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In the news:  US European travel alert, holiday park development and changes to school holiday dates.

1. US Travel Alert. On 31 May the US State Department issued a “Europe Travel Alert”, which follows on from a less well publicised (in the UK at least) World Travel Alert issued in March that also include a general warning paragraph regard travel to Europe . The latest alert opens with:

“As part of the State Department’s continuous efforts to provide Americans travelling abroad with information about relevant events, we are alerting U.S. citizens to the risk of potential terrorist attacks throughout Europe, targeting major events, tourist sites, restaurants, commercial centers and transportation. The large number of tourists visiting Europe in the summer months will present greater targets for terrorists planning attacks in public locations, especially at large events. This Travel Alert expires August 31, 2016”.

The US remains the UK’s most important international market.  Meanwhile France is the top European destination for US citizens travelling abroad and recent high profile events there were already likely to depress travel volumes and values from the USA to Europe and within that the UK for this summer and probably well beyond.  Very little self-fulling publicity is being given to this within the UK but it is nonetheless reasonable to assume that visitor numbers from the USA to the UK will be significantly depressed with strong potential for the US warnings to influences other key markets, even without there being further incidents.

Yesterday’s conflicting publicity of the earlier arrest of a French right-wing terrorist or gun smuggler  (depending on who’s state security forces you believe) is as likely to serve to reinforces the need for caution, as it is to allay fears on the grounds that the threats are being effectively dealt with.  Similarly pictures of armed soldiers patrolling French tourist hot spots may reassure those already there but will undoubtedly help frighten off many of those who have yet to think about coming.

Read the full State Department European Travel Alert at: https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/alertswarnings/europe-travel-alert.html .

2. Holiday Parks. Parkdean Resorts the UK’s biggest holiday park operator has reported increased profits for 2015, announced plans for £40m investment in its existing 72 sites and also look sets to make further acquisitions in future years.  Various reports over recent days have given slightly differing interpretations; this is what the Telegraph has to say on the matter: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2016/06/06/parkdean-resorts-targets-expansion-as-it-bolsters-existing-holid/

The Parkdean’s announcement confirms the underlying strength of the domestic market, albeit increasingly underpinned by the shorter breaks with their attendant issues, for example shortening lead times.  It also confirms the increasing need for and benefits of investment in the product, whatever the target market.

Additionally future acquisition plans may or may not be of interest to areas where Parkdean aren’t currently operating and/or investment in existing parks is needed?  In general Holiday Park development in recent years has been mostly about improvement, expansion and acquisition of existing sites.  Perhaps there is now room in the market for more completely new, larger scale development and in particular for holiday park product away from established holiday park territory?

3. School summer term. The first Education Authority in England has announced a shortening of its summer holiday to less than 5 weeks for 2017 summer seasons, other authorities are considering the merits of similar moves. In Barnsley’s case it will involve the creation of longer 2 week October holiday in 2017 for all of its 53 state run schools. A further 35 primary and secondary academies in the education authority area will continue to select their own dates or fall in line as they see fit under  the new freedoms that academy status gives them.  The move has been made to reduce learning loss over the long summer holiday period and to give a more even spread of holidays in order to support learning.

Again as far as holidays and tourism are concerned, the public debate has been dominated by the same old relative cost arguments and not by the difficulties for many families of juggle competing  requirements in order to get the necessary time off together to take a holiday.  Yes it may well be possible to get a lower cost holiday in October/November at home or abroad but not every family in Barnsley can or would want to go on holiday in just two weeks in October/November. Meanwhile the already limited summer window of holiday opportunity for parents of pupils from at least 53 local schools will have narrowed by a further week, creating an even larger local holiday taking bottleneck . These issues are then further compounded by the removal of head teacher’s discretion to grant in term holidays for pupils in anything other than “exceptional circumstances”: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3623021/Schools-cut-summer-holiday-just-five-weeks-Barnsley-council-Britain-reduce-break-bosses-say-leads-learning-loss-pupils.html

When the issues of changing school term times were last properly consulted upon, schools were either state or privately run, holiday dates in the state sector were set by a relatively few Educational Authorities and head teacher in both the state and private education sectors retained the discretion to grant term time holiday’s, where there was a good case made for it.  Circumstances have changed radically in England, where the largest proportion of the UK’s families resides.  There is a distinct danger that the tourism industry, which stills relies to a significant degree on the domestic families market, has lost sight of critical developments, along with any sort of influence they might have had on local and national government policy.  If nothing else these random changes will make an increasingly unpredictable holiday market and holiday seasons even more difficult to predict and therefore far more difficult to efficiently and cost effectively manage.

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