What’s occurring?

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Three points of recent interest on coastal communities, short-term let licencing and tourism levies and on greening tourism for promotional advantage:

1. Coastal Communities Team. The Coastal Communities Team at the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) have announced a reorganisation:

“We are emailing to let you know that with the increasing focus on towns and regeneration, we are looking to integrate our work on coastal policy more deliberately with our approach to regeneration.  This will ensure a more joined-up approach going forward and avoid the risk of duplicative effort in engaging with similar issues through multiple channels.  By integrating our work this way, the coastal team in MHCLG has been assigned new roles within the Cities and Local Growth Unit”.

The full implications of this move and whether this, as we have feared for some time, may herald the potential loss or integration of the Coastal Communities Fund (CCF) in to the emerging “Shared Prosperity Fund” is as yet unclear.

The fund was originally created in recognition of both the scale of need and the unusual conditions found in coastal communities which often precluded regeneration initiatives gaining funding in open competitive bidding against all comers. The loss of a dedicated CCF would be a direct blow to coastal interest and would remove a potentially useful precedence for a similar funding mechanism for other similarly disadvantage areas, for example, rural destinations.   We are seeking further guidance from MHCLG on the full implications of the reorganisation.  Hopefully they are no more than an efficiency measure that will genuinely allow coastal interests to better represented within MHCLG and wider Government.

2. Short-term accommodation licencing and Transient Visitor Levy. After much debate and public consultation Local Authorities in Scotland will be able to introduce their own short-term accommodation licence schemes from spring 2021 onwards. The Scottish Government announcement made last week outlines an adoptive licencing scheme approach with what currently appears to be a significant degree of local flexibility about what and how the scheme will cover in any given local authority area. The proposals do not seem to stipulate conditions like guaranteeing grandfather rights to existing businesses, or any of the other typical caveats often centrally directed. This may change as the proposals emerge.

Beyond the near certainty that a scheme will be adopted in Edinburgh and potentially some other key City destinations there is growing speculation about what will or will not be embraced by this.  Will it cover all Airbnb style accommodation or only, for example, full property lets? Will it conceivably include more traditionally let holiday homes, self-catering or even some or all B&Bs?  The devil will lie in the detail and our reading of this is that it is largely up to each Council to decide what that might be?  The announcement mentions new mandatory safety requirement, the ability to designate control areas to allow appropriate planning controls to be applied and the consideration of appropriate future taxation for short-term lets, complementary to the Transient Visitor Levy, the legislation for which they state will be introduced later in the year. More to follow as the detail emerges.

The Scottish Government’s announcement is at: https://www.gov.scot/news/regulating-short-term-lets/ and typically more speculative media comment at:  https://inews.co.uk/news/scotland/scotland-launches-crackdown-on-airbnb-short-term-lets-1359110

3. Greening tourism. Following claims made last Autumn about its apparent green credentials Ryanair have now launched their spring and summer advertising campaign using much the same greenest, cleanest European airline as the central claim, appealing presumably to an ever increasingly environmentally conscious (guilty?) public.

The Ryanair business model has allowed them to produce a novel measure of CO2 emitted based on a per passenger per km flown.  As a short haul, high volume, full/near full flight operator using a new, lower CO2 emitting aircraft fleet they are by this, their own measure, the best performing airline in Europe. However, environmental groups and others point out that in terms of total CO2 emissions Ryanair are the 10th most polluting individual business of any kind in Europe. Some would argue that total impact is a far better measure of the company’s environmental credentials.

In addition, it is worth noting the other interesting snippet that their high-profile voluntary carbon offset donation scheme was only been supported by 2% of all Ryanair passengers.  The voluntary offset approach, lauded by some in the airline industry as the most appropriate way forward, may have some considerable way to go before it proves its true worth?

It is all too easy to view Ryanair’s approach as a cynical attempt to exploit the now more broadly held, but often shallowly based public interest in the environment and their own personal environmental impacts.  Whether or not it is just promotional hype, there is little we can do directly about Ryanair’s claims, other than to quickly learn lessons about what might be exercising some consumers’ minds and what highly successful commercial businesses are doing, right now, to influence consumer attitudes and behaviour.

I can’t help thinking that UK destinations, singularly and jointly, might be well advised to think more deeply about how to promote their own very real environmental advantages and benefits, especially to the UK domestic audience.  Any thoughts on novel joint messaging or potential joint campaigns that we might help facilitate, would be appreciated.

The Irish Times’ take on the Ryanair claims are at: https://www.irishtimes.com/business/transport-and-tourism/ryanair-s-climate-credentials-more-hot-air-1.4134261


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