Month: May 2020

AM 26 May Covid-19, Coach Tourism and Retail reopening

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The breaking news late last Friday that the Specialist Leisure Group has gone into administration is perhaps one of the grimmest for the domestic tourism industry thus far: https://www.specialistleisuregroup.com/ .

The 9 brands including National Holidays, Wallace Arnold and Shearings has taken out the biggest public owner and operator of coaches and coach holidays in the UK, along with c 40 major hotels operated in over 30 major UK destinations.  This of course follows on from the less high profile but nonetheless damaging loss of David Urquhart Travel, the UK largest privately owned operator of coaches and coach holidays; https://www.davidurquhart.com/ .  In the background over the last 10 weeks, numerous local and regional coach owner and operators, many offering both day and staying holidays, have also go into administration. More are likely to follow.

The coach market has often been characterised and, in part, dismissed as a generally high-volume low value trade.  The reality for many hotels and destination is that the staying coach trade is vital, if for nothing else, as a filler especially for the shoulder and off-season months.  The day trip market, both local and day trip within a staying or touring holiday, supports a wide range of attractions and businesses, both in and out of main season.

There has been a growing concern that the predominantly older coach market customer may be more warry than most of returning quickly post convid-19 lockdown to their former patterns.  Although clearly linked this demand side concern may now be outweighed by a far more worrying supply side issue.  Even if and when there is a return to normal demand for coach holidays and/or day trips the vehicles and operators to provide them, may be few and far between.  For those many destinations that previously attracted coach holidays and coach trips this is further complicating factor in the recovery for their hotels, attractions and other businesses.

I am contacting colleagues in the CPT (Confederation of Passenger Transport) and CTA (Coach Tourism Association) in the hope of obtaining a more accurate assessment of the cumulative scale of the loss of coach, capacity passengers carried, holidays, bed nights etc. Meanwhile any local intelligence you may have on the coach market or those local businesses reliant upon them, it would be appreciated.

More detail on the welcome announcements made yesterday regarding the reopening of some shops from 1 June and others by mid-June will follow, once the guidance has been analysed and hopefully better understood.

I may be wrong but the safe and orderly reopening of retail is perhaps now the biggest test and barrier to the reopening of tourism, leisure and the wider visitor hopefully starting from 4 July onward. Retail may not be every destination mangers primary focus but on this occasion helping retail get it right and doing it quickly could be a or the critical step on path to the tourism industry’s  recovery?

We are working on a destination wide reassurance package for all visitor economy businesses, with QiT.  Hopefully we may be able to make announcements shortly.

21 May More covid-19 research reports and other paper added

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Over the last week I  have added a half dozen new pieces of research, reports and other papers of potential interest to members, to the covid-19 section of our research and statistics library.

These include a couple of piece of local area impact research, 2 paper on the impacts on specific age groups (younger and older) and a draft UKHospitality proposal for “secure advice and risk assessment” guidance for tourism industry sectors.   On this occasion I am not going to make any attempt to summarise or direct you to key sections within the papers, if they look interesting to you then you will have to read them!

You can find the documents under the Covid-19 tab in the main menu bar of Britishdestinations.net or go to the page direct at:

https://britishdestinations.net/c19-research/

15 May Update Discretionary Grant Scheme (England)

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Yesterday, 14 May, BEIS issued guidance to local authorities in England on the Discretionary Grant Scheme first announced on 2 May (original announcement).  This has allowed those authorities to firm up and further develop their local approaches. Like the original grant scheme the discretionary scheme is hospitality and leisure orientated.

I am aware that designing schemes to meet differing local circumstance, on differing scales with different amounts of money available, is proving more problematic than might have at first appeared. Moreover, local discretion may unintentionally create anomalies that could cause local friction once the details of differing approaches in other authority areas become more widely known?

If we can help by sharing in confidence, any areas of concern, proposed approaches or anything that might assist members with the creation of robust and subsequently more easily defend solutions then please let know.  A potential subject for a Team/Zoom conference call if there is sufficient interest?

