In the News: term-time holidays taking, the sharing economy questioned and the rural tourism inquiry

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1. Term-time holidays. New research published last week in the Time Education Supplement questions the Department for Education (DfE) repeated claim that each day missed from school can harm pupils’ attainment. Since September 2013, heads have been allowed to authorise term-time absences only in “exceptional circumstances”, which do not usually include holidays. The new research may add to the argument for some form of relaxation of what is currently almost a blanket ban?

1.1. In the last 18 months a number of parents have successfully challenged fines for holiday absence, which has helped raise awareness of the issue and arguably create greater uncertainty among both education authorities and parents.  This may have contributed to an over 50% rise in fines for absence for all reasons in England which was reported in July 2016?

1.2. Our position remains that absence for affordability, holiday preference or simply convenience is not justifiable.  However, where parental working conditions, or other similar circumstance, outside their control preclude a long family holiday being taken during school holidays, we would argue that this should become a recognised exceptional circumstance.  This would allow requests for absence to be made and then to be judged on merit against the strength of any evidence presented to substantiate the case made.

1.3. The fact that many small tourism business owners and many employed in the tourism industry find themselves unable to take family holidays in what is the peak school holiday periods, surely adds weight to the need for such a case to be made by the tourism industry and hopefully accepted by Government.

2. Sharing Economy. The sharing economy and, in particular, AirBnB as a leading brand are coming under increasing scrutiny as what was intended to be a sharing platform for those with occasional availability of their personal living accommodation, increasingly becomes used as a 24/7/365, full-time, multiple property holiday letting platform. London in common with other major international destination Cities is the latest to officially raise concern about the impact on private sector rental sector and affordable housing stocks among a raft of other second and subsequent order consequences. What at first sight might have appeared to be a good thing for tourism in general is now starting to be questioned at all sorts of levels, including by the highly regulated serviced accommodation sector, who see AirBnB and their ilk providing a vehicle for unfair competition.

2.1. The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Tourism and Leisure (which is administered by the Tourism Alliance) is holding an “inquiry” into the sharing economy and has called for evidence (note APPG do not have the official status of Select Committees and Government don’t have to react or respond to an APPG  report, nonetheless its a useful issue raising mechanism):

2.3. A number of member destinations have started to raise concerns with us over what is in some area is an apparent explosion in often unrecognised and unregulated accommodation provision, some of which may be uninsured, illegal and/or unsafe.  As destination management organisation they are also starting to pick up on many of the wider associated issue, for example, the impact on affordable key worker accommodation and so on.  It is this type of information, preferably evidenced, that needs to be presented to the APPG, either directly, or through the British Destinations’ response.

3. Rural tourism. The Environment and Rural Affairs Select Committee is now taking oral evidence from a number of organisations including British Destinations and the Tourism Alliance over the coming weeks. Our evidence session planned for 8th November has been postponed until later in the month. This gives rural members and other with rural interests more time to comment on our submission and/or raise additional points with us for possible inclusion during the oral evidence session:


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