Month: July 2020
I have already made representations to DCMS and other about the appalling sloppy use of language by other department regarding selective area lock downs (my terminology) announce late yesterday and earlier today in certain areas of Northern England (Manchester, East Lancashire and West Yorkshire to be more precise) which has then for some extraordinary reason repeatedly described as the “North West England lock down”, including within some of VB/VE own (thankfully industry facing) notifications late this afternoon.
The inaccurate geographic description picked up and repeated by the media has resulted in chaos across the larger proportion of the English North West which is unaffected (or was, until the poor use of language was picked up and repeated) and also in both the wider Yorkshire and Lancashire Counties, as very few people understand the difference between East Lancashire and the rest of Lancashire, or West Yorkshire and the rest of Yorkshire. Indeed many others don’t really know where those two Counties start and end, so there is a knock-on to areas on both the Northern and Southerly County boundaries. The major damage has probably been done, however hopeful someone in authority and with the reach to do so may yet at least try and unpick the unintentional damage done thus far.
The guidance for these new lock down areas has been updated several times today. The critical addition this afternoon was the guidance for those planning to holiday in the restricted areas and for those from those 3 areas intending to travel elsewhere for holidays outside them. It is permissible but with caveats the application and enforcement of which may still prove problematic, especially at almost no notice, during the coming peak holiday week, which for many physically starts today or tomorrow.
Can I holiday in this area, or visit shops, leisure facilities, or cafes in it?
Yes. However, you must avoid socialising with people indoors when doing so.
I live in the area. Can I leave the area to go on holiday?
You should not travel outside of this area to meet people in their homes or gardens. You can still go on holiday, but you should only do this with people you live with (or have formed a support bubble with).
Although not absolutely explicit I believe day trips are covered in part at least by the second half of the sentence. I can see no other reference to day leisure travel outside a restricted area:
I live in this area. Can I still go to cafes, restaurants, the gym and other public places?
Yes. But you should only go with members of your own household if indoors – even if you are going outside of the restricted area.
The full list of restriction and permissible actions is at (note the NW error is repeated in the link title):
And the base document at:
Public Health England have produced a series of action cards for different business types explaining the steps to be taken for early outbreak management involving staff customers or both. The detail is similar within each but they are branded and targeted at specific sectors. The cards are a useful tool to help businesses understand what is and will be expected of them now and a handy aide memoire if unfortunately, they need to put the advice in to action at some later date. Businesses should be encouraged to access and print off the detail. They apply to businesses in England only.
Although relatively easy to access it isn’t intuitive, nor necessarily quick to locate specific sector files, in three different download sections and multiple sub-file some of them contain. I have therefore set up page on Britishdestinations.net giving a quick briefing and containing the 11 most relevant action cards to the visitor economy:
The Public Health England page which contains a briefing on the purpose of the action cards and gives access to all 17 sector specific cards is at:
In amongst all the more pressing news of last week, including the introduction of 14-day self-quarantine for those returning from Spain was the launch of the Treasury Consultation on Business Rates in England.
The consultation isn’t the most engaging of reads. Whilst I doubt if any public and private sector based DMO’s will feel able to comment directly, the subject material is still of significance, not least because business rates are one of the most contentious business costs for those that pay them and they remain a constant concern, even for those that don’t currently pay by dint of whatever the latest relief or exemption is in forces.
Business rates are also one of the Government’s simplest and most effective tax system and a significant source of funding for local government services. The impact of any change on local government finance is outside the scope of this review. That doesn’t unfortunately make concerns about local authorities and their ability to fulfil a range of public services that are also critical to the visitor economy and to facilitate, support or directly provide DMO services within destination areas and towns any less pressing. Trying to saving local businesses by cutting business rate may be totally ineffective if also diminishes public services, quality of place and direct of indirectly provided destination management and destination marketing. I very much doubt non-statutory destination management, nor place making is that high up the Treasury agenda when considering business rates, the total tax take and the need to fund local government in general.
The paper has three major parts, in two major sections. The first part and first section deal with the question of reliefs and the multiplier the figure used to calculate the actual amount paid based on the headline rateable value; currently 49.9 p for small businesses under £51k RV and 51.2p in the pound for those over it. Of 2m business in England, 1.8m fall below the £51k threshold.
Responses to this section are required by 18 September to allow for possible changes for next year. This more than suggests that business rates, although potentially tweaked, will still be with us in 2021/22 and possible beyond. The 2022 revaluation which should have been based on April 2020 rental values has been pushed back to 2023 based on April 2021 values. This announcement made in May, may well be unrelated to the review process. It may simply reflect Covid-19 realities or alternatively it could be prudent planning for a system that may or may not remain, changed or unchanged, with us for some years to come.
Section two requires responses by 31 October. The second part of the paper looks at all other aspects of the current system and suggests changes that might improve it, from minor tweaks to more radical solution, for example the inclusion of land valuations. The third part looks at alternative taxes, largely to address the growing differentiation between bricks and mortar based business and online sales. The principle proposals are around some form of sales tax; however, it is also made clear that Treasury view a sales tax as running alongside, not replacing a revised or new business rates system. There is a useful annex A detailing all the current reliefs and exemptions.
Taking this altogether the new and hopefully fairer business tax system may not necessarily result in what most high street businesses want which is reduced cost but rather, it may just result in a different way of calculating them (with initially winners and losers). Small business that are currently in receipt of 100% relief may conceivably see cost increase, if arbitrary thresholds for current reliefs are smoothed or removed?
I am highlighting the consultation to you, not because its recently released or necessarily because I think DMOs could or should respond to it but more by way of warning that any thought that business rates might be consigned to history are forlorn. The best we can hope for is a fairer system that to start with will probably have fewer arbitrary reliefs and exemptions. The term revenue neutral is mentioned only once in the documents and then only in reference to transitional relief. In this specific case Treasury give temporary relief to those hit by higher bills after revaluation paid for by keeping back revenue from those who’s bills should have reduced considerable (hardly fair!). Keeping changes to the entire business rates system broadly revenue neutral has been a fundamental principle of this tax since its inception in 1990 (in part why there is a multiplier, total RV goes down, the multiplier goes up and the total take remains the same). Unless Treasury abandon that principle, or unless significantly more new money can be levered in from non-contributing businesses via for example a parallel sales tax route, I can’t currently see much obvious financial relief, let alone soon, for the beleaguered high street retail, and hospitality industries.
I can’t easily direct you to the most relevant sections of this consultation. If you are interested in business rates, you are going to have to read or scan the detail:
1. Today the CMS Select Committee has published its first report on The impact of covid-19 on DCMS sectors . You may recall this was the inquiry that during lock down extended it evidence deadline from early May to mid-July. This created some confusion about timelines, submission dates and the conduct oral evidence sessions which would have normal followed the written evidence date but that in this case did not. The inquiry covers all DCMS sectors and not just tourism. It may well continue with further evidence sessions/calls and potentially second and subsequent reports to follow (?).
There is some very good narrative comment but the recommendations on tourism are perhaps a little thin and in part, perhaps not unsurprisingly slightly behind the curve of a fast-moving, bouncing ball. I would hoped to see a lot more on issues of tackling the, almost inevitable, post school summer holiday dilemma that large sections of the industry are likely to face. Getting throw to the end of summer is one thing, still being in business in March 2021, when hopefully the recover proper can start, is another.
If you wish to get a quick overview of what is covered where the content is at page 1 and the summary page 3. The specific tourism section is at pages 40 to 47, paragraphs 80 to 98 and tourism summary and recommendations pages 59 – 60, paragraphs 20 – 24. Depending on your responsibilities, snippets within the sections on sport and on culture and creative, covering both museums and theatre, for example, may be of interest?
Omission is often hard to spot but I was struck by the apparent absence of any mention, of the domestic outbound market which, to my mind at least, usually has significant, and often potentially competing voice, in the normal day to day tourism debate. There is plenty of evidence in the list of submission, of evidence being submitted but the emphasis on overseas travel in the report is entirely focused on international inbound visits, which seems at odds with the realities of two way international travel. I can’t make my mind up whether if this is a good or a bad sign, so for the time being I simply offer it as a hopefully interesting observation.
2. The latest BVA BDRC weekly attitudinal research, update report on on UK hotel form Hotel Solutions and more has been added to our C19 research page: https://britishdestinations.net/c19-research/
3. And one to watch. The Supreme Court has just finish hearing an appeal by UBER against the finding of the Court of Appeal and a lower employment tribunal. The lower courts found that a sample group of UBER drivers were employees of UBER and, thus, entitled to full employment rights. The decision of the Supreme Court, which is final, is expected, potentially within weeks but more likely sometime before, “Autumn”. If the Supreme Court also reject UBER’s case then basis for gig model used by numerous companies will be redrawn in the UK (as it has been elsewhere). The court’s ruling, whichever why it falls, will be of huge significance to gig employers, employees/app users and customers of the largely services provided: https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/uksc-2019-0029.html
Conceivably this may have indirect consequences for the sharing economy and ongoing arguments about the legal relationships and responsibilities between platforms providers and the products and services offered by or through them. A long shot; the practices are different but the underlying principles may be similar?
A significant number of key announcements for the tourism industry over the last 7 plus days, however, I have avoided the temptation to alert you to them immediately, especially when the headline is so blindingly obvious to all but the application or implication behind them may not yet be.
Last week under the New Deal associated announcement there was a “kickstart for tourism”, £10m ERDF pot for small tourism business adaptation in England. Grants of between £1k and £5k would be made available via LEP Growth Hubs. The fund will be split between the 38 LEPs based on the number of eligible tourist businesses within their areas. For illustrative purpose, that’s c £260k per LEP if it was simply split equally and somewhere between a minimum of 2k and 10k maximum individual businesses grants available nationally, depending on the amounts awarded to each business. Beyond the initial announcement there is still very little more of substance yet to say: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-announces-10-million-for-small-businesses-to-kickstart-tourism .
As an ERDF package it reasonable to assume that, as with other recent ERDF based packages, the funding will adhere to existing ERDF priorities and “rules”. It is far too early to assess who, how and to what degree it will assist, but nonetheless, it is still a very welcome additional opportunity from some small business in England.
Wednesday’s announcements on the temporary VAT reduction from 20% to 5% for “hospitality, holiday accommodation and attractions”, from next Wednesday 15 July 20 until 12 January 21 is again most welcome. Many within the tourism industry have lobbied long and hard for a VAT reduction to help grow the industry and, far more recently, as covid-19 recovery measure. Its acceptance as the latter, applicable with one week of the announcement appear to have caught many VAT registered business off guard, both in terms of the application of the VAT reduction as a process and also as to how to handle the welcome benefit in terms of pricing. Do they pass some or all the benefit to the customer to drive more demand, or retain some or all of the benefit to help compensate for their own artificially reduced supply and/or structurally weakened demand? Given the time frame these are largely matters for the individual businesses to address themselves, preferably in consultation with their professional financial advisers: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/vat-reduced-rate-for-hospitality-holiday-accommodation-and-attractions.
Given the longstanding campaign for reduced VAT on tourism it is to be hoped that the reduction proves it worth as a convid-19 support measure and is then retained beyond January 2021 as a recovery and subsequently beyond that as a future growth and development measure. More lobbying require here I would suggest.
Also announce on Wednesday was Eat out to help scheme, a 50% discount up to a maximum of £10 per person on food and non-alcoholic drinks consumed on premises Monday to Wednesday during August. Businesses must apply to participate and if eligible and registered they will be reimbursed for the discounts applied within a matter of days of the claims being presented. There is comprehensive guidance on the scheme already available and my instinct is to refer businesses to that rather than to try summarising the detail and risking misinterpretation. Again, initially at least a matter for individual businesses to assess, unlike the VAT reduction this is an optional opportunity, for those eligible to participate. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/get-more-information-about-the-eat-out-to-help-out-scheme/get-more-information-about-the-eat-out-to-help-out-scheme
Beyond some minor concerns about a potential, additional administrative burden I have yet to hear any substantive reason why eligible hospitality businesses might wish not to participate. By now you will be aware that there has of course been some criticism from those food outlets that are not eligible and from those who feel alcoholic beverages should have be included. I have insufficient information to start taking a view on the merits of the case being made and currently no intention of getting involved in the narrow window of opportunity left to us. If any member destination isn’t content with that stance please let me know. More importantly if you are made aware of any issues for potentially eligible businesses please let me know immediately.
A number of other new developments in England were announced late yesterday or may be on the cards to be announced soon. Again, these are all over the popular media and I will hold off highlighting the detail until either there is something of substance to say about delivery, or simply to confirm that they are still works in progress and that you have not missed anything of importance since the headline announcements were made. I hope you remain content with this approach to updating the membership.
A few general intelligence request and updates.
I am getting very mixed messaging about both the pace and scale of hospitality reopening, especially but not exclusively around the serviced accommodation sector. There is also some marked differences and contradictions around forward bookings. It would be helpful if colleagues could continue to share their local experiences around the number/percentages of businesses by type reopening, from when and any intelligence you might have around booking (and cancellation?) levels.
There does appear to be a bit of a chicken and egg situation developing, especially for serviced accommodation and potentially consumer confidence around the knowledge that sufficient eateries, bars, restaurants etc. will be both open and relatively easily accessible to them to support the overall holiday experience. There may also be some similar concern around accesses to attractions, especially but again not exclusively, in urban destinations and popular resort towns. Any intelligence you may have on these issues and on businesses in areas such as self-catering, caravan and camping etc. anecdotal or otherwise, would also be appreciated.
Open access business advice from the likes of UKHospitality and PASC, much of it either applicable UK wide or with Home Nation variants, has been well received. An excellent set of advice from the B&B Association (a slimmed down B&B/guesthouse targeted version of the UKHospitality guidance) has now also been published. Unfortunately it isn’t that easily located, so in order to help you and your local businesses here is the link: http://www.bandbassociation.org/BBA-COVID-19-Secure-Guidelines-V1.pdf .
The VB/STB/WG, “We’re Good to Go” UK hospitality industry kitemark, launched last week, is proving to be very popular. The scheme, in combination with trade association and other assurance scheme guidance on reopening and risk assessment, should help to ensure businesses understand what is required of them and how to adequately risk assess their business circumstances, in order to meet or exceed an appropriate covid-19 secure standard. https://www.visitbritain.org/business-advice/were-good-go-industry-standard
I have been diligently adding local and national covid-19 research to the C-19 page on Britishdestinations.net, but without necessarily alerting you to every new addition. If research is of interest to you please visit the page and take a look at the last half dozen or so items: https://britishdestinations.net/c19-research/
My personal assessment is that the next 2 to 6 weeks are almost certainly going to be some of the most challenging in living memory for the tourism industry and without doubt the most critical that the modern domestic tourism has ever faced. By early to mid-August we should have a much clearer understanding of how individual businesses and business types and sector are preforming, if and how the often vital but unsung symbiotic relationships between seemingly differing business types are now functioning, whether the new largely untried businesses model that have had to be hastily adopted are capable of safely generating sufficient income to be viable (now and to cover the lean winter months) and critically whether we as an industry or the UK in general can successfully avoided the very real threat of location specific, or more wide spread, spikes and associated new lockdowns.
Recovery proper and a return to something approximating passed normality still feels some considerable way off, if indeed it is ever going to be obtainable. Meanwhile we have no realistic choice but to make the very best of all the opportunities reopening and the “new normalities” allow us. If you or your business community require any additional support during the coming critical weeks to ensure success or to help avoid obvious pitfalls please let me know.