Month: October 2019
Gaining support for destination management and tourism levy update.
I attended several events last week. I few observations arising on (1) making the case for destination management and (2) on further developments towards the introduction potential local tourism levy:
1. At a Combined Authority event in Liverpool and the TMI conference Chester I was struck by the urgently need to retune the language we are all use around the case for greater support for destination management.
We already have a long-standing issue around the use of the term “DMO” as an interchangeable acronym for both wider destination management and for purely destination marketing focused organisations. When making the case for moral, policy or financial support for destination management it is all too easy to slip into talking in terms of the need to “promote” the interests of the destination and ultimately the need to market our destinations, without necessarily making it clear that marketing is but one part of what a full service destination management body does.
We need to make it crystal clear that the marketing; the bit we can most easily get the private sector to contribute towards, is merely the end product and final phase of a complex ongoing management processes; a management process and necessary administration which the private sector is markedly more reluctant to fund. Management involves a multitude of mix and match activities that combined produce, by voluntary agreement and cooperative working, a quality of place, a set of products, major events, conferences and business tourism activities, an agreed brand and promotional platforms, that combined are then fit to be promote at a scale, reach and in a tone that benefits the destination as a whole and the majority of its businesses and its resident community.
Without that management, most destinations aren’t destinations as such, or at least are not destinations worthy of proactive regional, national and, where appropriate, international, promotion as destinations. Moreover, many businesses are happy to freeload off the back of these managed activity including destination marketing. If anything, developments like online travel agents and, latterly, sharing accommodation platforms are simply serving to make freeloading an even bigger market failure issue.
Westminster Government, or more specifically Treasury, are wedded to the belief that any destination promotion is a displacement activity and not simply in terms of displacement of tourism spend within the UK but of consumer spending, per say. If you don’t go to Bognor, you may buy a fridge, or spend the money in your local visitor economy instead. The economic activity isn’t lost to the UK PLC and there is therefore no case to use public money to deflect spending from one place or sector to another. Whether you agree or disagree with their view, there is no sign that ongoing efforts to change it will be effective anytime soon.
Therefore, in England at least, where Treasury’s view holds absolute sway, any arguments made around the pressing need to support “destination management” will continue to fall on deaf ears, if as we continue to allow the debate to be presented as one mostly about, more or better destination marketing alone and, especially, if as it inevitably will, discussion turns to the use of either local or national public funding to pump prime or support it.
When making the case for destination management we all need to be far clearer about what destination management actually involves and those parts of the wider management process we individually and jointly need help underpinning. Just assuming that everyone, including many in the wider industry, already get it hasn’t and isn’t going to prompt the attitudinal changes necessary. It may sound overly simplistic but do please give the suggested presentational changes some thought. When tackling barriers, the simplest things can often have the biggest impacts, especially when they start being done by everyone involved.
2. At the Tourism Alliance “. Tourism tax seminar” there were 5 presentation, 3 broadly supportive of the principle of a levy, 2 broadly or strongly against. Representatives from Manchester and Liverpool gave excellent presentations on the rational for and development work around, options for an accommodation-based levy, both initially in their City Centres rather than the larger City region. Both had concluded that the primary legislation required to allow some form of new levy was unlikely to be forthcoming in the time scale they needed to work to, I.e. to generate the additional revenue necessary to maintain and build on their outwardly vibrant visitor economies.
In conjunction with their larger hotels they were therefore looking at options to use existing Business Improvement District (BID) legislation to introduce a BID levy based on the amount of accommodation occupied. A great deal of work was still needed before a new or revised Tourism BID could be introduced in either City. Nonetheless, the prospects looked reasonably good, because the proposals were being developed in partnership with those likely to have to pay/collect the charge and, as a BID, those asked to paying have direct influence over what the money raised would be used for. It is hard to criticise a levy if it’s the businesses that agree to it. There was a lot very interesting detail given around what they have in mind and what the local industry saw as acceptable, but too much to go into here.
Of immediate note: the BID model and the approaches outlined did appear to directly address many of the fundamental concerns expressed about the principles of a tourism tax or levy previously raised or aired during the meeting. The Liverpool and Manchester BIDs, if introduced, wouldn’t be in place much before 2021/22 at the earliest and may well then be viewed as pilots for both their own wider City regions and, by default, for other areas within the UK. That timeframe means that any new BID based model might not be proven soon enough to be of immediate assistance to those many DMO’s that are struggling to find sustainable new revenue sources?