The guidance can be accessed here: local-authority-discretionary-grants-fund-guidance-local-government

14 May, new research library, new papers and new campaign to consider supporting

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Three things:

As promised, I have created a separate Covid-19 research, statistic and paper section within the British Destination research and statistics library. A simple one pager with documents in descending date order. Any additions, including national papers I have missed or local data you are willing to share would be welcomed. Access it from the “C19 research” main menu tab of Britishdestinations.net or go direct to the page at: https://britishdestinations.net/c19-research/

A couple of very recent papers of immediate note are included at the top of this page (read the rest at your leisure):

  • From Andrew Keeling at Hotels Solutions an Hotels an excellent paper specifically on the hotel and visitor accommodation sector. Andrew I believe is taking comments with a view to updating this study as events progress: andrew@hotelsolutions.org.uk
  • A report from McKinsey on tourism recovery in China and potential lessons for the rest of the world.
  • And a paper/letter from the Tourism Society to the Chair of the DCMS Select Committee putting forward the case for an inquiry in to the adequacy of support to the tourism industry and England. Given that British Destinations fronted the industry wide campaign that sadly failed to stop the VisitEngland being revered back into VisitBritain with a significantly reduced role and remit and given that we have campaigned for recognition of the true roles and critical functions of Destination Management Organisations and support for functioning network of DMO across England, I can’t believe that British Destination members would not wish us to support this campaign and where appropriate also support it themselves.

It should be noted that the request for an inquiry is an in addition to the ongoing, delayed inquiry into the reaction to covid-19 of DCMS and their agencies across DCMS’s full portfolio.  This inquiry gives an opportunity to make similar comment but it will be but one area within one sector of a much, wider inquiry.  The new deadline for that inquiry remains 19 June 20.

For those of you wishing to consider lending you own weigh to the Tourism Society’s efforts the to obtain a specific inquiry into the supporting structures for tourism in England here is the text of the explanatory note sent to Tourism Society members (membership isn’t a prerequisite of supporting their campaign):

The Tourism Society’s recent online workshops to establish how best to support the UK’s tourism businesses have revealed a common theme: the current structure in England is not conducive to an effective rebuild of the tourism economy post Covid-19.

The pandemic’s swift and severe impact on the tourism sector highlights the weaknesses from the lack of a well-financed and clear tourism structure in England.  The disparity in resources between DMOs has led to a high variation in the level of support they can offer their businesses.  Addressing this is crucial if we are to ensure that our industry can recover swiftly and sustainably.

To underpin the recovery of the economy we recommend the strengthening of the English tourism structure through high yield, sustainable growth.  As our attached Call to Government paper explains, England’s tourism sector needs much stronger leadership and better coordination if its economy is to recover, rebuild and become more resilient.

I have sent the paper (linked here) to the Chair of the DCMS select Committee with the suggestion that the committee undertake an inquiry into the subject, his contact details are: julian.knight.mp@parliament.uk

I would be grateful for your support in this matter by contacting him, supporting our request for an inquiry and asking your members to contact their local MPs using the text in this email and the attached document if they wish too. MP email addresses can be found through this link: https://members.parliament.uk/members/Commons

If you have any questions please contact me either through the Society or his personal email address is   kevin.kaley@tourismukltd.com

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards,

Kevin Kaley FTS, MIH

Chairman

The Tourism Society

 

12 May PM update

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You will have seen or heard the outline proposals for the extension of furlough announced very earlier today. To confirm a further extension of four full months from the current end date of June.  During July there will be no change to the current scheme.  During August through to end of October the scheme will be more flexible to allow for part-time working during furlough.  The rate of furlough pay will remain unchanged for the individual but the employer will be expected to pay a proportion of the guaranteed 80% rate.  The critical details around what flexible looks like and how the tapering actually works and the division of costs are yet to be announced.  These announcements may be some days or even weeks away.

With a not before date of 4 July for “stage 3” when it is anticipated that the majority of tourism business might start to reopen and a tapering of furlough commencing at the start of August running through to the end of October, you can start to sense the possible route forward.  The plan might be to start reopen parts of the tourism industry in July in time to exploit that c 10-week main summer school holiday window late July through to early September and to pick up on the late should months September through to the end of October, including the October half term. It is of course pure supposition.

Normal, established patterns of business may not fully apply in the current, extraordinary circumstances?  Some school children may not be tied to attending school in July for example? Overseas travel, if there is any, may still involve 14 days isolation on return making it impractical for many. Add to that the Health Secretary comment today:  “………it is unlikely that big, lavish international holidays are going to be possible for this summer”, and you have on the one hand the prospect of a restricted window of opportunity and limitations on businesses’ ability to trade but on the other a potentially bigger market, both in and out of the normal peak summer school holiday period, with potentially far fewer alternatives for UK residents but to look to holiday at home.  The key to success, isn’t just about being open and trading but being open and able to generate worthwhile profit, capable of lifting the businesses out the trouble they are already in and to sustain them into and beyond the generally lean winter months.  It is still far from clear whether all businesses will be able to trade at a worthwhile level for long enough to succeed.

Of all the items in the Government’s plans previewed in the PM’s statement and detailed in yesterday’s publication the unrestricted travel for exercise in public open space in England, seems to have triggered the greatest immediate concern amongst destination manager and management interests.  It would appear that local resentment and resistance to such free movement has already been recognised by government. However, having spoken to and received email updates from members today my understanding is that local reaction is but one small but significant part of the problem.  There are a whole raft of practical issues from the lack of open public and private business toilet facilities, to free or paid for parking, staffing, cleansing, maintenance and so on that all popular destinations are facing.   These are all set against a backdrop of a lack of financial and staff resource to manage a potential influx of visitor who, for the time being at least, will contribute little or nothing to either business or public revenue streams. Even if you open the public toilets how do you operate them safely.  If you resume paid for parking how do you handle cash payments and so on?  I also believe that local Police are expressing serious concerns about enforcing social distancing one visitors arrive in any great numbers?

Any additional examples of the known or predicted issues that will be faced by destinations would be welcomed.  I have already alerted colleague nationally to the perceived issues; it would now be really useful to confirm and further evidence this.

Update AM 12 May

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Hot off the press as at 12:40, furlough to be extended by 4 months to end of October, no change until the end of July. August to October, greater flexibility introduced to include the opportunity for part time working. From July (?) level of support to the individual will not be changed but a greater proportion of costs will be shared between the employers and Government.  More details on the plans will follow in due course, more on the announcement to follow, probably later today.

The Westminster Government’s 50 odd page plans issued yesterday brought a little less clarity on relaxation of restriction and on recovery for the tourism and the visitor economy than we may have hoped for.  Whilst restriction on the use of public open space and restriction on travel for exercise will start to be relaxed almost immediately, the restrictions on tourism and leisure businesses trading, appear to fall in the third stage, which will not be implemented before the beginning of July (4th).  The devolved Government’s are all taking a more cautious approach and, thus, much of the UK plan currently applies to England only.  Further clarification of elements of the plan continue to be issued almost hourly today and we await specific guidance for various industry sectors will be issued later in the week. References relevant to the industry are scattered throughout the paper and within the online Q&As:

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The Tourism Industry Emergency Response Group (TIER) summary issued yesterday afternoon gives a useful summary of the plans, including those for the other Home Nations :

Summary of Prime Minister’s speech in House of Commons

The Prime Minister’s speech in the House of Commons this afternoon reiterated the key points from his speech yesterday evening, and the roadmap document published earlier today (see below). As part of this he confirmed that these changes were not a green light for people to be travelling to another home for a holiday or to a second home. He was then questioned by Keir Starmer (leader of the opposition), and MPs. During the Q+A Johnson said that there will be further information about the next stages of the furlough scheme from the Chancellor tomorrow. There was a question about continued support for guesthouses and hospitality sector, the PM pointed to the Chancellor’s expected announcement tomorrow. He also said that protections have been made for airports and other large businesses through the loan schemes. He said that aviation was crucial for our economy and they will do everything they can to get Britain flying again.

Summary of UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy

The Government has published the recovery strategy document : Our plan to rebuild: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy. Please note this document refers to ENGLAND ONLY. Please see a short summary for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland below.

International travel – in the document on page 29 international travel is referenced. The significant points are highlighted below:

  • As the level of infection in the UK reduces, and the Government prepares for social contact to increase, it will be important to manage the risk of transmissions being reintroduced from abroad.
  • Therefore, in order to keep overall levels of infection down and in line with many other countries, the Government will introduce a series of measures and restrictions at the UK border. This will contribute to keeping the overall number of transmissions in the UK as low as possible.
  • First, alongside increased information about the UK’s social distancing regime at the border, the Government will require all international arrivals to supply their contact and accommodation information. They will also be strongly advised to download and use the NHS contact tracing app.
  • Second, the Government will require all international arrivals not on a short list of exemptions to self-isolate in their accommodation for fourteen days on arrival into the UK. Where international travellers are unable to demonstrate where they would self-isolate, they will be required to do so in accommodation arranged by the Government.
  • The Government is working closely with the devolved administrations to coordinate implementation across the UK. Small exemptions to these measures will be in place to provide for continued security of supply into the UK and so as not to impede work supporting national security or critical infrastructure and to meet the UK’s international obligations.
  • All journeys within the Common Travel Area will also be exempt from these measures. These international travel measures will not come into force on 13 May but will be introduced as soon as possible. Further details, and guidance, will be set out shortly, and the measures and list of exemptions will be kept under regular review.

An outline of the key points in the timeline include:

As part of this plan the UK Government has a carefully planned timetable for lifting restrictions, with indicative dates that should help people to plan. This timetable depends on successfully controlling the spread of the virus; if the evidence shows sufficient progress is not being made in controlling the virus then the lifting of restrictions may have to be delayed. They cannot predict with absolute certainty what the impact of lifting restrictions will be. If, after lifting restrictions, the Government sees a sudden and concerning rise in the infection rate then it may have to re-impose some restrictions. It will seek to do so in as limited and targeted a way as possible, including reacting by re-imposing restrictions in specific geographic areas or in limited sectors where it is proportionate to do so. Please note:

Step One – 13 May

  • Work – For the foreseeable future, workers should continue to work from home rather than their normal physical workplace, wherever possible. All workers who cannot work from home should travel to work if their workplace is open. Anyone who has symptoms, however mild, or is in a household where someone has symptoms, should not leave their house to go to work.
  • Schools – The rate of infection remains too high to allow the reopening of schools for all pupils yet.
  • Travel – Everybody (including critical workers) should continue to avoid public transport wherever possible. People should travel by bike, car or on foot where possible. Social distancing guidance on public transport must be followed rigorously.
  • Face Coverings –As more people return to work, there will be more movement outside people’s immediate household. This increased mobility means the Government is now advising that people should aim to wear a face-covering in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not always possible and they come into contact with others that they do not normally meet, for example on public transport or in some shops. Homemade cloth face-coverings can help reduce the risk of transmission in some circumstances. Face-coverings are not intended to help the wearer, but to protect against inadvertent transmission of the disease to others if you have it asymptomatically.
  • Outdoor Exercise – SAGE advise that the risk of infection outside is significantly lower than inside, so the Government is updating the rules so that, as well as exercise, people can now also spend time outdoors subject to:
    • not meeting up with any more than one person from outside your household;
    • continued compliance with social distancing guidelines to remain two metres (6ft) away from people outside your household
    • good hand hygiene, particularly with respect to shared surfaces; and those responsible for public places being able to put appropriate measures in place to follow the new COVID-19 Secure guidance.
  • Vulnerable People – It remains the case that some people are more clinically vulnerable to COVID-19 than others. These include those aged over 70, those with specific chronic pre-existing conditions and pregnant women. These clinically vulnerable people should continue to take particular care to minimise contact with others outside their households, but do not need to be shielded. Those in the clinically extremely vulnerable group are strongly advised to stay at home at all times and avoid any face-to-face contact; this is called ‘shielding’.

Step Two –  No Earlier than 1 June

  • Schools – Schools should prepare to begin to open for more children from 1 June. The Government expects children to be able to return to early years settings, and for Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 to be back in school in smaller sizes, from this point. This aims to ensure that the youngest children, and those preparing for the transition to secondary school, have maximum time with their teachers.
  • Secondary schools and further education colleges should also prepare to begin some face to face contact with Year 10 and 12 pupils who have key exams next year, in support of their continued remote, home learning. The Government’s ambition is for all primary school children to return to school before the summer for a month if feasible, though this will be kept under review.
  • The Department of Education will engage closely with schools and early years providers to develop further detail and guidance on how schools should facilitate this.
  • Retail – when and where it is safe to do so, and subject to those retailers being able to follow the new COVID-19 Secure guidelines. The intention is for this to happen in phases from 1 June; the Government will issue further guidance shortly on the approach that will be taken to phasing, including which businesses will be covered in each phase and the timeframes involved.
  • All other sectors that are currently closed, including hospitality and personal care, are not able to re-open at this point because the risk of transmission in these environments is higher. The opening of such sectors is likely to take place in phases during step three.
  • Sport & Cultural Events – cultural and sporting events to take place behind closed-doors for broadcast, while avoiding the risk of large-scale social contact.
  • Public Transport – re-opening more local public transport in urban areas, subject to strict measures to limit as far as possible the risk of infection in these normally crowded spaces.
  • Family Contact – As restrictions continue, the Government is considering a range of options to reduce the most harmful social effects to make the measures more sustainable. For example, the Government has asked SAGE to examine whether, when and how it can safely change the regulations to allow people to expand their household group to include one other household in the same exclusive group.
  • The intention of this change would be to allow those who are isolated some more social contact, and to reduce the most harmful effects of the current social restrictions, while continuing to limit the risk of chains of transmission. It would also support some families to return to work by, for example, allowing two households to share childcare.

Step Three –  No Earlier than 4 July

  • Remaining Businesses and Premises – The ambition at this step is to open at least some of the remaining businesses and premises that have been required to close, including personal care (such as hairdressers and beauty salons) hospitality (such as food service providers, pubs and accommodation), public places (such as places of worship) and leisure facilities (like cinemas).
  • They should also meet the COVID-19 Secure guidelines. Some venues which are, by design, crowded and where it may prove difficult to enact distancing may still not be able to re-open safely at this point, or may be able to open safely only in part.

Scotland:

As shared in yesterday’s update, the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon gave a press conference before the Prime Minister’s message, the key points in her statement included:

  • “the rate of transmission of the virus in Scotland – the R number you are used to hearing about – is still too high for any significant change to be safe at this stage.”
  • Sturgeon announced that the once-a-day limit will be removed which currently restricts exercise, but insisted that the advice remained to ‘stay at home’.
    • this new advice does not apply if you or someone in your household has symptoms of the virus, or if you received a letter explaining that you are in the shielded group
    • All other lockdown restrictions remain in place.
    • When you are exercising, you must stay relatively close to your own home and at all times at least two metres away from people from other households. Loosening of restrictions does not extend to outdoor leisure activities such as sunbathing, picnics or barbecues.
  • The Scottish Government will also consider over the coming days whether garden centres can re-open; and we will think about whether some additional forms of outdoor work – particularly where people work on their own or at a distance – can safely resume.

Wales:

The First Minister of Wales set out the following instructions in response to announcements from the UK Government on 10 May

  • Wherever you can you should stay at home.
  • If you need to leave home for work, exercise or shopping, you should stay local and stay alert.
  • Coronavirus has not gone away
  • The way we behave over the weeks ahead will continue to have a profound impact on our NHS and our ability to save lives.
  • If you go out, stay local and stay safe.

