Month: April 2016

In last week’s news

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Last week saw three piece of news of potential interest to the wider tourism industry and especially to destination managers:

1. Lone Star the American property investment giant behind the SSE Arena at Wembley has taken full ownership of the UK’s biggest coach holiday operator, Shearings, which offers coach, air, rail, cruise and hotel breaks to destinations in the UK and oversea. Shearings also owns and operates c 50 hotels all in major UK destinations.  Wigan based company last changed hands in a management buyout in 2014.

1.1.  Lone Star are expected to grow the company by a series of selective acquisitions before looking to resell in a number of years’ time.  The first of these acquisitions, that of: Equalmatch, a specialist firm which owns the Travelstyle and UK Breakaways brands, has already taken place  As a major player in the domestic tourism market and with its own portfolio of destination based product and a distinctly destination based offer Shearings are a company that many destination managers would do well to watch.

2. The Hotel Collection represented by Savills and Rothchild has brought to market a portfolio of 10 regional hotels in the UK including the Imperial, Blackpool and Torquay, The Majestic Harrogate, The Old Ship Brighton, Billesley Manner Stratford on Avon, Stirling’s Highland Hotel, Aberdeen’s Altens Hotel and the Angle Cardiff.

2.2.  Between them the hotels offer 1,433 rooms, all are significant properties and all are major players within significant leisure and business destinations.  Any news of potential buyers and especially firm news of their subsequent plans for the future direction for either the portfolio or for individual hotels within it are keenly awaited by those in the destinations involved.

3.  At a brief hearing at North Staffordshire justice centre Merlin Entertainments pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety laws following last year’s serious accident on The Smiler ride at Alton Towers. As a consequence of the guilty plea they could face an unlimited fine when sentenced at a later date in the year.

3.1.  Following last Friday’s hearing Merlin has come under some public criticism for its recent handling of the accident, although more informed opinion suggest that their honest and forthright approach throughout has done much to mitigate the potential damage to reputation and to the business.  It is therefore cited as a potentially good example of how to handle such difficult situations, accepting that no approach in such regrettable circumstance can ever be perfect.

3.3.  Meanwhile Merlin’s share prices and UK business levels have seemingly recovered to pre incident levels after an understandably difficult period following the accident in 2015.  The size and timing of any fine, which is likely to be significant, together with the degree and nature of any resulting press reaction and comment, will be critical to Merlin’s UK performance in 2016, especially but not by any means exclusively to that at their Alton Towers site.  Hopefully dented but not irreparably damaged Merlin will put this incident behind them and continue to operate and grow a wide range of highly successful products both within major UK destinations and at their own standalone destination sites.

3.4.  In normal times Merlin don’t really need to have their importance within the domestic market publicly recognized by the rest of the industry, nor do they need any public expressions of support from the industry to help their business succeed.  That said, I do wonder whether these are, “normal times” and therefore what if anything could or should be done?


Online Travel Agents in the news

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You may have seen quite negative trade and public media comment regarding some of the practices of Online Travel Agents (OTA) following a House of Lords Select Committee report on “Online Platforms and the Digital Single Market” published on 20 April. A good summary of the key points specifically relating to OTA’s within what is a much bigger and wider report on online platform and the (EU) single market can be accessed at:

Whether positive or negative, the impact of OTA on traditional trading methods are undeniably large.  Consequently many who have been impacted (negatively?) will welcome this Parliamentary intervention.  However, we should note that the potential benefit of the intervention may be limited simply because the House of Lords Select Committee involved is looking at last year’s European Commissions Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe and is therefore rightly the Lord’s EU Select Committee and not any one of a number of other Westminster departmental committees with more direct responsibility for the implementation and management of associated UK policies.  I may be wrong but if it isn’t their own Departmental Select Committee raising the concerns, then it is yet another stepped removed from a process that already demands only that the lead Westminster departments concerned note and reply to Select Committee reports and not necessarily act on any recommendations they may contain.

What the report has done is raised public awareness of potential issues around OTAs, which give opportunity for further awareness building. The main body of the report also provides some real useful factual detail and some strong evidence supporting industry and consumer concerns.  Given the size and breadth of the report if forced to be selective I’d recommend Chapter 5, Competition Law, and Chapter 7, Consumer protection and online Platforms, as those containing detail the most pertinent for anyone wrestling locally with the issues now, or having to do so at some future date:


Update your public information pages

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Most but not all members updated their individual information pages in December and January on . This public facing site automatically populates your pages on our national Facebook page giving you two entirely free promotional avenues.  Somewhat belatedly we have also recently added a link from the corporate site for any members of the public who come there looking for tourist information.

As we are now heading towards the start of the main season can I please ask that you either update your entry for 2016, or if you have already done so check it again and make any additional tweaks needed.  Neither avenue gets massive numbers of visits but there is a steady flow to both typically in the order of few hundreds per week, most of whom then go on to click through to individual destination’s sites.

The public sites destination pages are individually user name and password protected (not the corporate site password). As ever if you forgotten the password and can’t recover it using the automated system on the site, then contact me at:



The Cultural White Paper 2016

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If you not seen it yet you may wish to look at The Cultural White Paper, the Westminster Government’s new strategy for cultural development in England.

The executive summary pages 8 to 11 gives the highlights, although some of the more interesting detail on likely direction lies in the main body text.  It is strong on a message of continued, albeit less London centric, public support for culture but with a definite emphasis towards efforts to helping cultural assets and venues find alternative commercial and private sector philanthropic support, presumably so that in future far more venues and activities are less reliant on support from the public purse, or are entirely self-supporting?

The new Discover England fund is cited in the paper:

We are launching a new £40 million Discover England fund in 2016. Its purpose is to make it easier for visitors to discover England’s national treasures and hidden gems, by encouraging partners to work together across geographical boundaries to develop iconic tourism trails. Our culture is a key draw and it will have a key role in these new ‘must-see’ routes.

Sponsorship request

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We don’t normally promote sponsorship requests but this one from Bob Carter, MD of Carrier Group and a long standing friend and supporter of British Destinations is a bit of an exception. If you can help please do:

Dear friend

I have always wanted to do the London Marathon, it’s taken ten years to get in! And as they say, you’re never too old…..HELP!

Recently someone I know lost part of his leg in a nasty accident, but the Devon Air Ambulance helped save his life (as well as the other emergency and hospital staff) – life changing to say the least! Wherever you live, however old you are, whatever you do, if you have an accident or need to be rushed to hospital for any reason, the air ambulances could save YOUR life – so please support these amazing people:

The Devon Air Ambulance Trust now operates two helicopters, attending 1400 incidents every year. Soon to be operating up to midnight they cost £5.5 million per annum to run, and get no financial assistance from government or lottery, so every donation helps significantly. You can make a difference and keep these guys flying, saving lives.

You can donate/support me here:

Thank you so much for donating, and if you’re watching the marathon on TV, watch out for the bald bloke with a helicopter on his back! 🙂

Don’t forget it could be you needing an air ambulance one day, so please give as much as you can afford, every £ helps keep them flying and saving lives

All the best

Bob Carter

New vacancy CEO Marketing Nottingham & Nottinghamshire C£100k closing 18 April

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For more detail of this new senior tourism post in Nottingham & Nottinghamshire go to the jobs vacancies main menu tab on or go direct to the relevant page at: