Month: June 2018

Senior vacancy offered, Head of Marketing – Visit Wales, starting at £61k closing 5 July 2018.

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The Welsh Government are seeking a new Head of Marketing for Visit Wales.  Full detail can be accessed ia Britishdestinations.net from the drop-down menu off the  “Job vacancies +” main menu tab, or go direct to that page now at:   https://britishdestinations.net/jobs-vacancies/head-of-marketing-visit-wales-c-61k-rising-to-71k-closing-5-july-2018/

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Industry updates: latest summary statistics from VB/VE and Uber reprieved in London.

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The slide pack from the June VB/VE destination research group meeting which contains the research and statistics headlines from VB/VE in one short summary can be accessed below. Regrettably the domestic GBTS item within it is based solely on England’s results.  Nonetheless, it’s a useful summary of trends, what’s up what’s down and what’s been recently released in terms of new reports, albeit the publication of the reports mentioned have already been notified to you via previous Britishdestination.net blogs:

VB-VE Destination Research Group – June Presentations 2018

Yesterday Uber was granted a 15 month probationary licence to operate in London. This follows their appeal against Transport for London’s refusal to grant a new 5-year licence last September, due to Tfl’s concerns about a number of persistent, serious failings.  The ban has been on hold pending the outcome of the appeal.

Hotly contested at first, Uber have since acknowledged all of TfL’s original concerns and claim latterly to have made radical changes to the way they are operating in London and more generally as a US based international company.  Many including TfL’s layers and a number of MPs on the Transport Select Committee are circumspect about the degree to which Uber has and will continue to changed its ways. Others are openly accusing Uber of mounting a PR campaign that promises much but that hides the fact that very little of really substance has been done to address the underlying failings in their business model.

Their London operation is very much on probation and there may well be lessons from the court case and Uber’s subsequent actions in London over the coming year plus, for other UK Cities where Uber operates, has operated and is currently banned, or where it may wish to operate in future.  Meanwhile like many others major international companies operating online and, in the gig and sharing economies, Uber continue to be under the spotlight in the UK for both its employment practices and its own corporate and individual employee’s tax status; issues that are largely being looked at separately to their right to operate a licenced taxi service in any particular area.

Two good articles on the background to the London ban and yesterday’s probationary approval have been added to the Britishdestinations.net page on the “Gig economy”.  This can be found now, or at any time in future, on the drop-down menu from the “Sharing economy” main menu tab.  Or go direct to the gig economy page now at:

https://britishdestinations.net/tourism-the-sharing-economy-and-its-wider-implications/gig-economy/

Another new “high-street” research report added

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I have added a report released today by the Centre for Cities.  It’s a relatively long and technical piece that, among other things, makes the case for increasing new commercial office stock and makes recommendations to National and Local Government for policy changes to support that aim.

The report covers England and Wales and takes in a number of British Destination member Cities and a few larger towns and therefore it should be of direct interest to colleagues in these destinations.  The more general points about the proportion of office to retail space in City/Town centres and logistic to industrial in the suburbs and the comparisons between weak and stronger performing Cities/Towns may be of much wider interests to other Cities or towns of various sizes that are not specifically included in the research.  Recommendations around the potential need to reduce and re-purpose excess retail in a rapidly changing retail market may be of particular interest. Perhaps it is one to consider be sharing with colleagues in regeneration and economic development?

The report can be accessed off the Britishdestinations.net  “Research & statistic – by year ” main menu tab.  It is currently the first main item on the full list of 120 plus reports. Alternatively go direct to the paper’s individual page at:

https://britishdestinations.net/1194-2/content/the-role-of-commercial-space-in-local-industrial-strategies-2018/

Disappointing news for Swansea Bay tidal lagoon

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Along time in both the making and in the decision process the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon has today apparently had its final rejection from the UK Government.  This will not only be a great disappointment for the project’s supporters in Swansea itself but for its many supporters elsewhere, some of whom were pinning their hopes for similar projects to follow on from the presumed, eventual success of the Swansea bid.   It seems highly likely that if the financial and other conditions can’t be achieved to make the Swansea project a reality, then conditions will not easily be met anywhere else within the UK, or at least not in the foreseeable future:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-south-west-wales-44589083

New report added to our extensive national research & statistics library

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We have added a new piece of Discover England Funded research, published this month (June 2018) which looks at the international, inbound tourism and the outdoor activities market in England.  Although a VisitEngland funded and therefore England focused piece of research, it may also have some utility for the  other Home Nations.

Find the report under the Britishdestinations.net main menu tab “Research  & statistic – by year” (top of the date ordered list of 130 plus reports) or go to the report’s individual page direct at:

https://britishdestinations.net/1194-2/content/discover-england-fund-research-outdoor-activities-2018/

Holiday homes issues

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You will be aware that we have been doing a great deal of work behind the scenes around some of perceived issues relating to the sharing accommodation sector. Essentially we are seeking more transparency regarding who is actually operating, where and when so that the appropriate and necessary regulations that is rightly still apply to the traditional accommodation sector can be appropriately and properly applied to this new sector, and in particular to the increasing numbers within it who appear to be operating full-scale commercial accommodating businesses under the guise of the part-time, small-scale, sharing of spare assets.

