Month: October 2017

CMA launch online search and booking websites consultation. Closes 15 Dec 17.

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The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) have announced an investigation into the practices being used in online search and booking websites such as online travel agents (OTAs) and meta search engines (MSEs).   Their investigations involve a public consultation looking at the experiences of both accommodation providers and customers using booking websites as a sales or purchase tool.  Both close for comment on 15 December 2017.

We would urge you to ensure that your local providers are passed the accommodation business consultation  link and that they are encouraged to participate before the looming deadline in this important investigation.  There is significant anecdotal evidence to suggest that many, particular smaller, local providers are deeply unhappy about booking websites.  This is their one and only passing opportunity to try and do something proactive about it:  CMA questionnaire-for-accommodation-providers-online-hotel-booking

You may also wish to consider how best, the public could be engaged locally in the customer consultation.  Access the full CMA consultation page  here .

British Destinations and the Tourism Alliance are also seeking comments from destination managers and via you, your local businesses for use in the Tourism Alliance and, if it proves appropriate, the British Destinations, formal responses to CMA.  Your comments need to be with me by no later than Wednesday 1 December so I can get them consolidated and to Kurt Janson by his deadline of 4 December.  The sooner I have your comment the better.

The investigation is looking at issues like how search results are ranked, for example, whether factors like levels of commission paid are distorting the ranking process?  Other issues include the use of undue or false pressure selling techniques, inaccurate or deceptive discount claims, lack of clarity on total cumulative costs or the inclusion of hidden extra charges.  In addition we would like to ensure that issues around market dominance, costs of engagement, limitations on participation, impacts on regulatory frameworks, policing of quality and other standards, freeloading on destination marketing efforts and a raft of other wider impacts on destination management are all adequately aired; albeit that these issues are not necessarily at the heart of an investigation that is essentially looking in to fair competition practices and accuracy of marketing claims.

The B&B Association submitted a formal complaint to CMA in August 2017. Their briefing note on this provides some more useful background information:   https://britishdestinations.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/bba-ota-campaign.docx

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Amendment to Package Travel Regulation campaign update

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I wrote last week asking you and/or local partnerships or leading businesses to write to MPs in support of the Tourism Alliances campaign which is seeking amendment to the new EU Package Travel Regulation that is currently being drafted for adoption in to UK law by next July.  The amendment if included in the Regulation to be completed by 1 January, would then automatically serve to allow small scale, local added-value packaging of accommodation and tourism services only, post Brexit.

I am aware that some of you, who support the aims of the campaign might not be in a position to write to your own MP(s) on the issue, or may struggle to get others locally to do so in the limited time-frame available.  If that is the case then please let me know and I can then write to your MP(s) for you outlining the opportunity from British Destinations viewpoint.

Meanwhile, I have already written regarding the proposed amendment to our President Gordon Marsden MP and  10 of our Vice Presidents: Sir Henry Bellingham MP, Robert Goodwill MP, Lord Inglewood, Norman Lamb MP, Paul Maynard MP, Madeleine Moon MP, John Penrose MP, Lord Tyler and Martin Vickers MP and to the new MP for our headquarters destination, Damien Moore MP.

The original campaign request for those who missed it can be accessed at:   https://britishdestinations.net/2017/10/20/urgent-assistance-required-to-help-amend-the-euuk-package-travel-regulations/

Urgent assistance required to help amend the EU/UK Package Travel Regulations

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I am writing to try and enlist your support or that of your local destination partnership or leading local businesses for a short notice, lobbying campaign that’s being led on the industry’s behalf by colleagues in the Tourism Alliance.  Action is required in the next few weeks and certainly well before the December Westminster Parliamentary recess.

Briefly BEIS are in the process of transferring the new EU Package Travel Regulation (PTR) into UK wide law by 1 January, so it can be enacted by July 2018 as required by EU law. When we leave the EU nine months later, whatever is in that regulation on 1 January 2018 will transfer over to become new UK law.

The issue is that as currently framed small UK business will, as now,  be unable to undertake small scale, local, added-value packaging of “accommodation” and “tourism services”  without falling foul, for them, of the onerous  liabilities, financial bonding etc. applied to major travel operators.  This is because the EU regulation says that a combination of any two elements of “transport”, “accommodation” or “tourism services” constitutes a travel package.

What we are proposing is that a clause is now added that will automatically change the UK version post Brexit. In the new UK version transport would become a mandatory component of a travel package for the purposes of the PTR, freeing up UK SMEs and micro businesses to undertake low level, local packaging of accommodation and other tourism services only.  Oversea package travel would remain protected because of the travel element involved and the separate elements of any new local domestic packages would be protected by existing UK consumer, health and safe and other relevant regulations.  Tourism Alliance research estimates a potential £2.2bn a year economic boost and up to 40k additional jobs being created as a consequence.

In order to encourage BEIS to make this relatively simple change we are asking you and/or local business colleagues to write to your local MPs explaining the case and encouraging them to lobby or write to the Minister responsible within BEIS now, whilst the issue is still open to be addressed within the Department.

To help you do this a draft template letter, infographic and more detailed briefing note are available below.  You may of course wish in due course to write directly to the Minister with a much more tailored local case.  This would also be extremely helpful in moving the arguments forward.

PTR MP Letter BD member version

Tourism Alliance PTR Briefing Paper

PTR Infographic (2)

If you need any more information or wish to discuss the rational for behind the proposals or the reason for offering our support then please call or email me.

Job Vacancy Plymouth closing 30 Oct 17

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Destination Plymouth are offering a c 18 month fixed term post for a travel trade manager  for a US DEF funded post at c£25k pa.  See more under the Britishdestinations.net “Job vacancies +”  menu tab or go direct to the relevant webpage at:

https://britishdestinations.net/jobs-vacancies/plymouth-travel-trade-manager-us-connections-def-project-ftc-c25k-closing-30-oct-17/

Various vacancies with VisitBritain all closing between 22 Oct to 5 Nov 17

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VB are currently offering post in their London offices including a PR Assistant at c£20 – £25k (22 Oct), an Evaluation Specialist at £25 – £28k (26 Oct), an Evaluation Manager at c£40 – £45k (27 Oct) and a Destination Support & Engagement Manager for international business events at c£50k, closing on 5 November.  There are too many posts available to easily list under our own Job vacancies + menu tab on Britishdestinations.net but if you or colleague are interested the detail can be found at:

https://www.visitbritain.org/vacancies-page

 

New job vacancy

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VisitWiltshire are offering a 18 -24 month fixed term contract for a content manager for their Discover England Fund supported Great West Way initiative offered in the salary range  £30 -£35k; applications closing on Friday 27 October 2017.  See full details of this and other open vacancies via Britishdestinations.net  Jobs Vacancy+ menu tab, or go direct to the relevant British Destinations webpage for this post at:

https://britishdestinations.net/jobs-vacancies/visitwiltshire-content-manager-fixed-term-contract-18-24-months-c30-35k-closing-27-oct-17/

Tourism Industry Sector Bid Submission

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The formal submission to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) on behalf of the Great British and Northern Ireland Tourism Industry was submitted by VisitBritain last week.

The bid document comprises over 100 pages of which c 50 form the main body (page 7 to 57) and the remainder are annexes; within these annexes the comments from the SME consultation (pages 76 to 85) and the National and Regions’ round tables (pages 88 to 98) are probably of some background interest, highlighting as they do, additional areas of industry concern.  It is relatively big document and, thus, a not a quick read.  If you’re pressed for time a very short executive summary can be found at page 7 which will give you a basic idea of what is being sought.

Of particular, strategic interest to most destination managers will be the addition, since the original consultation process started, of a tourism zone proposal (page 28 to 32).  You may also like to note that primary authority proposals that came from the work of the original deregulation subgroup have not been dropped from the bid but are now included at page 56 under the improving productivity section:

2017 Industrial Strategy Sector Deal bid submission

It is also worth noting that the zone proposals are for five, five-year pilots on a competitive (GB and NI) bid basis.  Therefore those that wanting to achieve the status are going to have to fight for it and by default any potential benefits will not be available to those outside the zones, at least in the short to medium term.

I do have some initial questions about the zone’s suggested benefits, for example how the proposed 100% retention of new business rates growth for ring-fenced use in developing product and supporting tourism fits in with the still ongoing move towards local retention of all business rates in England?  I also not totally convinced that the ability to extend permitted development rights and other planning amendments via Local Development Order doesn’t already largely exist?  The issue is allowing it happen in such a way that it actually benefits the whole destination rather than one or two individual businesses; a particular problem for those destinations where the built or rural environment is one of the main attractions.  I am also unclear about the desired scale of a zone and about the likely timescale for bidding both of which are of great relevance to anyone who might like to start considering submitting a zone bid. That probably will not now become clear unless and until the bid is approved.  None of that is a game stopper and it is very much up the destinations or areas wanting to achieve tourism zone status to work out if and how it will benefit them.

The process from here is that BEIS considers the bid along with all those submitted over the summer by other industries.  Previously our assumption was that reference to those sector bids approved will now be made during the budget announcement on 22 November, or fallout of the detail that accompanies it in the days that follow.  Again that is not a certainty and there has recently been reference to negotiations being completed by the end of the year.   The success of those negotiations depends on a number of factors including both DCMS and BEIS having total confidence that the bid has wide industry support.  Many of those factors are now outside our control; however, making sure that confidence isn’t unintentionally eroded is something that is still very much within our joint gift