Month: July 2021

Chief Medical Officers for England’s Annual Report 2021, its significance for UK coastal tourism interests

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Since its publication last week’s, I have been pondering the potential significance to tourism of the Chief Medical Officer’s for England’s Annual Report 2021, “health in coastal communities”. In his second report as CMO, Chris Witty has chosen not to major on Covid-19 but instead to look at: the health and wellbeing of coastal communities, the shared conditions and circumstances that contribute to generally poorer health and wellbeing outcomes and make recommendations, many of which have positive socio-economic consequences attached and are not simply directly health related. 

For those of us who bear the scars of over two decades of fighting the coastal economic development/ regeneration, tourism/visitor economy case and, within that, the socio economic, health and wellbeing strands in coastal communities, absolutely none of what the CMO says in his report is truly “news” or brings anything brand new to the long running debate.  My instantaneous reaction was disappointment, followed by the realisation that at this time, in these circumstances from this author this report used cooperatively by enough coastal destinations could be a very powerful weapon in helping shape the wider outcome of policy and strategy development and in particular the shape and nature of “levelling up” mechanisms.  

The report highlight all of the self-same issues that impact on economic wellbeing in coastal destinations. In doing so it independently confirms what has been said many times before in various reports and peaks of Government interest, that to my knowledge typically fall c 4 to 5 year apart since our (British Resorts Association) 1999 Behind the Façade report first tentatively unveiled some of the socio-economic issues acting as a barrier to successful regeneration, in our case using tourism as the principal vehicle.

The CMO’s comments were covered in a number of smaller articles in broad sheet with more significant local media interest confined mainly in and around the dozen and half towns cited in the full report as case studies. That interest is unlikely to be sustained nor is it big enough to have gained political tractions.  I don’t doubt that colleagues in England’s coastal destinations will now be looking at how to use the CMO’s report to best effect. However, I am unsighted as to whether this will be picked up as a public health issue, a general core socio economic issue or whether there is any thought or unfilled appetite to run with this as a parallel or separate tourism/visitor economy regeneration/economic development issue?  For obvious reasons I am keen on the latter.

I will be flagging the importance of the report where and whenever I can regardless of what I am now told. However, I would welcome direction from senior “tourism and economic development representatives” within the coastal membership on where, if anywhere, you like me to formally take this? Does it need to be a coordinated effort and if so by British Destinations or some other interest grouping?  I am conscious that the time to strike is probably about now, so quick and dirty may be preferable to business like but way too late to influence emerging strategies, policies and delivery mechanisms?

I would also point out that while, the report is from the CMO England, the comments that coastal towns like Blackpool have more in common with Hasting than their inland neighbours, by default, also applies to coastal towns in other Home Nation’s.  It may be an English report but that not to say some of the key messages can’t be cited as evidencing to support actions, for example, within Welsh coastal towns that typically have as much, if not more, in common with English coastal resorts than they do with many other Welsh inland destinations.

I also note that the CMO’s makes recommendations on improving the granularity of national health data, in order to avoid losing sight of the detail of coastal town’s problems within the background of noise of larger area data. This for me has resonance with my concerns that elsewhere HMG may lose sight of the fine detail of socio-economic deprivation as a result of their plans to abandon mapping within the new published plans for UK wide subsidy controls, that are about to replace existing EU state aid rules.  Asking for improving granularity for national health data to my mind could be used to strengthens the arguments to retaining existing granularity for key socio-economic data, for exactly the same reasons. I.e., avoiding losing sight of the true picture for want of proper investment in recording the fine detail.

I have placed the CMO’s summary report and links to the full report, that includes all the case studies, on the national strategies and policies pages of Britishdestinations.net.  For most coastal practitioners the summary report should suffice, with the introduction pages 2 to 4 and the recommendations pages 22 to 25 the must reads bits if you are in a burning hurry as at the is time of year (any time of year?) I am sure you will be .

