Month: November 2019

Recent items in the news:

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1. Sharing accommodation tax relief. There has been some speculation in the broad sheet financial sections suggesting that government is concerned that the existing rent-a-room tax break is “costing too much”. The concern appears to be that the individual £7.5k tax free concession originally introduced, largely, to increase the availability of low-cost longer-term accommodation, which then also (intentionally?) energise the sharing short-term accommodation sector may have backfired, both in terms of the degree it has or hasn’t grown the longer term let accommodation base (lodging for want of a better description) and in a failure to generating a compensating tax take elsewhere in the short-term sharing accommodation sector (mainly from platforms like Airbnb).  Although the sharing accommodation sector has grown dramatically in the last decade, the total tax take on multimillion-pound sales remains surprisingly low.

If they wish to correct this Government has three basic choices: extract more tax from the small number of dominant, internationally based platforms, limit or remove the current individual tax concession, or a bit of both.

Last year there were moves afoot to restrict the tax concession to those who physically shared their own accommodation with their guests, thus denying access to the concession to occasional whole property lets and to the burgeoning regular whole property and multiple whole property businesses. Those proposed legislative changes apparently fell victim of last years political upheavals.

The speculation is that Government, or more particularly Treasury and therefore potentially government in general of whatever colour, are likely to continue to actively consider restricting the concessions.  Whether that is something for a new Government’s first budget or a subsequent budget remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, the tourism industry and in our case destination management should take the opportunity that this pause creates, to take a view on whether the tax concession is needed at all?  And if it is, to whom and in what circumstances it should it apply? This is potentially a rather more complex question than it may at first appear. If you or the businesses you represent have any strong views on this please share them with me.

2. Other sharing accommodation issues. In the last fortnight there has been a rash of sharing accommodation related articles on issues from Liverpool City Council’s initial moves towards introducing “London style restrictions” on sharing accommodation provision in the City, to the initial finding of the Government’s consultation in Scotland on the introduction of regulatory controls. These new articles have been added to the ever growing library under the “Sharing economy menu & OTA” tab of British or direct to the page at:

3. Package travel. Easy Jet have announced a relaunch of its package travel business, which has been on the go since 2011. The stated intent is to double its current packages sales. Industry opinion on the rational and the pros and cons of the plans are mixed.  Some have suggested that the move in the wake of the demise of Thomas Cook demonstrates that the package holiday is not dead, while other are far less convinced and point to wider issues in low cost flight industry.  Given that popular overseas package holidays are competing for the UK domestic holiday pound it is one of a number of major tourism sectors that we all need to watch and try as best we can to understand.

In addition the mixed reaction to parallel announcements on carbon offset are also of potential interest. There is going to be endless battles to be fought in the coming months and years over who is the greenest and cleanest. Easy Jets proposed actions are already being questioned.  Are they a genuinely positive move or just “green washing”:

Two new Foresight reports now available

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Two new VisitBritain Foresight reports added to our protected member section:

Edition 171 – “Inbound visitors to the UK with a health condition or impairment”, is based on an addition set of questions asked during the 2018 International Passenger Survey (IPS). It also contrasts and compares 2018 with 2010 the last time similar additional questions were asked. The report presents the statistical findings and makes no specific recommendations. The summary is on page 4 but at fewer than 20 bullet point pages it isn’t difficult to scan or read in full.

Those with an impairment, or travelling in a group with others with impairments are estimated to represent 1.9% of all international visitors. Although the full report was of interest what struck me was the significance of visiting friends and relatives (VFR) within that:

The journey purpose for 46% of trips was VFR. Consequently, the average spend per day for all visits was lower than the average for other visitor groups (free or low-cost accommodation etc.). However, the average stay for the category/group as a whole is longer and consequently the total spend, per trip greater, again presumably driven largely by the nature of VFR?  Surprisingly, the largest single declared nationality was British at 15% of the total, which is largely attributed to expats.  Some of the top source markets may also reflect the expat/VFR influence; USA, Spain, Ireland, France, Germany and Australia?

Putting aside VFR, only c 1% of all international visitors current travelling to the UK have or are travelling in a group with one or more person with an impairment.  Given the ageing affluent population of many of the UK’s source markets, there are significant opportunities to grow travel for holiday, business and study purposes, among those with impairments, using both our existing and developing accessible public and private commercial visitor infrastructure.

Arguably the significant increase in wheelchair users since 2008 (plus 100%) may be down as much to our greatly improved facilities for wheelchairs during the last decade as it is to any other factor? If that is the case then the more recent broadening of facilities and/or understanding and services design to accommodate other impairments, may start to have a similar positive impact, particularly if these improvements are proactively promoted.

Edition 172 – “Understanding business tourism”, is again based on additional IPS questions asked, in 2016 and again 2018.  This is a longer and much more detail report at 41 pages it gives insight into the detail behind this important market segment which accounts for just over 20% of all inbound tourism.

For reasons that are not clear the executive summary promised in the list of content does not appear to exist, although there are useful business visits type summaries starting at page 33, which give key facts for the eight identified sub components.