On 8 May the first Minister announced that they had reviewed SAGE advice and concluded it was too early for a significant lifting of requirements and restrictions, and that the lockdown in Wales would continue and be reviewed in three weeks’ time. Some small adjustments were made (coming into effect 11/5/20)

  • Allowing people to exercise more than once a day, but people should stay local. Enabling local authorities to begin the process of planning how to safely reopen libraries and municipal recycling centres.
  • Allowing garden centres to open provided they comply with the physical distancing duty.
  • The Welsh Government are working to their framework for recovery this framework that was announce on 24 April is based on 3 pillars

Northern Ireland

  • The Northern Ireland Executive confirmed there would be no dramatic ending of lockdown and that Northern Ireland would be diverging from the UK Government guidance based on the local situations. The current advice is to stay at home, respect the 2m distance when in public and wash hands regularly. You must also continue to avoid contact with vulnerable people. A five stage recovery plan is expected to be presented to the assembly on Tuesday for debate.

Other Government updates

Situation update 11 May 2020

 

 

7 May VB and VE recovery proposals

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Yesterday VisitBritain and VisitEngland made public their joint proposal to the Government, entitled: Helping the tourism industry recover from covid-19.

It is a very good document, covering all the key areas of concern that have been exercising member destination’s minds for the last 2 months or more and proposes a range of eminently sensible, higher level actions by the UK’s Westminster Government.

The proposals relate directly to England, some of the elements are, by default, UK matters, or if not, they could help influence or support already developed thinking within the devolved Governments.  As the key theme is domestic recovery leading the way, what happens, or doesn’t happen in England  regarding tourism, leisure and the visitor economy, on both the supply and demand side will impact directly or indirectly on the other home nations; if only because c  55m of the c 65.5m UK population and a relatively large proportion of the product, are based in England.  Moreover, for the average domestic tourist, internal UK borders are essentially meaningless, unless of course UK wide covid-19 recovery plans set out to physically change that, which is of course all but inconceivable.

For those in England I would urge you to consider sharing the document with your key business partner, if not the wider business community, with aim of establishing and demonstrating broader grass roots support:

Helping the tourism industry recover from Covid 5 May PDF

 

Quality standards and their role in recovery planning

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There are a lot of predictions and planning assumptions being made around convid-19 recovery and what it may or may not mean or require. Few are yet dead certainties. However, I believe that those who still think that online consumer reviews have made quality awards and standards, accreditation, quality marks etc. largely redundant, may need to think again?  Certainly all the major groups like Accor, Marriot and Hilton are developing and rolling out their own new in-house standards and procedures designed ultimately, I would suggest, to help give future customer confidence in their product, in a changed world: (https://www.hospitalitynet.org/news/4098377.html).

I am also aware that these moves have not gone unnoticed and various sectors within the visitor economy, from independent accommodation, attractions, retail to food and beverage, who are thinking along the same lines.  A number of destinations are also pondering whether or not there is a role for a coordinated destination approach in their recovery planning?  They key question being how to give a wide range of different, mainly SME’s and micro businesses, easy access to the similar levels of public reassurance that the multi nationals can provide for themselves. There is certainly some merit in considering local interventions but there will be a range of local circumstances from the availability of local expertise, through funding to the potential resistance from existing local schemes, that may make a bespoke local solution difficult for a DMO to deliver relatively quickly themselves?

Perhaps not unsurprisingly I have discovered that colleagues in Quality in Tourism QT) are already well ahead of the game and developing a potential solution.  They are evolving their existing Safe, Clean & Legal accreditation in conjunction with Cornwall Council as the Primary Authority Partner.  The partnership is valid throughout the UK.  Safe, Clean & Legal will include cleaning standards which cover best practice across all tourism accommodation sectors initially, but will evolve further to support restaurants, pubs, social clubs, attractions, retail etc.

Whilst it is recognised business that potentially pose the most risk to guests and staff will need a full accreditation, desktop reviews are available for smaller less high-risk business and advice and guidance to those who need support and guidance for example in retail. Quality in Tourism are keen to collaborate with Local Authorities and Destination Management Companies by providing an off the shelf accreditation solution and advice to communities, if and wherever it is needed.

I don’t underestimate the difficulties of promoting commercial solutions to hard pressed businesses at this time, but that shouldn’t discourage exploratory discussion that might lead to a solutions being in place, ready to help maximise the benefits of the recovery when and in whatever form it may take.  More detail of the QT proposals to follow.  In the meantime, if anyone wishes to have informal discussions with QT direct, I am happy put you in touch.

QT Logo CMYK (002)

 www.qualityintourism.com 

4 May AM update, new flexibility on small business grants in England announced

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On Saturday 2 May the outline was announced around new discretionary, flexibility given to local authorities in England to allow them to be able to pay similar grants to small businesses who have been denied support from the existing  business rate linked schemes.  For example, B&B owners who pay Council tax rater than business rates or retailers where the rates are paid by the landlord as part of their rental agreement.  A sum of £617m, the equivalent of a 5% addition on the funding already made available, has been allocated to support this. Councils will find out later this week how much they are each being allocated.

It is important to read the news release (link below) and for the time being at least take from it only what it actually says.  I believe it says it will be down to each individual Council to create the criteria and, thus I assume, to juggle the resulting finance consequences of their potentially complex decisions. Unless I am wrong, or I am right but the intent changes, my gut instinct suggests that might be fraught, particularly, at the fringes of any locally set definitions and cutoff points.

Again by way of example: we will all know of long established B&B and guest houses which have been left high and dry by their past decision to pay council tax rather than business rates; rates which ironically have been waived entirely for several years now for those with rates valued at under £12k, tapering upwards for those with a value under £15k and, which in any case, are now been waved for all business for the rest of the year.  At the same time, we also know that there is a whole raft of Airbnb type business, many operating completely off the local radar.  Some renting a spare room, apparently for extra pocket money, other seeming operating as fully fledged businesses, in either the serviced, or more often, unserviced accommodation markets. 

Until Saturday’s announcement unless those in the sharing economy were paying business rates, they too were exempt from support.  Going forward, should there be any differentiation between the broadly known numbers older business types and a potentially large and unknown number of new businesses types? Or within that, differentiation between genuine sharing of a spare personal assets and traditional trade by a new backdoor/new technology route within the umbrella of “the sharing economy”? With limited resources to service any consequence demand created, how do Councils set fair and reasonable local rules and who picks up any overspend if they inadvertently miscalculate the base assumptions? Almost certainly the individual authorities?

Or put more simply: the devil is going to be in the detail which is going to be far more complex than it might a first seem.  That detail is likely to interpreted very differently in different Council areas and, as a consequence of both these factors, is also unlikely be agreed and announced that quickly.

Although potential very welcome news for some very worried local businesses, I would be reluctant to offer potentially false hope, too soon.  I hope I’m wrong about feeling the need to offer you this note of caution, or to suggest it might be worth tourism managers proactively engaging in the process of helping to defining any news local rules, if of course you are not already fully engaged in such local processes:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/top-up-to-local-business-grant-funds-scheme

1 May Covid-19 update

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As every a number of adjustments and developments today all of which you will pick up on elsewhere.  One item I do think worth highlighting is the announcement from the Financial Conduct Authority stating its intent to seek legal clarity on business interruption insurance and outlining a package of measures to help consumer and small businesses.

The FCA statement is very clear that they think the majority of businesses will not have purchased valid cover for the current situation.  What they are attempting to do is to establish in law as soon as is practical where businesses that fall into grey areas or have valid cause for compliant so these can be settled (my interpretation not theirs).  My concern is that by the time the announcement has done the weakened press round it may end up offering false hope to those who sadly fall in to the not covered categories.  It therefore important initially, I think, that people read what the FCA have written and not rely on second or third and subsequent hand  interpretations like mine above.  At least not until more detailed description of the proposals are available.

Meanwhile the package of measures described in the second part of the FCA release although individually smaller in their value may be of much more practical assistance to hard pressed businesses and there is a danger they get lost in the more headline grabbing debates about the rights and wrongs of business interruption insurance and the interpretation of what it does or doesn’t cover.

https://www.fca.org.uk/news/press-releases/fca-seeks-legal-clarity-business-interruption-insurance