As a reminder, if you have a view on using this report to advance coastal tourism’s interests, please let me know, in particular, how, when and by, or with, whom?

Access the report directly at: https://britishdestinations.net/strategies-and-policies/

Quick update

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Ahead of today lifting of legal restriction in England and currently 7 August in the other Home Nations ONS have released data on public sentiment. Find it in our C-19 research page: https://britishdestinations.net/c19-research/

MHCLG published its plans for England’s High Streets on the 15 July, the report Build Back Better High Streets can be accessed at: https://britishdestinations.net/strategies-and-policies/

Latest industry guidance and more.

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Half a dozen quick points:

1. With the lifting of the majority of restrictions looming in England on Monday a raft of new and updated guidance, particularly around risk assessment, has been issued both for general and industry specific usage. A very good single source of tourism and hospitality guidance, produced by Government has been distributed by VB/VE : Updated Working Safely during Coronavirus: Guidance from step 4 in England (visitbritain.com)

2. Visit Wales have published a useful update on the plans for Wales and the aspiration to move to alert state zero on 7 August: News Bulletin: “Next steps towards a future with fewer covid rules” – First Minister (govdelivery.com)

3. Latest reports on recovery and national mood from BVA BRDC, ahead of planned full reopening, are available on our C-19 research page: https://britishdestinations.net/c19-research/

4. There has been a lot debate and noise around the problems of accessing payment of business interruption insurance (in large part now resolved?) cancellation insurance for events and other activities (ongoing) and now a number of press reports around significant increases in general and business specific premiums which are only now becoming apparent as increasing numbers of businesses hit annual renewal dates. Issues highlighted include significant hikes in director’s liability insurance brought on by a perceived higher risk of business failures, but there are many other examples. These additional costs add to the burden of doing business and are bound to impact on the nature and pace of recovery, if not the product and service costs passed on to the customer.

Are members picking up on any significant issues around increased insurance cost for local businesses? If so let us know.

I am assuming (know) event insurance remains an issue. It is far too late to influence major events for 2021, many already cancelled but we do need to look towards the implications for both destination and individual business organised outdoor and indoor events, post 2021 main season and, in particular, for both small and large events in 2022. Efforts to get Government to underwrite liabilities for some or all events have not had much traction but if problems persist efforts to obtain assistance to overcome them in some way need to be pursued.

5. I have picked up on some worrying indications that at least one Destination BID has yet to collect c 40% of its levy, way higher than normal level of resistance for what is a legal binding payment. Any updates from other destination/ tourism BIDs would be appreciated (with or without caveats on confidentiality).

It also begs questions about policies on charging voluntary fees like memberships subscriptions and participation in revenue generating commercial activities in 2021 (some didn’t charge and other didn’t receive normal levels of payment in 2020). If such voluntary or commercial charges have been made, what has the reaction and payment level been like?

6. I mentioned Subsidy Control in my last update, not an issue that everyone will be immediately drawn to. For those who are interested in the Government’s proposed new approach I have received a copy of a 2019 report from colleagues in the Industrial Communities Alliance (ICA) on the role of state subsidy which you might find informative. This can be accessed at: https://britishdestinations.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/2019-state-aid-its-role-in-rebuilding-industry-and-the-regions.pdf For any colleagues in economic development, or for those with a more specific interest in the consultation, plans and ongoing development of the new UK rules email me and I can send you copies of the ICA’s submission and other associated papers which I have not posted to the consultation page on Britishdestinations.net.

Can you help?

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Can you help a colleague with any information, research documents, studies, policy or strategy documents on adventure and sports tourism? Please see request for help on our “Ask questions get answers page” at: https://britishdestinations.net/need-an-answer/adventure-based-tourism-research-and-studies/

Southern Water

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Last week the biggest and one of the longest environmental prosecution in UK history was brought to a conclusion with a fine of £90 million for Southern Water for persistent and deliberate discharges from 17 water treatment works in the Thames estuary and along the Southern coast to Christchurch during the period 2010 – 2015. This follows on from a fine of £126 million levied by Ofwat 2 years ago for similar offences.

