It may have passed most people by but there was a letter to the editor written in support of the Tourism Sector Deal and signed by Steve Ridgway and by over 40, mainly private sector captains of industry in the Times on Monday 18 December 2017. It’s an interesting lobbying tack to take at this time and well worth the short read, if only to note the increasingly central role that the tourism zone proposals now appear to be taking within the case for the bid. We hope of course that Government will take heed and approve the bid later in the New Year:
PLAN TO BOOST TOURISM IN BRITAIN
Sir, Tourism is one of our most valuable industries: it is worth £130 billion annually; it supports more than three million jobs across the UK and is one of our most successful exports.
In a plan presented to the government we have shown that tourism could be worth £268 billion by 2025. We want to create “tourism zones” in areas where local leadership will improve transport, extend the tourism season, drive productivity and create jobs. We want to continue to compete globally as a world-class destination for visitors, boosting economic growth across the whole of Britain. We want tourism to be a key part of the industrial strategy and call on the government to back our plan.
Stephen Ridgway, tourism sector deal leader; John Holland-Kaye, chief executive, Heathrow airport; Andrew Cowan, group chief executive, Manchester Airport Group (Manchester, Stansted, East Midlands and Bournemouth airports);Brian Ambrose, chief executive, Belfast City airport; Tim Clarke, chairman, Birmingham airport; Peter Kerkar, global chief executive, Cox & Kings; Dr David Fleming, director, Liverpool Museums; Sir Michael Dixon, director, Natural History Museum, James McClure, general manager, Airbnb UK; Shaun Hinds, chief executive, Manchester Central Convention; Adrian Ellis, chairman, Manchester Hoteliers’ Association and general manager, Lowry Hotel; Sir Gary Verity, chief executive, Welcome to Yorkshire; Jonathan Neame, chief executive, Shepherd Neame; Patrick Dardis, chief executive, Young & Co; Simon Emeny, chief executive, Fuller, Smith & Turner Plc; Gordon Clark, MD, Global Blue, UK & I; Simon Townsend, chief executive, Ei Group Plc; Kathryn James, MD, NEC and ICC; Justin Baird-Murray, MD, Metropole Hotel; John Barnes, chief executive, Historic Royal Palaces; Helen Brocklebank, chief executive, Walpole; Craig Kreeger, chief executive, Virgin Atlantic; Michele Fitzpatrick, chief executive, Eviivo; Nick de Bois, chairman, Events Industry Board; Gary Topp, director, Culture Central; Helen Peters, chief executive, Shakespeare’s England; Neil Rami, chief executive, The West Midlands Growth Company; Andrew Lovett, chief executive, The Black Country Living Museum; Professor Sir David Eastwood, vice-chancellor, University of Birmingham; Richard Parry, chief executive, Canal & River Trust; Ralph Findlay, chief executive, Marstons plc; John Wales, chief executive, Encore Tickets; David Morgan-Hewitt, MD, the Goring, Dr Tristram Hunt, director, Victoria and Albert Museum; Michael Ward, MD, Harrods; Sorcha Carey, chairwoman, Edinburgh’s Festivals; Brian Bickell, chief executive, UKCVA and Shaftesbury; Richard Calvert, chief executive, Shearings Leisure Group; Tom Stables, MD, National Express UK; Ian Edwards, chief executive, Celtic Manor Resort; Rita Beckwith, chief executive, CityCruises; Terence Brannigan, chairman,Tourism Northern Ireland; Neil Snowball, chief executive, Warwickshire County Cricket Club & Edgbaston Stadium; Nick Blofeld, divisional director, Warwick Castle
The nature of this consultation is reasonably technical and whilst colleagues working in tourism may not wish to respond themselves there is good reason in many destinations to ensure that colleagues in the appropriate local authority departments are aware of the potential opportunities that arise within this consultation to attempt to address, HMO, private rented sector and possibly even sharing economy accommodation related issues. Find the consultation under the consultations responses menu tab of Britishdestinations.net or go direct to the page at:
We are pleased to announce that Quality in Tourism join Global Tourism Solutions (UK) (GTS [UK]) as the joint conference partners with British Destinations and the Tourism Alliance for our joint Annual Conference in London on 19 March 2018. As you should already be aware we will be jointly hosting a tourism conference looking at current strategic issues from 10:00 to 15:00 which will then be followed from 16:00 to 18:00 by the annual Parliamentary tourism reception in the House of Commons, hosted by our President and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Tourism Gordon Marsden MP, to which all delegates will be invited. Please diary the date.
Quality in Tourism has been assessing properties and driving standards across the UK for over 15 years and they are experts in the field, offering advice, support and assessments for tourism & hospitality businesses. They are currently delivering a suite of assessments, include an initiative new Safe, Clean and Legal assessment which is designed to be more than just an entry-level level scheme. We believe that, “Clean, Safe and Legal” could now help to fill the growing gap in the market between reliance on customer reviews alone and the more traditional grading assessments approach.
Just a quick note keep you all informed progress with two issues: the sharing economy APPG inquiry and the CMA online accommodation booking investigation.
Kurt Janson and I met earlier in the week with Gordon Marsden MP our President and the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Tourism which Kurt and the Tourism Alliance administer. The APPG will now hold oral evidence sessions for its inquiry into the Sharing Economy in February with a view to publishing interim finding in March. This will be in time to allow these to be presented as a session by Gordon at the joint Tourism Alliance British Destinations one day conference in London on the 19th March. Gordon is also hosting this year’s Annual Tourism Parliamentary Reception in the House of Commons in the late afternoon of the 19th to which all conference delegates are invited to attend.
The APPG took written evidence last year but the oral evidence session were curtailed by the unexpected General Election and there has been no real opportunity to proceed much before now. If anyone has strong view for or against the sharing economy in tourism which have not yet been submitted to the APPG, then let me know and I will speak with Kurt about late submission. Being an APPG it isn’t tied to formal select committee rules.
The Competition and Markets Authorities investigation in to online accommodation booking closed for written submissions at 5 pm today. After some debate (with myself) I decided late in the day to make a very informal submission primarily in order to highlight the possible impacts on destination management that almost certainly lie outside the direct remit of the investigate. However, never let an opportunity pass you by.
What I sent is reproduced below. If you have any comment and particularly if you think I have got anything badly wrong or you disagree with the direction taken then please let me know:
Email text reads:
British Destination is the trade body for major destination based tourism interests in the UK, we currently represent over 40 destination management organisations who between them represent and manage the interests of a variety of urban and rural destinations and those of the tourism businesses that operate within then. The majority of our members are public private sector partnerships, many of those are coastal resort based but we also represent inland Cities, towns, rural Counties and rural tourism areas. See www.britishdestinations.net for more detail about us and our work.
Our primary role in support of your investigation in to online hotel booking has been to encourage our members, to encourage their local businesses and, where possible, consumers to respond. We did so because we were already aware of a growing concern, especially amongst SME accommodation providers, that a small number of very large online booking platforms (owned by even fewer companies) were apparently achieving and potentially exploiting a position of market dominance. The evidence we have seen suggests that some of that dominance has been achieved by the use of questionable consumer focused marketing practices and that having dominated the online route to market directly and, to a degree, dominated or suppressed the offline route indirectly, they were now setting some unreasonable conditions and asking overly high prices, especially of the smaller providers who may have fewer if any alternative routes to market. We are confident that these claims will be supported by the evidence submitted to you by individual businesses and that appropriate action to remedy any true abuse found will consequently be taken by you. We are less confident that you investigations will expose the very serious problems the market dominance is starting to cause amongst popular UK destinations, or that if they do that you can directly remedy these. Nonetheless, we feel it may be useful to give you a brief overview and a flavour of the issues so that if it does fall within your remit you can then seek further detail from us.
Most UK destinations of any significant size have a commercial need to plan, coordinate and deliver joint activities which will benefit the destination as a whole. There is no legally binding framework or fund mechanism available to do this (other than Business Improvement Districts which are limited in their effect and are not yet widely used in tourism). Examples of joint activities typically undertaken include, the provision of events (air shows, illumination, cultural activities, markets, shows etc.), support for conferencing and generic destination marketing, including destination branding, PR websites and social media, none of which can easily be organised or funded at the destination level by any individual businesses acting alone. That function is usually provided by a voluntary local partnership structure that will involve a mix of local tourism businesses and local government (often called a destination management, marketing or partnership organisation [DMO or DMP]). The local models vary significantly in structure and funding but all have traditionally suffered from a degree of freeloading from businesses that don’t volunteer to contribute but who patently benefit from the branding, marketing, publicity increased footfall and additional staying guests that the destination activities attract. Historically the gap between what businesses need to do on a joint basis for the destination to thrive and what collectively businesses are voluntarily prepared to pay for by way of membership fees, sponsorship, commission payments, service fees and contributions, has been filled by the public sector. Unfortunately even in the most tourism reliant areas, local authorities are now struggling to fund or fund and provide what is a non-statutory function in an environment of ever decreasing public expenditure.
The relatively recent advent of the online accommodation booking platforms has served to inadvertently compounded the freeloading problem. As far as we can ascertain none of the major online booking organisations contribute to the destination management costs of any UK destination where they do business. So for example, whilst Blackpool Illuminations will attract significant number of individual to stay in Blackpool and book online, the major online booking platforms that benefit are contributing nothing to the significant cost of providing the illuminations or indeed to what is a multi-million pound series of activities conducted by Visit Blackpool and partners throughout the year. That issue is replicated at every other destination in the UK. Moreover, increasing local accommodation businesses who would have previously contributed are citing the high cost to them of using online booking platforms as a reason for not contribution as much or at all to the local destination activities. Many feel they have no choice but to operate through online booking platforms and no choice but to pay the usually high costs of doing so. Having paid, in some cases we believe up to 30% of the room rate to getting a booking, there is little appetite to pay anything to anyone else unless there is a legal obligation (VAT, income tax etc.).
Freeloading on the destinations corporate activity isn’t by any means a new phenomenon but the activities of the online platforms are exacerbating the issues and doing so at a time and at a point at which the traditional funding models for destination management and marketing are under pressures from public sector austerity. This will almost certainly serve to damage many UK destination’s future prospects and those of their local businesses both contributing and non-contribution. It may have an impact on the online booking platforms too but we suspect that given the global nature of their business models, they will simply move on and replace lost business and lost revenues from elsewhere in the world.
Better consumer understanding of what the platforms are actually offering them, lower costs to the accommodation providers and fairer practices from a wider choice of genuinely independent online booking platform might go some way to easing the destination management problems we allude to; as would an active and preferably contributing relationship between online platforms and the destinations that actual generate much of the demand that the online accommodation booking platforms then exploit to make their money. The former might possibly be within the CMA’s gift, the latter is perhaps something the destinations might need to attempt to address themselves. In fairness to the platform providers the degree of growth and development in such a short period of time is bound to result in a number of unintended consequences and serious structural issues. Whether they wish to address these or continue increase their market share and dominance by disruptive technological means, remains to be seen.
My apologies for the informal and hasty nature of this response. Given that our main concerns seemed to lie outside the remit of the investigation the decision to write to you wasn’t made until the eleventh hour before the submission deadline later today. If the content is of any substantive use to your investigation we would happily provide a more detail and structured summary of the issues outlined above or attend a meetings, if that is appropriate means of contributing to your investigation.
The free to British Destination members, 2017 Destinations Intelligence Survey will be conducted over the coming 6 to 8 weeks. Sergi Jarques of Destination Research Ltd, will now contact each member destination, using last year’s survey contact details. As some of these may have changed it would be extremely helpful if those of you on the wider contact list were now to dropped Sergi an email to confirm the detail of the best person, or persons in your organisation to receive the survey. New destination members joining us before the end of January 2018 can also participate.
The information he sends will consist of the survey, plus the detail of last year’s entries, so that you can focus on amending what has changed. Sergi will be on hand to assist anyone who is unfamiliar with the process or is struggling with any particular aspect. If information isn’t forthcoming from your destination by the closing date and after suitable prompting, Sergi will then complete and publish the data in those sections where there is national source information available on your destination or where your historic local data remains relevant.
In addition, colleagues at GTS (UK) can, on request, provide the relevant STEAM data formatted to cut and paste directly into the British Destination survey. This is free service provided to their clients in support of our joint efforts to further the use of tourism data as a destination management tool. To utilise this generous offer, STEAM users should contact Cathy James.
Lest you have forgotten, the survey detail is used in the closing months of the financial year to provide: an individual report for each destination (anonymised example), a group report for all destinations (anonymised example) and your own interactive data dashboard that allows you to compare and contrast performance across the various measures, with all other participating destinations (protected live dashboard). The recent addition of the dashboard has been praised by a number of members as an exceptionally useful innovation. All of the live detail, plus the historic data going back over a decade is available to members on the password protected destination intelligence website at: https://destinationintelligence.wordpress.com/ .
If you have forgotten the separate password for the destination intelligence site, or have any general questions about the destination intelligence service then email me. If you have any technical questions on destination intelligence or the survey then email Sergi.
Please note that it isn’t too late to include new members within the 2017 survey, so if there are any non-member destination wishing to access the benefits of trend analysis and national benchmarking, as a free addition to all the many other membership benefit we offer, then please contact me immediately.
I am delighted to announce that Global Tourism Solutions (UK) (GTS [UK]) are joining us as sponsors of the joint British Destinations and Tourism Alliance national one day conference which is being held in London on the 19 March 2018, immediately prior to the Annual Tourism Industry Westminster Parliamentary Reception (all delegates are invited).
GTS (UK) are one of the UK leading independent tourism research companies with over 25 years’ of experience working with both public and private sectors. Their best known product the STEAM model is widely used by many of the UK major destinations and tourism organisation to provide timely estimates of the annual value, volume and economic impact of tourism. Their insight in to the economic impact of tourism within the UK will doubtless add much to the debate on the day.
Further details and updates regarding the conference will be posted at:
On the 20 October we asked you to consider writing in support of a Tourism Alliance campaign to your local Westminster MPs, urging them in turn to write to the Minister responsible in BEIS for the forthcoming implementation and translation in to UK law of the new EU Package Travel Regulation. The original request outlining the issues and opportunity to support this Tourism Alliance organised campaign can be accessed here.
Meanwhile we have written directly our Westminster based Vice Presidents and to a number of constituency MPs and to the Prime Minister. Some of those contacted, have responded very positively indeed. As a consequence, I have since had the following direct response from the Minister for Small Business, Margot James MP:
Kurt Janson of the Tourism Alliance is now in the process of arranging a meeting with BEIS official as outlined in the Minister’s letter, although, the original hope had been to meet with the Minster herself, in order try to make greater progress in the limited time now allowed. Subject to the selected date I have agreed to accompany Kurt to the meeting in order to help put the small business and destination case for the proposed amendments that would allow local, low-level packaging of accommodation and other services provision, (but not travel) without the onerous restrictions of the regulation applying.