Looking forward to Summer 2021(?)

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The first bank holiday of 2021 with at least some hospitality and associated businesses open, proved to be bit of a mixed bag, not least because of poor weather towards the end of the long weekend and the unavoidable focus on outdoor activities and hospitality. Business forecasts for the a domestic staycation summer remain positive, however, there is still a degree of potential for confusion around the age old dilemma of balancing necessarily positive public marketing messaging and the business and practical realities. How much of the forecasted business is actually booked and secured and how much of it hoped for and potentially still at risk to outside influence?

Today there has been a great deal of speculation around the opening up of near European and some other international destinations to UK domestic outbound leisure travel prompted by comments and statements from Westminster and EU Governments. Again, it is always difficult to judge to what degree that will transcribe itself into a relative trickle or a masses exodus. Practicalities and timings suggest the chances of a return to anything near pre convid-19 outbound international travel during the main summer school holiday period are at best remote. Late 2021 overseas holidays, for those in a position to travel in school term, are perhaps a different proposition, as are prospects for 2022 and beyond.

The levels of vaccination rollout in the host countries and the presumption that increased levels of UK infections and/or the transmission of new variants will not be adversely impacted by domestic overseas leisure travel are perhaps key to if, when and at what rate outbound international travel will recover and the first and subsequent order impacts that will invariably have on the still struggling domestic tourism industry. Ultimately it will take several years of bumper main summer seasons at home (or abroad for the outbound operators) to compensate and paydown accumulated debt arising from lost business from March 2020 and, lest we forget, in many cases, still ongoing.

Last week’s comments from the CEO of Whitbread which were largely picked up in business pages, where particularly revelling. Given the ubiquitous nature of their accommodation and hospitality products, its popularity across mid-range business and leisure markets and the sheer scale of this publicly listed company, I am inclined to look to their comments as an accurate and honest, bellwether for much of the popular domestic industry (Whitbread can hardly risk overstating their market performance for marketing purposes): https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-56898843

Last week saw the deadline for the DCMS DMO review submissions. This isn’t the end of the process and we can now look forward to the review team publishing its findings and consulting further in we understand a series of regional meetings. The timeframe is likely to be very short with next steps in late June early July. Colleagues are urged to continue to actively engage in the process and be ready to react to short-notice opportunities during what is going to be an increasingly busy period for all destination managers. The submissions were important, the findings, whatever they may be, absolutely critical to the way destination management develops within England over the coming decade. Unfortunately, it isn’t a simple issue and on balance the opportunities to get wrong are probably greater than the opportunities to get it perfectly right for every destinations of any significance in England. For those who are interested our submission and that of the Tourism Alliance can be accessed at: https://britishdestinations.net/consultation-responses/open-consultations/independent-review-of-destination-management-organisations-dmos-consultation-closes-28-april-21/

Any additional local intelligence on current and future predicted performance that you may have from your own destinations would be most welcome. It not only help us better understand the emerging situation but also allows us to communicate that to other key trade partners and to National Tourist Boards and National Government across the UK.

Please do share your thoughts and comments

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