The details of the case and, in particular, the judges’ comments at sentencing are an damning indictment of the companies historic approach to business management and their motivation to priorities profit of the environment. The case doesn’t do the interests of the UK water industry as a whole any favours and, although successfully prosecuted by the Environment Agency, it does beg questions about a rouge company’s ability to blatantly break the rules and get away with it for so long, even if it was eventually challenged and prosecuted.

At £90 million the fine is high and aims to serve as a warning to all. However, set against the annual profits , typically plus £200 m pa, £622m between 2013 -2017 some of it artificially inflated by rule breaking, it is hard not to still ask the question: who says crime doesn’t pay? The company has been prosecuted and fined, but as yet those who set the policies and those who directly or indirectly reaped the financial rewards for doing so have not.

The case deserves to have much greater publicity than it perhaps has so far had. It is to be hoped that more businesses unnecessarily effected by Southern Water’s criminally negligent activities during the 6 year period covered by the case will now choose to peruse Southern Water for damages. It is also to be hoped that Southern Water spend a far greater percentage of any future profit on rectifying issue and making recompense for their passed failings.

There are several recent articles on the subject, two of the more informative are:

https://www.independent.co.uk/climate-change/news/southern-water-fine-sewage-kent-b1881293.html

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jul/06/southern-water-dumped-raw-sewage-into-sea-for-years

Covid -19 and other updates

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Three things, one covid-19 relate and two not as a reminder that there is life and critically for a trade body like ours, issues outside the pandemic and we need on keep on our radar. These are future UK public subsidy controls and adjustments to the GB Tourism Survey (GBTS).

 1. Yesterday’s announcement that the 19 July would now see the lifting of covid-19 restrictions in England was on the whole welcome news for the UK based leisure, tourism, hospitality and the visitor economy in general.  Businesses in England and doubtless those in the other Home Nation’s, can now look forward to the opportunity to trade at or near full capacity (or even above) during a full main summer season and do so to a larger than normal captive potential domestic audience, assuming other unforeseen limitations, like staff shortages permit.  However, you look at it that has to be regarded as good news for most of the domestic tourism industry.

The apparent removal of all covid-19 specific regulation and control, the new onus on personal responsibility, set against the PM’s statement of the reality that “we must find new ways of living with the virus” does of course present some real thorny challenges around policies, practices and management of consumers, employees and businesses, particularly for our tourism’s mainly service sector operations.

Some of these challenges have already been aired publicly. As businesses now look towards a firm date for full, unrestricted opening, other potential pitfalls will doubtless start emerging as business wrestle with both the theoretical and increasingly real-world experiences.  Covid-19 has not gone away, nor either have a raft of public health, consumer and employment laws, regulations, duties and responsibilities, all of which will now have to be adapted to the reality that we have to learn to live with covid-19 but now without the benefit of covid-19 specific rules, regulation and much of guidance we have recently enjoyed, or is it endured? There is likely to be a lot of trial and error and significant room for too much or too little from both consumers and businesses, based on their own interpretations and application of “personal responsibility”. 

As and when you identify any issues that might require formal or informal intervention, please let us know so we can discuss these with our strategic partners and where appropriate flag them with the Government(s).

2. Last week the Westminster Government released its response to its consultation on UK subsidy control and simultaneously tabled the Bill to begin enacting its chosen solution.  We have taken the view that although subsidy control, essentially the replacement for EU state aid rules, is about a much bigger piece than just tourism, tourism has been and hopefully will continue to be a major recipient of public funded support and subject to any new or adjusted controls on the use of public funding.  We therefore responded to the consultation raising a few general point and principles around the pressing need for support for tourism and, in particular, support for disadvantaged areas and pockets of deprivation which are often popular tourist areas and found within them.

