Month: July 2018

Destination Management Plans and Strategy policy update

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I have been asked to clarify the current position on destination management planning in England (I have also alluded briefly to the situation in Wales in the last paragraph).

Five or more years ago, we were urging English destination management organisations (DMOs) to adopt VE’s guiding principles for destination management planning or adapting existing plans at their next revision to more closely align with them.  The rational was simple: the principles were generally sensible and much of it already common practice among most DMOs.  Moreover, funding and marketing support, formal recognition as a “DMO” by VE and attendance at the biannual VE Destination Management Forum were all subject to demonstrating that a local destination management plan, or strategy broadly following the guiding principles had or was being adopted.  In essence not to follow the advice was to risk disappearing off, or being downgraded on, the then English National Tourist Board’s radar.

After the major reorganisation of 2015/16 VB, and within it the now VE department, have continued to promote the original guidance on their combined website: https://www.visitbritain.org/developing-your-destination-management-plan . Whilst circumstance have continued to change since 2015, including the nature of VB/VE’s funding support to DMOs and/or initiatives and the nature of VB/VE’s combined other activities with their focus now on international rather than domestic markets and marketing, the general principles in the guidance remain sound.

Meanwhile, a number of the typically 5-year plans adopted pre VE reorganisation are falling due for revision. Colleagues contemplating renewing their plans are not unreasonably keen to understand the degree, if any, to which future engagement with VB/VE will be dependent on alignment with the existing destination plan guidance. On the one hand the guidance is still being promoted, on the other circumstance have changed around VB/VE programmes and delivery.  Since we originally encourage participation, British Destination members are now asking us to give an update. I have therefore asked the relevant questions on your joint behalf.

The answers are that access to the current DEF funding and involvement in the now annual English Destination Forum are no longer formally linked to having a plan or strategy that follows the guiding principles; VE for, example, will no longer ask to see it as part of the bidding or funding assessment processes.  That is unlikely to change in relationship to any future DEF scheme or general engagement with VB/VE.

To a degree this is semantics.  VB/VE do still rightly expect those DMOs that they work with and support to demonstrate local partnership, have a clear understanding of their markets and the position and relationships sub regionally, regionally and nationally etc. All of this is very much the stuff of a good local tourism plan, strategy, call it what you will.  It may not now be necessary to follow the guiding principles as published line by line or slavishly use certain terminology or key phrases in preference to similar terminology for the sake of demonstrating compliance.  However, destinations of any consequence do need a sound management plan and to keep it refreshed, taking into account changing market conditions and changes like the evolving relationship with LEPs in England and new developments in some area such as City Regions and Combined Authorities.  Having an agreed destination plan and having the organisation and capacity to deliver it are two side of the same coin and functioning destinations need both to succeed.

It is also worth considering that if and when the UK tourism Industry Strategy is accepted and tourism zones (however defined) become a reality, in all likelihood quality destination management plans will be a perquisite for, or at least the platform from which any bid to become a tourism zone can successfully be made. Having an up to date plan in place to work from might be advantageous.

In Wales the 15 destination partnerships have all developed and published destination plans.  All 15 current plans can very helpfully be found in one place at: https://businesswales.gov.wales/tourism/working-together#guides-tabs–4

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EU Settlement Scheme briefing pack

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On 25 July 2018 the UK Government published its 6 item briefing pack produced to help employers of EU nationals in the UK brief their employees on the UK Settlement Scheme which covers EU citizens and their EU, or non-EU family members.

The pack contains 2 briefing documents for employers, three leaflets for employees (which could be distributed directly to any EU citizens without involving employer engagement) and a series of posters for the workplace to help ensure EU citizens are made aware of the scheme.

The scheme is not ready yet to take application, (it has yet to receive Parliamentary approval, which it seems likely to do).  The intent appears to be to ensure that EU citizens and their families have access to information and, thus, more certainty about their future from this the earliest opportunity and to ensure that by the time the process is fully open for applications, individual are clear on how it impacts upon them and what they need to do about it, by when.

Key dates:

  • The scheme will be phased in gradually from later in 2018 until it is full open by the end of March 2019.
  • The scheme will apply to all those EU citizens living in the UK  by 31 December 2020. There will be protected rights for family members not resident in the UK by that date or children born after it.
  • Those living in the UK by 31 December 2020 will have until 30 June 2021 to apply, thus, allowing plenty of time between qualifying cut-off  date and application deadline.

Please consider sending the materials out to any local tourism partners who  may employ EU workers, stressing that this is the start of the process and that no immediate action is required of their employees.  The briefing materials can be accessed here.

 

International Passenger Survey 2017 data now available

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We have added the summary detail for the International Passenger Survey 2017 to the Britishdestinations.net research & statistics library.  The entry references both the Office for National Statistic (ONS) and the VisitBritain’s (VB’s) summaries as they feature different aspects of headline data and combined will give a fuller strategic overview.  They can be found in the main library in date order or as a separate page entry at:

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

Kurt Janson Director at the Tourism Alliance provided his members with the following initial commentary on the IPS data which colleagues may find useful when trying to quickly interpret the headline figures.  Note these are not ONS or VB interpretations which may well differ, if and when they are published later in the year, once all the revisions are made:

  • It was a record year for tourism to the UK with a 3% increase in visitor and a 9% increase in revenue. A lot of this was associated with the fall in the value of the pound – our model (Tourism Alliance’s) suggested that there would be a 10% increase in revenue last year so a 9% increase indicates that the model in pretty accurate.
  • The £2.25bn in additional revenue generated by inbound tourism last year was sufficient to generate an additional 40,000 jobs in the UK.
  • Holiday visits to the UK were the main driving force, with visits up 11% and spend up a huge 22%. This is to be expected because holiday makers are much more price sensitive than VFR and business visitors.
  • Business visits performed poorly as a result of uncertainty over Brexit.
  • China/South East Asia and the Middle East were the two main hubs for growth.
  • While Scotland has performed very well in increasing inbound visitor and revenue figures, London is still dominating expenditure in England, and Wales is struggling (0% visits -17% spend), so more needs to be done on regional spread.
  • Despite the fall in the value of the pound, outbound tourism numbers increase by 3% – although expenditure was squeezed with just a 2% increase.
  • Another indication that the fall in the value of the pound was affecting outbound tourism was that lower-cost VFR travel experienced the largest increase (+6%). As with inbound tourism, business travel fell by 5%.

Other points to note from me: the 72.8 million trips made by the British aboard in 2017 is the highest yet recorded. Despite the excellent inbound performance, the trade deficit between overseas inbound at £24.5 billion and outbound domestic at £44.8 billion is £20.3 billion. Retaining a greater proportion of UK tourism spend at home in the UK would seem to many of us to be an important goal, worth continuing to vigorously pursue.

The full Great Britain Tourism Statistic (GBTS) report covering domestic tourism within Great Britain in 2017 has yet to be published. Year to date figure from December 2017 show a GB trips, nights and spend up between 5% and 6%.  For most destinations it is finer nations and regions, by purpose and destination typology data to be found in the annual report that is of most value.

Coastal Communities Fund and the Fisheries White Paper

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Coastal destinations may wish to note that in section 3 pages 35 and 36 of the Defra led White Paper  on Sustainable Fisheries for Future Generations there is brief discussion on the current EU and future, post BREXIT fisheries funding and on future support for coastal fishing communities.  The support for coastal community’s references both the proposed, and as yet to be consulted upon, UK Shared Prosperity Fund and the existing Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (formerly DCLG) led Coastal Communities Fund (CCF).

The inclusion of CCF could (should?) be read simply as a statement of fact; the fund exists and it is already open to support all coastal communities, including those where commercial fishing is a local industry.  Read as it naturally flows in combination with the rest of the section and with an ever-suspicious mind, it is possible to wonder whether the CCF is, or could be, offered up or is erroneously being seen by some in Government, in part as a replacement for elements of the current substancial fisheries funding and/or as constituting part of the coastal community’s fair share of any future Shared Prosperity Fund?

It is worth those destinations where fisheries are important making sure that local submissions do recognise the importance of CCF funding to a wide range of industries and activities, mainly outside fishing. The very existence of the EU funding means that the fishing communities and fishing related projects have had far less call on CCF in the past.  Without adequate replacement for EU funding they will have far more call on CCF in future. Bids against CCF are already always heavily oversubscribed and far fewer worthy projects get funding than need it.

Where fisheries are not an important part of the local economy and full local submission aren’t being made, it still gives an opportunity for destinations to consider submitting comments on section 3 only, disabusing Defra of any thought that CCF could easily be redirected or relabelling to fill gaps created by the loss of current EU funding for fisheries and fishing communities.   The CCF was created and subsequently maintained in recognition of a set of unusual circumstances and of chronic need. Despite the additional funding that has yet to substantially improve, largely due to the scale and spread of coastal communities and their associated issues.  Adding to the potential demands on CCF simply will not work, put simply you can’t possibly squeeze a quart out of a pint pot.  The consultation closes on 12 September 2018.

