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.