In recent weeks and months there has been considerable discussion nationally on holiday homes.  Specifically on the one hand proposals to restrict second home ownership in some holiday honey pot locations (limited in reality we understand to rules on the future purchase of new-build properties) and on the other of allegation of exploitation of the existing holiday accommodation letting rules within England for the avoidance of much-needed council tax payments.

It is alleged that second home owners may be claiming that their second homes are holiday lets available for rental for 140 or more days and therefore subject to non-domestic rates.  They are not actually letting the properties to anyone but then claim the 100% small business rate relief available on business below a rateable value of £12k, so they pay neither business or domestic rates.  In Wales the regulation has been changed so that the property must also be let for at least 70 of the 140 days or more that they are made available for letting, if they are to be treated as businesses.

These two issues don’t relate directly to the sharing economy but they could to an extent muddy the waters when we are arguing for a level playing field and a need to ensure that the sharing economy operate on a safe,  legal and fair basis, alongside the traditional market.

Do colleagues have any local examples of these or similar issues that they have experienced in the holiday homes market or any qualitative or quantitative evidence  to support or deny the popular press report on this subject?  Equally any additional examples of any issues and any evidence on the impact of the sharing economy would be most useful;  albeit I accept that the biggest problem currently faced is that the sharing accommodation activity is largely hidden and the physical resource and the ability to readily identify who is operating what, where and when from the information available to you on the  sharing platforms is all but non-existent (deliberately obscured?).  Any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated.

Meeting with Labour Shadow Tourism Minister

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I attended a meeting in Manchester last Friday (15 June) with the Shadow Tourism Minister Kevin Brennan MP and colleagues, mostly from Manchester and Liverpool City Regions and Lancashire, as part of an ongoing series of future tourism policy development roundtable discussions.  The agenda included:

  • Staff recruitment and retention
  • Brexit
  • Industrial strategy and regulation
  • Business regulation
  • Supporting communities and destinations

Although not specifically on the agenda as a separate item, the growing acceptance of the need for local tourism levies to fund increasing gaps in tourism and visitor economy support, especially among major Cities like Manchester and Liverpool was discussed.

In addition to partaking in the general debate I was also able to registered the following strategic policy points from our list of lobbying drip-feed issues:

  • The call for tourism levies were in large part driven by drastic reductions in public funding for destination management, marketing, place making, regeneration and economic development and other key public realm service provision. Although perhaps not easily achieved, a Labour Government might reasonably be asked, as an alternative to a potentially contentious tourism tax, to look towards a return to a more appropriate levels of public funding relative to the importance of the visitor economy for key public service provision. I.e. a reapportionment of existing business and other tax revenue, rather than new “taxes”, for tax raising’s sake.
  • Beyond the headline of staff training, the underlying and  far more difficult issues around affordable accommodation in the training and especially staff retention debate, particularly within Cities and in popular rural tourism hotspots. I.e. the inability to be able to live and work, long-term in an industry that is often collocated with property hotspots. Others present reinforced this and added that public transport to work during often unsociable hours was also problem, even within major Cities. The shorter-term role of businesses providing good quality staff accommodation was also aired but it was acknowledged that this worthy aim doesn’t really address the longer-term “liveability” problems that probably rest more with affordable housing policies.
  • The concept of celebrating the visitor economy as a training ground for key customer facing skills for other industries, thus, making turnover a positive recruitment tool rather than simply decrying high turnover and in doing so reinforcing negative perception about longer-term prospects within the industry.
  • The need for better recognition and appropriate support for the domestic tourism market in England. Although c 80% to 20% on average nationally, the value and volume for many popular destinations once London and other honey pots were taken in to account was in usually in the very high 90% range.  Current national policy is dismissive of the role of domestic tourism, focusing any support available largely on attracting international tourists.  The domestic and international tourism infrastructure are often one in the same thing and under-investing domestically has downstream consequences for international tourism as well as core domestic tourism.
  • The perceived need for an independent English Tourist Board with a broad remit for supporting English tourism, including domestic marketing and product development.
  • The need to rein in on the worst excesses of the online, sharing and gig economies, to ensure fairness and appropriate application of regulation for all businesses and adequate levels of safety and physical and financial protection for the customers.

I was not able to properly air:

  • Potential concerns that funding for the current levels of international (IPS), domestic and outbound (GBTS) and day trip national research might be seen as an area for easy post BREXIT saving, given that the current levels have been protected to a large degree by statutory Eurostat requirements. There is no evidence to suggest that this is planned but the retention of the current national statistic is of such importance that preemptive action is justifiable.
  • Nor was I able to register the idea that Treasury’s ingrained view that domestic tourism is an economic displacement activity and therefore not worthy of publicly funded support might be changed by wider Government being encouraged to regard tourism and the visitor economy as a distributor of economic wealth, economic activity and employment. In an increasingly polarised economy how else might economic benefit be easily distributed from hotspots, like London and the SE and the UK’s cities, to economic cold spots like the SW, the Lake or Peak Districts, most coastal communities and other popular but economically isolated communities?  A relatively simple change in Treasury’s position on the economic role and function of domestic tourism would allow some very different policy approaches to be applied by the UK Government, particularly within England (the devolved Governments already have a different position and attitude towards the value of domestic tourism and the need to support it).

I briefly raised these issues after the meeting closed and was asked to provide an email note on the these and any other issues that had not been aired, which I will now do.