Both proposed approaches generated significant revenue but not necessarily enough to cover every potential call from conference subvention, through marketing, to culture support. Both by necessity were focused on specific critical shortfalls in their own localities and ones that their selected accommodation businesses appeared willing to see supported. Whether, other demands on the revenue would emerge as the proposals developed remained to be seen?
In addition, the models proposed generally looked to support from larger properties, a minimum of 25 plus rooms or 5 plus letting units, in City centres areas with a concentration of accommodation, much of it branded. Whether that general model would generate worthwhile revenue in smaller Cities and towns or across dispersed rural destinations with a generally smaller sized, smaller scale accommodation and greater seasonality issues needs to be investigated.
The impact of replacing or overwriting existing retail and/or destination BIDs also needs to be better understood. Those without BIDs of any type may be better placed to start to include a new accommodation focus levy, than those already engaged and charging a range of businesses, including hotels usually on a fixed additional percentage of business rates basis?
We will watch these and the ongoing developments in Scotland closely and keep you updated with the key matter arising. If you need access to the presentations on the BID approach please email me.
New members can now BOGOF.
Well not quite “buy one get one free”, but almost, as new British Destinations members can now get up to 18 months membership for the price of 12 months.
Destinations joining between now and 31 March 2020 can choose to pay their annual membership for 2020/21 after 31 March 2020, or pay it at any time before 31 March and then pay nothing more until April 2021, for the 2021/22 financial year.
So why join now? These are already exceptionally challenging times for destination-based tourism, for destination management and marketing and, in all likelihood, they are about to become a whole lot more challenging for the legislative framework that supports and underpins the multitude of businesses and business sectors and other public and private sector interests that combined make up the “tourism industry”.
We are about to enter a potentially protracted period of unprecedented legislative change. If not correctly shaped, these changes could profoundly affect core domestic and international inbound tourism and the visitor economies of most popular urban and rural destinations across the UK. Some of this is Brexit relate, other issues from: potential tourism levies, through better regulatory compliance in the sharing and Gig economies, to the reduction in the use of single use plastics and achieving net zero before 2050 in tourism, are ongoing and looming larger by the day.
In order to tackle these challenges and exploit the opportunities, we are asking you to consider joining like-minded destinations in developing and representing the interests of your locality, your businesses and of your local resident communities to Government, to Government agencies and to other tourism business sectors. Together we can achieve far more than we can ever do acting as individuals and individual destinations.
If you are interested call Peter Hampson on 07714341379 or email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. No hard sell, just an honest and open conversation on the mutual benefit of membership and the added value it can bring to your own local partnerships.
For more background and what we can do to assist you and your destination visit: https://britishdestinations.net/about/membership-join-us-today/
New research added and Queens Speech update
1. UKINBOUND have recently published a timely, research-based report which aims to fill the evidence gap around potential impacts on UK tourism arising from a future points-based immigration scheme, linked to a potential £30k salary floor for “highly skilled and skilled” workers. The report details the importance of EU and other international workers to the industry, the problems associated with anything like a £30k salary floor and suggests other alternative approaches, including adding language skills in this sector to the list of skills shortages.
The research notes that while on average the “industry” in general is reliant on EU (c 10% of the total workforce) and other overseas workers, some regions and some sub-sectors are far more dependant, for example the Lake District. Both the executive summary and full report are available at:
2. In yesterday’s Queen’s Speech a number of the 22 plus Bills outlined will have direct or indirect impact on tourism. These range from the Agricultural Bill which will move agricultural payment and support from an EU yield based system to a stewardship and environmental basis, the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination Bill that would see the adoption of a points based system from 2021 and the Airline Insolvency Bill which would allow/compel insolvent companies to use their own aircraft to recover customers. Other Bills aim to improve Broadband, modernise UK air-traffic control arrangements and reform UK rail with an emphasis on simplified fares and ticketing. There also plans to change arrangements for the allocation of tips from a voluntary code of practice to a regulated regime which allocates all tips, in full to the employees in a fair and transparent manner.
