it serves to harm the domestic, shoulder month markets and disadvantages a wide range of employees, including those in the tourism industry, who can’t easily take their own family holidays in school holiday periods. If the new approach does cover in term holiday taking, then it serves to reinforce the Government’s stance against the practice and also makes the lobbying case that bit harder to press. As England is by far the largest provider of domestic holiday makers, this does, if you accept the shoulder month case, have UK wide implications. Again watch this space.