As with international visits for other purposes London leads, the way with 40% total with only the South East at 11% among the other Nations and regions getting more than 10% each of the remaining total.  The report is worth reading in full if you have any interest in growing international business tourism, or if you, as the report title suggests, wish to better understand the sector and therefore some of the headline Nations and regions figures that are regularly reported.  With no executive summary there is no easy short cuts I can recommend.  A few points:

I was particularly struck by the fact that of the 8.4 million business trips in 2018 a full quarter were made by lorry drivers, typically staying for short periods of just over 2 days and spending relatively little at an average of £42 per night, between them accounting for only 4% of the total international business tourism spend.  Poland is the number one source market for business visits to the UK at 10% but tenth in value at 3%. The all-important context is that this is because three quarters of all business trips from Poland are made by lorry drivers. The inclusion of driver may be helping to distort the big picture, particularly in the 5 English regions where the lorry drivers make up between 40% and 46% percent of all international business trips received? That said, it is absolutely right and proper that they are included and vital that we all broadly understand the implications for the headline figure, which exactly what this report helps us do.

I raise this point about drivers not as a dig at the figure but to highlight the critical importance of understanding the intricacies of the wider business tourism market.   And especially those of the other 7 business visit types which are all potentially far more lucrative and which, unlike the transportation of goods, can be influenced to differing degrees by tourism businesses and destination managers either working alone, or more likely in partnership.

It may also be important for some in the short to medium term to better understand the role of driver from Europe in UK business tourism and therefore the potential that any Brexit inspired changes might have (positive or negative) on their current, reported international business tourism performance.

Find the reports in VB drop down under the “Members section” menu tab or go direct to it (2nd paragraph) at:

This is a protected page, if you have lost your password email me:

Senior Museums Post Offered St Albans

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Museums Business Manager St Albans, c£44k to c£48k closing 17 November 2019.  See detail and Job vacancies + tab of or go direct to the page at:

Not for you? Then please circulate to potentially interested parties.

International Passenger Survey update

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Following concerns raised,  by the Home Nation Tourism Ministers, the Statistics Regulator has conducted an early review of the International Passenger Survey (IPS) which is managed and delivered by ONS.  The planned reviews of other national tourism statistics, including GBTS, will be conducted as intended next year.

Although we indicated an interest in the IPS review and submitted informal comment on the National statistics base in general, it was agreed with the Regulator’s office that given our wider interest it would be more appropriate for us to formally comment on the domestic statistics base during the forthcoming 2020 review.  I will let you know more when we have a date for it to take place.  The Regulator’s finding on ONS’s handling of IPS and ongoing and proposed remedial actions are detailed in the report below.

I am reluctant to try and summarise the key points because, in defence of ONS, it is important to understand the full context which can only be properly gleaned by reading the one page summary report (and the Ministers’ joint letter) yourselves.  Not necessarily something that everyone needs to do but a must for those interested in the background to National tourism statistics and in the detail behind international visitors’ value and volume figures, in particular:

The headline detail for International Passenger Survey (IPS) for July and the quarterly summary to May to July 2019 have just been published.  These show static year on year volume and a very small growth in UK total value. Within that there are significant National and Regional variation and, potentially, some marked anomalies from: questionable high levels of growth or decline to unexplained variation between the rise or fall in volume and the rise and fall in value which don’t necessarily match, as perhaps logically they should? For example, in one English Region in the quarter to July a 48% rise in value off the back of an 8% fall in volume or, expenditure up 9% in Scotland for the same quarter on a fall of 16% in visits.

The IPS  July figures are available, as ever, from the National Tourist Boards:

At the moment they probably best serve to illustrate why the Ministers and National Boards may have felt it necessary to question the current IPS outputs, why remedial action is already in hand at ONS and why the Regulator has directed that more remedial work is undertaken. Hopefully normal high quality service from ONS will resume shortly and that any necessary revisions to past trend data can carried out without undue disruption.

Sharing Accommodation paper and Which? Annual Chain Hotel Consumer Survey published

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Sharing Accommodation.  Quality in Tourism have published a 20 page, “white paper” entitled: Safety Standards in the Sharing Economy. The paper gives the results of a survey of 2000 consumers who were asked a series of questions about the standards they looked for when booking accommodation, what they viewed as the minimum safety standards that should be, or were currently applied, and what regulation should be, or they thought was already, applied.  The report looks at the survey’s findings, sets out recommendation and standards designed to resolve the issues highlighted and seeks industry feedback.

The papers findings are illuminating and help confirms our existing belief that the majority of consumers already expect safety standards and regulation to be applied before properties are allowed to trade and/or are commercially promoted. This as we know isn’t the case in all circumstance, particularly, in the sharing accommodation sector.

Not unreasonably, Quality in Tourism offer up their Safe, Clean & Legal accreditation scheme as a potential solution and, in doing so, outline the benefits for the existing accommodation industry, for sharing accommodation providers, the sharing platforms, local authorities and for DMOs.  They make a strong case.

Quality in Tourism are keen to capture basic detail of which and how many organisations have accessed the report, so in fairness to them, I am using their brief outline and link page rather than  placing a copy of the report directly on

Once you have read the report you may wish to consider circulating the link to your own local accommodation associations and or accommodation businesses?

Major UK chain hotels report.  Which? have published their annual consumer survey report on large and smaller UK hotel chains. Premier Inn came out on top for the 7 year in a row, with Wetherspoon Hotel “a surprise contender for top spot” coming in second in the survey of over 8,000 Which? members. Apex Hotels and Warner Leisure were the top-rated smaller hotel chains and highly recommended, “for a more boutique stay”.

At the other end of the scale Britannia, a major budget accommodation provider operating in many Cities and popular, traditional destinations, was voted the worst major chain for the seventh year in succession: