Covid-19 update AM 10 Aug 2020

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Four quick points: 1. impact on holiday taking and making in and from English coronavirus restricted areas, 2. the apparent direction of travel for Westminster policy,  3. the latest research articles and 4. Airbnb a change of heart (?) and other similar fleeting windows of lobbying opportunity:

1. Late of Friday 7 the Westminster Government issued new/revised guidance for holidaying within and from coronavirus restricted areas in England. Destination mangers and tourism businesses (within England) should be aware of the content both from the point of view of hosting visitors from restricted areas and from the prospective of either being or potentially becoming a restricted area at some future date (forewarned is forearmed).  The guidance strikes me as being neither particularly detailed or overly prescriptive.  Critically from a business point of view, it includes reference to best practice on holiday postponement and/or refund policies, due directly to the application of these restrictions.   The implications for other Home Nations and, in particular, from a hosting prospective are as yet unclear (to me at least).  If anyone has a better understanding please share it with me: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/guidance-on-holidays-in-areas-with-local-coronavirus-covid-19-restrictions

2. The mood music from Westminster last week suggests increasing concerns regarding social interaction as a/the major contributor to increased infection levels, albeit, mainly from social interaction at a more local/resident level rather than specifically from within destinations and domestic holiday activity.  The high incidence of infection among the under 30s in Preston is also a notable, marker from late last week. High level comment on the prioritisation of the opening of schools and the maintenance of education over pubs, although an overly simplistic indicator, should be taken as very clear sign of where priority for the Westminster Government now lies: education, followed by the restoration of general commerce and getting England/UK back to work and then leisure and social interactions.  If nothing else it was a clear warning shot to the public and to the industry to take the current rules on social interaction seriously or risk having them taken away entirely. It is assumption, but for pub I would read, if needs be, also all non-essential leisure and tourism activities?

Despite continuing lobbying efforts for additional support over the lean winter months for the tourism and leisure sectors I am inclined to think that generous initiative like Eat out to Help, during August, VAT reductions through to the beginning of  January 2021 and the furlough retention grant of £1k per person retained into 2021, may now represent the full extent of the support we can reasonably expect?  That doesn’t negate the need to keep pushing for other initiatives, principally designed to retain staff and keep businesses afloat and in a fit state, long enough to start recovery proper during the 2021 main season.

3. I have added more research to the Covid-19 research page on Britishdestinations.net. This includes an interesting piece from the Tourism Alliance which aims to quantify the scale of potential redundancies within Tourism. It may be useful in supporting the case for more targeted support for the industry over the shoulder and off peaks months to come: https://britishdestinations.net/c19-research/

4. In a Sunday Times Magazine Article this weekend the Airbnb founder outlined the “mistakes” he felt the company had made and apparently promised to take a new approach to how Airbnb works in future with hosts, local and National authorities and destination “marketing” bodies.  Some in the industry remain, understandably, sceptical about the promises of reform and, in particular, the suggestion of new more socially minded approach to how the business model functions in different countries.  Taken at face value the comments still represent one of a number of covid-19 created opportunities to forge ahead with strategic, tactical, structural and operational change in the UK tourism industry.  Others include: gaining a better understanding of the true value and function of domestic tourism, recognition of the symbiotic relationship between apparently very different sectors and individual tourism businesses in the visitor economy (especially within recognisable destinations), greater support for the often unsung roles and functions of destination management (and within that destination marketing), the importance of the roles and functions of local government, within effective destination management and the need in England at least for a stronger National domestic, development, strategy and policy function, linked to a more inclusive network of local destination management and marketing organisations.

The key now is not to let these lessons learnt or, more accurately, the known lessons highlighted, slip by again for want of us all focusing solely on the immediately more pressing needs of stabilisation and recovery.

The Sunday Times magazine article is on subscriber access only. One of a number of useful summaries picked up by other media providers can be found at: https://www.rte.ie/news/business/2020/0809/1158208-airbnb/

The original article which can be accessed in full on a free trial basis  is at: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/past-six-days/2020-08-09/the-sunday-times-magazine/air-bnb-brian-chesky-interview-coronavirus-8smq3f0r6

 

 

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