Much of the Government’s consultation response and all most all the Bill deals with technical financial matters beyond my pay grade and frankly my mental agility. The detail, much of it still to emerge during the Bill’s progression, will be of interest to those closely involved in public finance and the funding of regeneration and redevelopment projects.  For the rest of us, there is at least one issue that should sound alarm bells for tourism and tourism-based regeneration.  In the last paragraph at page 43 of the consultation there is a seemingly innocuous statement: “…. a map proscribing disadvantaged areas is not required for the functioning of the regime. However, we will further consider whether any future UK map may be relevant…”. 

In our view the maps down to ward/ super input area level have been invaluable in helping levering financial support into many popular coastal, rural, urban and City destinations and have been particularly helpful in identifying island of need in otherwise largely affluent areas and thus in gaining recognition and support for problem areas that blighting the economic and commercial progression in otherwise successful communities.  It isn’t of course the physical maps, per say, that are important, although maps are wonderful tools for simplifying and illustrating complex situation, but the physical collection, maintenance and presentation of the fine grain economic data needed to produce the maps down to that level of small area, high detail in the first place. 

It is not of course a given that abandoning the mapping means a down grading of the complex and presumably expensive maintenance of data sets down to the level previously proscribed by the EU. However, it is not unreasonable suspicion that one could easily lead to the other and the loss of this important economic tool.  I would therefore urge colleagues to raise the concern with those directly involved in public finance, redevelopment etc. to help ensure that invaluable economic data, critical to tourism redevelopment, isn’t unintentionally lost in the rush to ditch EU related regulation or to “build back better”. 

In my opinion being able to identify deprivation down to ward /super input area level and, thus, being able to recognise it, wherever it exists, is absolutely critical if Government genuinely wish to deliver its levelling up agenda.  I am just not totally convinced that they have identified this for themselves yet.  I hope I am wrong, but just in case I am not I would like recruit members support in raising awareness of the potential issue when and wherever you can. If I am wrong there is no harm in raising it and if the suspicion has any foundation then it is well worth challenging.

See the consultation response and Bill detail via our consultation pages: https://britishdestinations.net/consultation-responses/open-consultations/beis-subsidy-control-consultation-closing-31-mar-31/

3.  ONS has apparent responded to concerns that recently announced changes to GB Tourism Survey (GBTS) methodology will result in a loss of comparability and trend data by agreeing to convert the previous ten years’ worth of data, using the new methodology to rework the old survey results.  This is good news in that we will have a new and apparently more accurate set of domestic statistics going forward and now a reliable means of contrasting and comparing domestic tourism performance down to regional level back to 2010 2011 (?).  It does mean of course that what we thought had happened in those adjusted 10 years may be somewhat different to what the new data will now tell us.  Nationally that should present too much of a problem as we are at least comparing apples with apples.  Relative scale and direction of travel of what are national estimates, is what is really important, not necessarily the exact quantum. 

I do, however, feel obliged to alert colleagues to these changes, not least because some of you will have been using commercial models locally that rely far more than others on aggregating regional GBTS and IPS data (IPS remains unchanged for the time being at least) than others.  I don’t know for certain but I suspect some of you may have, for example, policies and strategies, funding applications and funding mechanisms linked to performance and data sets that may in someway be informed to differing degrees by historic GBTS data.  At some point in the not-too-distant future some of the facts and figures you have been using as reference points may suddenly change to an as yet unknow degree.  That probably isn’t too big an issue, provided it is been identified in advance and measures, if any are needed to accommodate it, have been planned or taken. 

It is important to note that the changes to GBTS have been brought about as a result of concerns raised by the Home Nations Governments about the accuracy of the old methodology. ONS are responding to those concerns in a forthright and effective manner.  Meanwhile we of course are still unable to derive accurate local data directly from GBTS itself. Where GBTS is used to help directly or indirectly inform local value and volume estimates, we too may need to adjust our own data collection, models and methodologies to take account of the changes in GBTS.  Forewarned is forearmed.  As ever, if you come across any significant potential issues arising from these changes then please let me know so I can represent your concerns.