In normal circumstances, we would now start to look at the proposed Bills in far more detail and start to consider what if any aspects need to be influenced and how and when that might take place as the various Bills progress towards enactment, over the life of the current Parliament. These are of course far from normal times. Once we have a little more clarity around the Brexit outcomes and the potential (or not) for a General Election in the coming few months, we can then look again at proposed legislative programme.
Coastal tourism update
Three things of which the last is by far the most important:
1. The BBC are doing a coastal community’s day today, live from Penzance, highlighting coastal issues. What I have seen of it so far has been balanced; much of it reading like an overview of one our own or our partners’ summaries of the wider coastal socioeconomic issues.
The seasonal nature of tourism and a passing comment on second homes, in relationship to their impact on affordable homes and local resident’s 365 day a year contribution to economic and social well-being is the only references to tourism, negative or otherwise, that I have picked up on so far. This is potentially a timely intervention for coastal community interest’s courtesy of the BBC?
2. I spoke at the Coastal Partnership Network’s, English Coastal Challenge Summit 2019 in Southampton yesterday. The event brought together the Coastal Partnership Network, the LGA Coastal Special Interests Group and the Coastal Communities Alliance (we are founding members of the later). I gave one of two keynote introductory addresses: Coastal Presentation which, unsurprisingly, majored on tourism but in the context of wider destination management, socioeconomic and environmental issues
The main theme of the day was a round national coastal strategies and resilience and adaptation policies. It may just have been a combination of the subject matter and background disciplines of the majority of the audience but I was left feeling that socioeconomic sustainability and, within that the sustainability of tourism as an economic driver, was regarded as very much a secondary concern to environmental and physical sustainability. I may be entirely wrong ?
If I am not wrong then it suggested to me that there may be as much work to be done yet around influencing the understanding and priorities of other coastal disciplines, as there is around educating non-coastal interests and Government. We can only do so much nationally. There may need to be more engagement done locally with other relevant coastal discipline groupings, who you may have direct links to?
3. The opportunity to influence the shape of post Brexit funding arrangements is not yet closed off. If you believe that coastal tourism interests would continue to be best served by retaining a separate Coastal Community Fund, rather than to seeing the fund potentially subsumed into a generic, all comers Future Prosperity Fund, then it is not too late to lobby on the issue. There are of course potential pitfalls, for example, such a move might leave the coast reliant on a heavily oversubscribed CCF and debarred from applying competitively to a future FPF? On past experience we think that unlikely and something that could in any case be tackled, if and when it looked like it might be about to happen.
We continue to highlight nationally the marginal nature of many coastal political constituencies, the apparent difficulties coastal bids (in common with rural bids) often face in open competition against all other typologies for funding and the undeniable benefits that the, albeit oversubscribed, CCF has already had. It is an existing UK fund not of EU origin, it isn’t in anyway broken, so why try and fix it?
With the potential for a General Election looming, at some point soon, it may be well worth local coastal destination management bodies, raising the issue of retaining the CCF with sitting and/or any prospective MPs.
Sharing Economy and Tourism Levy updates
Sharing economy. In conversation with colleagues I have discovered that in my recent update on Airbnb’s announcement of a voluntary consultation on registration, I may not have been sufficiently explicit about why some in the industry may be concerned by this apparently helpful move?
At around the same time as the consultation announcements Airbnb also declared their intention to go public during 2020. It is one of the few new technology companies that actually makes a profit, although it is not entirely clear just how much. The prospect of a robust and effective registration scheme in the some or all parts of the UK would almost certainly have some impact on the number of host and properties offered and, in all likelihood, in turn on the future profitability of all sharing platform business models and therefore, potentially, on the company’s future valuation and offer price.
Consequently, some commentators are questioning both the motive and timing of voluntary consultation, especially given the parallel calls for action from several other quarters and the very real prospect of some form of action on registration in Scotland, potentially quite soon. Their questions are whether the consultation is a genuine attempt to help move the issue forward, as I think we would all hope and naturally assume, or more cynically, whether it might be a move to try and delay, remove or minimise the impact of the possible implementation of a more robust and truly effective registration scheme at least until post 2020? None of us would of course wish to believe the latter. Hopefully this may help explain why it is though important to try and ensure that the widest selection of views possible are aired during the Airbnb roadshow, as it makes it way around the UK and that other ongoing activities are vigorously pursued regardless of the Airbnb’s helpful intervention.
