Month: June 2021
Since its publication on 15 June I have been discussing with colleagues the implications of the recovery plan and the tasks within it largely given to VisitBritain and VisitEngland, working with industry partners to deliver. For those who have not read the plan yet a few of the higher level, strategic policy points of interest are:
The recovery plan supersedes the previous Tourism Sector Deal, including the UK tourism zone pilot proposals which are now been abandoned.
Tourism taxes remain under review but there are no current plans to introduce them.
Although the success of the Coastal Communities Fund are highlighted there was no mention of plans for it to continue beyond the current biennial round (other indicators suggest the MHCLG administered fund may be rolled in to other new national funding mechanisms).
The important role of “DMO”s has been recognised and their future structures and support mechanisms within England remain the subject of an ongoing independent review, due to report later this year.
Government will now hold a consultation on the need for and benefits of, a national accommodation registration scheme.
The recovery plan gives a great deal of detail about what Government and its agencies have done and are doing to aid tourism’s recovery and sets a small number of very ambitious goals, which are essentially to accelerate the forecasted recovery to 2019 levels by one year from 2023 to 2022 fro domestic and from 2024 to 2023 for international tourism from the median case given in the recent Oxford Economics’ scenario forecast produced for DCMS. These improvement would appear to require something in the order of £20bn additional domestic and international business above that currently forecast. in the next two years. Access the summary of the Oxford Economics report at: https://britishdestinations.net/c19-research/
Unless the original median forecasts prove to be extremely pessimistic the presumption must be that the national tourist boards and industry are going to have to work extremely hard to generate significant new and additional business, on top of that they are already working to achieve. If the reality leans more toward the latter, as we must assume, then logically that is going to require a huge number of small cumulative improvements or some really significant initiatives that enable a step change in the industries’ performance in the current and following two years.
Currently there isn’t too much detail in the recovery plan about how that additional business will be achieved, by whom and with what resource. There are reference in the plan to a number of schemes, for example rail tokens, but between them they may not yet add up to the necessary levels of stimulus needed to generate the additional business required to achieve the stated goals. Other initiatives are expected to follow and the perceived gap represents a major opportunity for the industry to make proposals to Government to fill them.
Working with our strategic partners, we will now look at any emerging detail with a view to promoting these and to champion other new or existing measures that combined will help Government achieve its aims. Some of that will be entirely down to the industry to deliver but some may require further support from Government. For example, continuance of reduced VAT levels on tourism services and/or business rate relief in to 2022 and beyond are measures that are of a scale that might help achieve the earlier 2022 and 2023 target more easily. Colleagues doubtless will have other suggestion that we would like to hear and, if appropriate, feed up to Government for their consideration.
We also note that in the recovery plan the value of domestic tourism is expressed only in terms of domestic overnight stays and that day trips, a large and very significant additional element within domestic tourism’s value and volume, are not addressed statistically or their importance specifically referenced within the recovery planning and plan. We wonder if that is a simple oversight, an error in the use of terminology, or whether it reflects a genuine deliberate omission of this normally vital and currently critical area of opportunity for the tourism and visitor economy’s recovery? Going forward we would expect a tourism recovery plan to consider the function of day visits in that recovery and to look in some detail at how substantial increases in daytrip activity might be fostered to grow tourism, particularly outside the main summer season where it is currently less concentrated.
At this week’s destination managers meeting one of the major current and predicted ongoing issue discussed was the shortage of trained workers across all skill levels and disciplines. Although the problems have already hit the national headlines they are not confined or due solely to the predictable (and identified as a potential issue as early as January see ESCE report) loss of EU worker who have returned home. British Destination members cited numerous instances of a loss domestic workers, most whom had been forced to seek or had found alternative employment in the last year and who were now reluctant or unwilling to return to work in the hospitality industry.
The view was that this was not something that would correct itself immediately and may not without intervention in the short, or immediate term. The impact on business was significant and was stopping some business opening and other operating at the current restricted levels and this would only get worse as restrictions lift and potential capacity and demand improves. Critically a once in a generation the opportunity to impress and retain for the future an essentially captive domestic audience in 2021 was being placed in jeopardy by the likely continuation of capacity and service quality issues. Large numbers of inexperienced staff and a lack of skilled staff in key disciplines is bound to impact on the consumer experience and give a jaded impression of what UK tourism has to offer.
Destination managers, thought it highly unlikely that the UK Government would move to lift “lower skilled tourism employment” migration restrictions and certainly not in time to impact on the critical 2021 summer season but, nonetheless, British Destinations should support the ongoing industry lobbying efforts to achieve some movement now or in the future. To that end it is important to understand the Government’s current position which is covered in the following summary:
Members thought it vital to look in parallel with the issues for the domestic workforce. Covid-19 had further exposed direct problems like relatively low wages combined with unsociable hours, seasonality issues etc. and indirectly related issues ranging, for example, from poor image of employment in the industry to a lack of affordable quality accommodation or housing in popular tourism areas. The majority of these were significant long-standing issues that could and would not be address quick but addressed they must be unless the industry believed that UK Government would at some point allow the industry greater access to large numbers of highly motivated, experienced overseas workers willing and able to work for comparatively low wages and in some instances live in relatively uncomfortable conditions working long and or unsociable hours. If there was ever a time to address some of the big, “elephant in the room” issues for domestic employment within the industry it was now.
UK Government has understandable put considerable emphasis on schemes like Kick Start and would in all likelihood continue to refer the industry to these schemes as immediate solutions. Members report a number of issues with obtaining staff via the scheme ranging from high degree of competition for a limited number candidates to barriers to uptake. Blackpool cited an issue with the complex paperwork which was serving as an understandable barrier to many potential candidates. In Blackpool’s case the Council had deployed staff to job centres to assist candidates with their applications generating a very large percentage increase in uptake and successful participation. This model was recommended as a potential solution to other major destinations struggling to utilise the Kick Start scheme as a means of supporting their local industry.