News and articles of potential interest that you may have missed over the 2019 festive period include:
1. May Bank holiday. The movement of the early, May Bank Holiday from the Monday 4th to the Friday 8th May to celebrate the 75th anniversary of VE (Victor in Europe) day may have, or still come as, a surprise to many. The date has been widely published as the 4th in diaries and calendars or, in the absence of much advanced national publicity, some will have simply assumed the normal pattern. For many this will not present a problem, but for others who have already made firm plans based around the wrong date there may well be issues? Although the change/error has now been more widely reported it is still worth checking detail locally and taking action to ensure that both the industry and potential customers are fully aware of the altered dates.
2. Transport and pollution. A report by Bristol’s University of the West of England as part of an EU programme gained traction around 20 December with the headline news that research (in Bristol) showed that travel for “ shopping trips and leisure” ( at 51%) was contributing more than travel for commuting (at 20%). The broad use of the term “leisure” in the retelling is slightly worrying as it could easily be interpreted as meaning leisure and tourism and be projected in the public’s minds well beyond the specific and often very different traffic patterns and conditions found within major cities.
On reflection it probably isn’t that surprising that the intense but short peaks of commuting to and from work are less polluting than the totality of shopping and leisure trips of all types made by everyone else throughout the majority of the rest of the day, in a typical major city, that are all well served by rail and other public transport. Other activity including business travel (the movement of people, goods and services) presumably makes up the other 29% in Bristol’s case? Outside the typical city the mix of road usage is likely to be very different (dependant on local circumstance) and the national figures, as a snap shot/average of all usage across the UK, different again.
We know from Government’s own transport figures that nationally road transport, and principally the private car, is the most significant means of transport for day and staying “tourism” activity, especially for the many destinations outside the Core Cities. We also know that commuting and business travel combined are by far the greatest component of both rail and road travel within the UK as a whole.
Going forward toward a carbon neutral future it is vital that leisure and, in particular, tourism’s impacts are not misidentified, overestimated or seen as an easy, discretionary and less economically impactful, sacrificial lamb. The latter may seem a potentially extreme concern but past and indeed current national policy, for example, network rails deliberate targeting of school and Bank holiday periods for major maintenance works are indicative of the current policy leaning. For more on the UWE’s reports and typical media coverage see: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-7813033/Using-car-shopping-trips-leisure-activities-creates-air-pollution-commuting.html
3. Sharing accommodation. The Eu Courts of Justice have ruled that Airbnb do not have to comply with French property law by holding an estate agent’s professional licence and by default comply with the regulation that this would require. The finding that Airbnb is an “information society service” means that Airbnb and other similar platforms have narrowly avoided increased regulation in France and by implication, in some other parts of the EU where it seems likely that, had the precedence been set, others would have looked to follow.
The finding follows on from a similar case against UBER in 2017 where a very different determination was made. The difference in determination is interesting and helps establish in EU law the degree to which control or, “decisive influence” of the product sold by the platform is seen as the key factor. There has been speculation that this isn’t the end of the issue in France as there are option left open to the French Government and others who are concerned about lack of corporate responsibility for the products sold and the disparity caused between what is seen as necessary regulation for traditional bricks and mortar based trade and little or none for those operating as web based distributors “selling” much the same or identical products.
Unsurprisingly, Airbnb appears to remain keen to avoid any issues that may reduce growth, dampen consumer demand or increase their own compliance costs ahead of their planned public offering later this year. The BBC take on the issue can be accessed at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-50851419?intlink_from_url=https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/topics/cny6mxpgnk5t/airbnb&link_location=live-reporting-story
4. Unauthorised school absence in England. Despite efforts to discourage unauthorised school absence DfE have recently reported that unauthorised absence for holiday purposes is still running at c 10% of all reported absences. This follows on from reports in both early and mid-2019 that fines for unauthorised absence in England was at record level. The issue is likely to keep running for some time to come and may well be picked up again at a policy level by the new Conservative administration? Typical media coverage can be viewed at: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7844021/Almost-one-10-children-miss-lessons-without-schools-permission.html
Our position has been and remains (until you direct otherwise) that we don’t support absence for purely financial reasons. If you can physically holiday as a family within the designated school holiday period then you should, even if it means cutting your holiday cloth and your holiday expectation accordingly. We do however recognise that modern working pattern make family holidays within school holidays a near impossibility for some families with members working in some sectors; most notably for us within the tourism and leisure sectors themselves, where holidaying in peak periods may not be permitted by employers, or not be practical for small business owners who predominate within some parts of the industry. We would continue to urge that headmaster are given and them employee discretion based on known individual family circumstances (as per the approach adopted in Wales). We also appreciate that applying a discretionary system may be far easier said than done; being open to potential parental abuse and producing a potentially significant local administrative burden an schools.
5. The CEO of the Lake District National Park has been quoted as saying that: “the park must change and diversify to attract a greater range of visitors” or “lose its relevance and justification for being called a National Park and receiving public funding”. The comments are almost certainly prompted by the National review published in September which makes recommendations for both National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (ANOB) in England. The report is critical of the lack of diversification in usage, users and in governance and proposes that National Parks and AONBs in England become part of “the same family”, served by a single National Landscapes Service. For destinations that are or include National Parks and AONBs, including those outside England, the report is significant. See the detail at: https://britishdestinations.net/strategies-and-policies/
Some of the subsequent reporting of CEO’s comments leans towards criticism of what some see as “political correctness” and/or the issues of perceived or existing over tourism: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7834365/Lake-District-National-Park-boss-says-destinations-rugged-landscape-excludes-people.html
6. Included in the Queen’s Speech were proposed measures to reduce the burden of risk to the state from the collapse of UK tour operators. The headline measure includes consideration of changes to legislation to allow the use of aircraft and other assets of the collapsed company in any future recovery operation, which is currently banned under existing insolvency regulation. Given the scale of demands made on it in the last few years, it also seems increasingly likely that the amount paid by the companies and recovered from the cost of each holiday taken to build up a recovery fund (Air Travel Organiser’s Licence [ATOL]) may now have to be increased.
There been a number of articles in media in recent weeks referring to the cost of the Thomas Cook collapse. The figure involved are big but as yet it is still far from clear what if any of those costs will ultimately be carried by the public purse. What is clear is that the impressive value of the out bound travel industry in terms of UK employment and direct UK earnings, for example via UK carriers, may now need to be reassessed. It is unlikely to be as significant as it in 2016/17 when the last piece of major research on the subject was published: https://britishdestinations.net/1194-2/content/travelling-together-the-value-of-uk-outbound-tourism-2017/
Surly in future the hidden costs of potentially underwriting the risks of the package travel business model should also be a policy consideration, particular when debating the relative national value and policy support for domestic v domestic outbound travel?
7. There was also a good deal in the press about water quality and beach management from reports on toxic plastic bead pollution on UK beaches from UK and European water treatment plants, through the sewage pollution-based perils of the increasingly popular wild swimming in English rivers, to the disruptive behaviour of jet skiers and other leisure users, on this occasion with an emphasis on their impact on bird and marine life, including the deliberate disturbance of dolphins and seals. More detail on these bathing waters and beach management issues will be notified via the UKBMF (UK Beach Management Forum) website and blog: https://britishdestinations.net/uk-beach-management-forum-ukbmf/ .