Airbnb have also now submitted their response to the Scottish Government’s consultation. This makes it very clear what Airbnb already think is fair and reasonable and why they support a very simple. no cost, not checks registration that excludes all hosted venues and whole properties let for less than 28 nights. In their view simple registration should only be applied to whole property actually let for between 29 to 139 nights, with whole properties let for 140 nights and above being registration and subject to planning regulation and business rates.
They make some very persuasive arguments but leave questions unanswered around how the simple registration of some hosts, in some circumstances but not all, will address all the genuine concerns. Particularly those around safety and legality and what, if any greater responsibility and liability, they are prepared to take on for the accidental or deliberate omissions of some of their hosts. Something that will seldom be addressed by a system of self-declaration, or picked up subsequently by guest reviews alone. These are largely things that guests can’t conceivable check and most, not unreasonably, already assume the platforms and responsible authorities will have dealt with on their behalf before ever promoting or allowing the product to be promoted.
See the Airbnb response at: https://press.airbnb.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2019/09/Airbnb-Submission-Scottish-Government-Short-Term-Lets-Consultation.pdf
Tourism Levy. The Scottish Government is now also consulting on the “Principle of a Local Discretionary Transient Visitor Levy or Tourism Tax” (closing 2 Dec 19). It is an interesting document that airs important issues and contains useful background data. The outcome of the consultation may not impact directly on destinations outside Scotland but will inevitably influence thinking around the merits or demerits of levies already being discussed elsewhere in the UK.
Of note, at least one lobbying group is already recommending the exclusion of Scottish residents in order to support the domestic industry. Notwithstanding the added administrative complexity that would bring, it is an interesting new angle in this already potentially contentious debate. My immediate reaction is that in Scotland it could reduce number of destinations with sufficient overseas and other UK resident visitors to warrant implementing the discretionary scheme to perhaps one or two at most. Edinburgh and it surrounding area, for example, accounting for c 50% of all overseas visit to Scotland, leaving not a lot for everyone else, once spread amongst them. In my view, if the principle were accepted in Scotland and then replicated in the thought process for England and Wales, it would effectively limit the utility of any potential levy to just a couple of major Cities and possibly the odd other smaller international honey pot destination. Some may think that that is a good thing but it does beg the question what avenues are then left available to everywhere else that desperately needs some form of sustainable resource to help maintain and build on the success of their urban or rural destination?
Find the consultation under the “Consultations” main menu tab of Britishdestinations.net or go direct to the page at:
TMI Conference Chester 23/24 October 2019.
Please see message from colleagues at TMI regarding the forthcoming conference in Chester:
I am writing to ask if you would be able to let your members know that there is still time to book their special delegate rate at the TMI Annual Convention in Chester on 23/24 October. The convention is a great opportunity to network with other tourism professionals and to find out the latest in tourism.
Tickets for the full two day programme include
- Student/practitioner summit – Engaging Heritage, Keeping up with the followers’ travelling through FOMO and social media, Empowering the future workforce
- Choice of four study tours – Moving into the world of work/young person’s guide to Chester; Interpreting heritage for a younger generation – A technological tour; Targeting the luxury market around the world; The changing shape of city centres
- Networking supper at Storyhouse – a unique Chester venue
- Full convention day including a policy panel on tourism taxes, case studies, learning from DMO successes, data protection, crisis management and breakout sessions on meeting the needs of an ageing population, transitioning travellers to visitors and launching a new UK visitor attraction – The Tottenham Hotspur Experience.
Find out more about our truly inspirational speakers here.
Two date rates (plus VAT) are £220 for TMI members, £245 for affiliates (ATCM, HTF, BAFA, British Destinations, TS, TA, RTPI, IPM, and British Bids) and £270 for non members or if short on time delegates can book for just one day. Student rates start from £25. You can book your place here.
To find out more about the convention please visit www.tmi.org.uk.
If you have any questions do let me know. Thank you.
Nell Barrington FTMI