VAT campaign update, Parliamentary Reception Invitation and more…..

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1. The Hospitality and Tourism industry led campaign for lower rates of VAT on tourism services and, specifically at this time, the retention of the emergency reduced levels in force until 31 March 2022 continues. Last week a paper outlining the benefits to both the industry and over time to the Treasury of retaining 12.5% VAT was published. The 17-page summary and 147-age full report can now be accessed in the main Britishdestinations.net research library: https://britishdestinations.net/research-and-statistics/

Destination managers may wish to circulate the summary to their partners as evidence of the ongoing efforts to secure permanent lower rates of VAT for the industry. I would inclined not to inadvertently suggest that there is any particularly strong likelihood of success in the few weeks remaining before VAT reverts to its original level. There has been nothing to suggest that it is likely and plenty in the recent heady mix of political, financial and pandemic related policy direction to suggest that special plea bargaining for tourism isn’t likely to score that highly, for the time being at least.

2. It has been decided to hold the 2022 Industry Parliamentary Reception which has been postponed for the last two years back in its traditional slot ahead of the first of the major Bank Holidays. The event will be held 24 March 2022 between 3 and 5 pm in the House of Commons Dining room. Since it is less 6 months since we held our last (delayed) joint conference with the Tourism Alliance and Tourism Society the two will not be linked this year (conference dates TBC), however, it is intended to get the two back in to sequence from spring 2023. British Destinations will, however, hold an officers’ meeting in the VB/VE offices from midday to 14.30 for those willing and able to attend both. Remote access for those unable to physical attend the officers’ meeting will be arranged. If you wish to attend the reception and/or the officers meeting email me and I will arrange to have invitations sent out to you.

3. Defra has just closed its evidence gathering consultation on the potential banning of a range of additional single use plastic items, for example, condiment or coffee sachets. The outcoming of this consultation joins the growing list of major environmental proposal awaiting announcement, like the Deposit Return Scheme, all of which could have some interesting practical implications for tourism and hospitality businesses, as well as much needed environmental benefits for people and places.

4. Defra are currently consulting on proposals to designate two new bathing waters. One of these is Wolvercote Mill Stream a channel off the upper reach of the River Thames in Northern Oxford. As we have been predicting since the application for designation of the UK’s first riverine bathing water on the Wharfe at Ilkley, the “mill pond” is well and truly breached and the pressure to designate far more rivers and lakes is almost certain to follow. As those on the coast who have been wrestling with the pros and cons of bathing water designation and requirement to then proactively manage them can testify, it is seldom without challenge.

The popularity of open water swimming combined with the removal of the very British excuse, “we don’t have any designated bathing rivers”, now means that designation should be pursued wherever “a large number of people bathe” in order to “protect bathers’ health by monitoring for intestinal enterococci and E.coli in the water”. Bathing for these purposes including paddling, especially by younger children. This becomes particularly difficult to avoid where public authorities facilitate access to the water by providing adjoining open public space, paths etc. and or facilities like parking and toilets. As with both Ilkley and Oxford we would expect a number environmental and water users interest groups to start campaigning for the adoption of bathing water status at many more sites in the coming months and years. If any colleagues need access to advise on bathing water issues, please let me know and I will put you in touch with UK Beach Managers Forum members who can give chapter and verse.

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