Select Committee Inquiry Regenerating Coastal Towns

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A recently formed House of Lords Select Committee on regenerating coastal towns and communities is now ready to take written evidence which should be submitted  by 9 October 2018.  More detail and the call for evidence document can be accessed at:

https://britishdestinations.net/consultation-responses/open-consultations/regenerating-seaside-towns-communities-select-committee-call-for-evidence-closes-9-October-18/

 

 

APPG Sharing Economy Inquiry final report

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Last week the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on tourism, leisure & the hospitality industry followed up on its interim report of March 2018 with the publication of its final report in to the findings of its sharing economy in tourism inquiry.

The committee and its secretariat should be commended for producing an excellent document that highlights the key issues relating to the sharing economy’s impacts on the tourism industry, on customers and on host communities.  It makes 14 recommendations, that include: investigation by DCMS of the merits of the introduction of a statutory registration scheme for all accommodation provision, the introduction of powers (already granted in London)  that allow local authorities to set local limits on the maximum number of days properties can be, “used for tourism accommodation” (offered or let?) and a new option that would require, “the owner to be present if a property is used for tourism accommodation” (an owner occupier/main residency restriction?).  Some of the recommendations do require further investigation and refinement but, nonetheless, the majority are very soundly based.

At c 26-pages the report is well worth reading in full.  For those who need a more immediate overview the executive summary pages 5 to 7 and the full list of recommendations pages 25 to 26 combined are recommended reading:

2018 APPG for Tourism- Sharing Economy Report (Final)

Additional points to note from me:

  • Although this report is an excellent and much-needed lobbying tool, it does not have the official authority of a Parliamentary Select Committee report. These at least require a formal Government response without any further action, however bland or dismissive those response might occasionally prove to be.  Therefore, the report on its own takes us no further forward; progress now depends entirely on how we and others use the report to influence opinion and future policy.
  • The report is released at a time and in an environment where BREXIT issues dominate the political agenda and where there is little immediate scope for anything else non-Brexit related. However, compelling the report is, only its arguments concerning tax take are likely to find immediate favour, especially since HMRC have just conducted its own consultation on improving the tax system within the sharing and gig economies. Therefore, unless it is tax revenue related, don’t expect any major changes to be made to policies on the sharing economy soon.
  • The main recommendations made represent an increase in regulation and (Local) Government powers. This doesn’t necessarily sit well with current administration’s underlying political ethos of less regulation and smaller government. Therefore, change is going to have to be hard-fought for and/or come as much if not more from the sharing accommodation platforms themselves. (self or voluntary controls being the usually preferred route).

Regardless of the limitations above, the principle of pushing for more regulation to achieve a level regulatory playing field for business and consistently safe environment for all consumers are well worth pursuing further because: governments and government policies within them can and do change over time and critically because all the available evidence, domestic and international, points towards the fact that the relatively few major disruptive technology providers involved will only willingly respond voluntarily if and when they are faced with the credible prospect of enforced regulatory controls. To get either a voluntary or a regulatory solution in place in these circumstances we have little choice but to continue to press for robust, regulatory solutions as our starting point and see what actually emerges as consequence.

For more background information and articles on the sharing economy see our webpage:

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

Package Travel Regulation 2018, implementation issues

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The new EU Package Travel Regulation (PTR) came in to force in the UK on 1 July.  Despite best efforts the 2018 PTR now covers a much wider range of circumstance, activities and business types than the previous 2005 version.  Critically for destination management interest the regulation will for the first time embrace a significant number of SME and micro accommodation and other businesses, many of whom will be blissfully unaware of the potential implications of undertaking certain seemingly innocuous activities or offering what may well be relatively minor additional services for the benefit of their customers.

Badly handled, as it is already in danger of being, the introduction of the PTR could cause panic among operators, generate unnecessary additional costs, cause operators to drop added value service and discourage others from ever offering new customer focused benefits in the future.  We had hoped that the PTR could be shaped in such a way that it help encourage low-level local initiatives and business cooperation that made the UK domestic offer more appealing and competitive.  As currently framed and without urgent remedial action, PTR could well serve to curtail added value initiatives.

Partly because I was on holiday when the official guidance was issued (unbelievably late in the day relative to 1 July) and partly because of the concerns above and my desire to try to offer possible solutions (detailed below) rather than just add to the problems, I delayed circulating the available guidance until I understood it better and had time to consult with colleague, including importantly some in the financial services sector.

The guidance consists of the official BEIS guidance notes covering the full PTR, the associated statutory instrument that the BEIS notes liberally reference and a separate guidance note from the Tourism Alliance for small businesses that helpfully attempts to summarise and draw out key issues for the UK industry for SMEs and micro businesses. These 3 sets of notes can be accessed via Britishdestinations.net at:

https://britishdestinations.net/strategies-and-policies/tourism-industry-strategies-policies/package-travel-regulation-implementation-guidance/

Destination managers do need to try to get to grips with the gist of regulation themselves, which is not easy as there is a lot of it and much of it is open to interpretation or is subject ultimately to legal opinion and/or as yet to be established case-law.  For some managers it will be necessary to understand the regulation in order to assess whether your own online and any physical sales or information activities now constitute package sales or linked travel arrangements covered by the new regulation.  If they do then you will need to have the requisite indemnities (bonding, insurance or trust funds) and you will need to comply with the relevant notification on your sites and in any communications with your customers/consumers. As larger professional bodies your activities are likely to be scrutinised long before those of your individual SME partners.

Destination managers may also wish to consider how to ensure that all their local partner businesses are fully aware of new legislation.  However, in doing so it is important (vital?) to stress that:

  • BEIS have said that they have issued guidance/instruction(?) to Trading Standards, who are responsible for enforcement, that a light touch is required and that the Government’s intent is not to target or penalise small operators undertaking minor activities (yet?).
  • Local Trading Standards are only likely to react immediately, if there are obvious serious damaging breaches, or after there have been a (number of?) valid consumer complaints that warrants enforcement action.
  • Clearly if the industry doesn’t understand the full requirements yet, then the public, for the time being at least, are going to be even less aware of their new consumer rights and are not going to complain about perceived breaches. At some point that will of course change.
  • The introduction of the PTR is due to be reviewed after the first 6 months and again 12 months (?) later. Therefore, compelling local evidence and examples of problems, errors and unintentional consequences needs to be gathered from now onward for presentation to BEIS in January 2019.  Waiting until they consult to start gathering evidence would be unwise.
  • Whilst we can’t condone real or technical breaches of any new regulation, in the first instance, we could and should encourage operators to record and report issues and problems encountered in the initial introductory period, rather than taking knee jerk remedial actions to correct them immediately. Clearly there are risks involved for business in doing this but I believe that they are likely to be very low and that demonstrating that evidence was being gathered during this first 6 month period would serve as mitigation.
  • Depending on the nature of your DMO and local relationships it may well be worth destination managers speaking to local Trading Standards officers to get an accurate local picture of how they intend to deal with any new PTR issues now and in to the near future. Understanding the local enforcement regime’s intent should give local businesses the information needed to assess the risk involved in initially recording issues, rather than immediately and unnecessarily trying to remedying them.

Beyond urging you to communicate with your trade partners I also urgently need your assistance in assessing whether there is any appetite for a cost-effective commercial solution to the SME issues and if so on what scale.

Significant parts of the new regulation are not going to go away however hard we lobby.  I have been in discussion with contacts in the insurance industry and they are confident that a very simple annual insurance-based product, available online, could be produced that would at a stroke take care of the new liabilities and provide the certification needed for the duties to inform customer, for most SME and micro accommodation providers.

Dependent on market size and likely take-up this could be offered for as little as, say, £20 a year for a typical B&B.  It is very much a chicken and egg scenario and in order to get the product off the ground I need to get some sense of whether there is market for it (I am pretty sure there is) and an idea of what scale that could be, locally and by extrapolation nationally, and what the likely take up might be, if it was available at a truly “affordable” cost. For larger enterprises the price would need to be higher but not markedly so. Initial thoughts are that it could stepped based on turnover above or below £y, £x or £z.

Keeping the cost low is a function of numbers and of avoiding, where possible, the temptation to add at each subsequent stage commissions and fees.  Finally, I also need to know whether enough of you would be prepared to promote such a product to your partners, preferable as a service rather than as a minor income source.  As far as I am concerned this is about us jointly stepping up to the mark to protecting local business interests and in doing so help encourage the provision of more added value services and partnering initiatives by even more local businesses. Any views or direction you can give me would be greatly appreciated.  If sufficient members are interested there are also options to look at a cost-effective indemnity/insolvency scheme for DMO websites caught up by the PTR.

Meanwhile I will continue to work with trade colleagues, independently and through the Tourism Alliance in order to try to get some of the more obvious anomalies corrected. For example, does booking bed and breakfast in a hotel ,where breakfast can be bought separately by anyone else, really constitute a package (but not in a B&B where breakfast is seen as an intrinsic part of the offer)? And if so, was that the intent of the original directive or is this simply a function of typical UK “gold plated” interpretation?

It is this type of problem that might be rectified at the 6-monthly review. The wider definition of what constitutes a packages and new linked travel arrangement and the consequent new duties and liabilities for many more businesses aren’t going to go away and therefore the impacts are still going to have to be managed and mitigated whether we like it or not.  Hence my desire to get on and find some practical solutions that can be implemented relatively soon,  rather than to simply continue lobbying for hoped for change.