1. International Marketing Funding 2022. Visit Wales have announced a Wales International Inbound Tourism Fund (WIITF) of £400k available to Destination Management Companies (DMCs)/incoming operators, professional tourist guides and accredited English language schools, located and operating in Wales. Applications close 22 December 21: News Bulletin: Wales International Inbound Tourism Fund (WIITF) (govdelivery.com) and VisitBritain a GB wide £300k Destination Management Company and Inbound Tour Operator Amplification and Distribution Fund, open to DMCs and incoming operators only. Destination Management Organisations and Tourism BIDs are among a number of bodies expressly excluded from the VB scheme. Applications close midday 13 January 22: DMC and Inbound Tour Operator Amplification & Distribution Fund | VisitBritain .
The VB scheme, in particular, doesn’t sound much of a direct opportunity for traditional destination management organisations and interests but it might be useful to friends of, and stakeholders and partners within, the destinations?
2. Statutory Registration Scheme Consultation. The consolation undertaken in Wales by consultants started earlier in the year continues. Its findings are yet to be published. More to follow as soon as I hear anything.
Meanwhile, although the promised DCMS consultation on statutory registration in England has yet to be announced, we are now aware that the Minister and Officials have held at least one round table meeting (this week) with a selection of mainly local government and destination management interests, which DCMS described as being part of their pre-consultation evidence gathering process. Given that description, it seems less likely now that this pre-consultation evidence gathering process will be thrown open as a mini public consultation in its own right.
Whether it is opened up or not, it is now absolutely certain that we are still some weeks, if not months off seeing the promised formal consultation on statutory registration and that the consultation will give a number of considered options to choose from or comment on, rather than taking the form of an open-ended, tell us all you think we should know process. I do wonder if there is an opportunity here for anyone, not yet invited to submit evidence or taking part in roundtable discussions, to offer unsolicited evidence, if they so wished? If anyone has a burning desire to do so, or critical evidence to present, then please let me know and I will try and put you in touch with the correct officials.
3. Destination Management Review in England. Having failed to secure separate enabling funding from Treasury, DCMS continue to look at what, if any, funding might be available in the internal division of the headline CSR allocations. Again, it now almost certain than any announcement will not now take place until January, or possibly in this case even later.
It isn’t unreasonable to presume that any internal allocation is likely to be well below the amount proposed in the review (£51m over 3 years) or indeed the probably much low the figure sought by DCMS from Treasury (£20 to £30m perhaps over 3 years?). It is hard to see how a much smaller amount (say £3 to £8m PA?) would allow full implementation of all the review’s recommendations on a pan England basis but it might just permit some selective (competitive?) piloting of the new approach as a proof of concept ahead of the 2024-25 CSR deliberations? I have no evidence to suggest that is the direction of travel, it is just an educated best guess.
Not wishing to pre-empt any decisions or DCMS announcement in early 2022 but there may already be merit in some if not all English destinations looking now at what benefits, if any, might be gained from progressing some or all elements of the review’s recommendations on cooperative, self-help, self-funded basis. I suggest this, even while accepting that market failure issues are at the heart of the DMO impasse and that some core public funding for essential administrative functions, to help overcome the market resistance are mission critical. However, if public pump priming funding might not be forthcoming for any or all destinations, the first logical questions have to be, what is worth, or what can be salvaged from the review now? I don’t see waiting to find out what funding may or may not be available in 2024-25 as being a viable option for many destinations, save potentially perhaps for the odd lucky pilot, if indeed a pilot scheme is intended and it gets the funds to go ahead.
It remains clear to all in destination management circles that public, private, public/private sector partnership, Community Interest Company and other hybrid destination management structures remain vulnerable. Without some external investment into the deadly dull but essential daily administration, not all are going to survive to provide indispensable structure and form to the daily workings of a diverse selection of English destinations. I can’t help thinking it will cost far more in both lost opportunity costs and the sheer expense of putting things right after the event, than it would cost just to tweak and correct imbalances now, when at least you still have a reasonably well-established network of DMOs to work with.