Apologies for the delay in updating you on yesterday’s CSR results as the impact on the strategic direction of Tourism in the UK. I have spent most of the waking hours of the last 24 hour period trying to understand the realities of the apparently good news headlines. Each time I think I have bottomed it out some new snippet has come along and progressively depressed my initial enthusiasm for yesterday’s announcement. Essential good news if you major on the 20% international tourism, increasingly poor news if you major on the 80% domestic market and especially but not exclusively if you do it in England.
Things are still changing but what I think the realities looks like is this:
- £40m clean, new Treasury money for a “Discover England Fund” spread over the next 3 years (to be matched?). However, as the day goes on it is looking increasingly likely that the bulk, if not all of it, is for international product development and marketing and in all likelihood most, if not all of it, controlled by VisitBritain(VB) and not as one might assume VisitEngland(VE).
- The core budgets of VB and VE are not to be cut but the two are to be merged and not separated as recommended by the Triennial Review of the two bodies. Merger is increasingly looking like a misnomer as VB appears to be the dominant partner. Certainly VB’s press release today suggests this:
“…. Changes to our governance arrangements will mean that VisitEngland will report into VisitBritain and the VisitEngland board will be an advisory body”. “VisitBritain will have over-arching responsibility for setting the strategic framework and for driving growth in international leisure and business tourism, including the development of English tourism products that appeal to overseas markets. We will maintain distinct activities to develop and market English products through a dedicated plan and with a ring-fenced budget”.
- What role if any VE will have in domestic product development and/or marketing is currently unclear. I am hoping above hope that I am misreading the situation but I fear we may be heading to a situation which at best takes us back to the English Tourism Council days (early 2000s) and perhaps to a position I’ve not yet witnessed where we don’t actually have a domestic tourist board as such at all for England. It’s worth remembering that the last time England’s interests were largely represented by VB some of the most vocal opponents to the arrangement were the other home nation boards, who felt, if I recall correctly, that England’s interests where as a consequence too dominant in the marketing of Britain abroad.
- The budget for the Greats Campaign has been increased to £60m. VB isn’t the only partner or delivery agent and the campaign is a much wider international diplomacy piece and not by any means simply a tourism marketing vehicle. Nonetheless, VB success within the overall campaign to date means it is well placed to benefit from the increased budget.
- There are lots of other significant direct and indirect changes that will impact on tourism, the visitor economy and critically the support for these areas across all the regions and home nations. They, like the apparently simple headline announcements above, will take a number of days to unpick, understand and then articulate.
More to follow as and when we find it out and understand more of it…………