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/

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