Month: March 2022

Quick updates: marketing job vacancy, new ONS C-19 attitudes data, destination manager’s meetings and/or Parliamentary Reception.

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Appointments. Visit Isle of Wight seek a marketing manager. See Job vacancy page Britishdestinations.net or go direct to the page. Not for you? Then please consider circulating to colleagues and contacts: https://britishdestinations.net/jobs-vacancies/marketing-manager-visit-isle-of-wight-ft-salary-negotiable-closing-8-april/

Latest C-19 Survey. ONS have just published their latest UK public attitudes survey. The first paragraph gives some of the background and a flavour of its content. The full online report contains a number of potentially useful attitudinal indicators, particularly those by age and gender, which may help inform your understand of the possible implications or residual public concerns for your key markets and/or shape your marketing responses to them:

“In February 2022, almost a third of people in Great Britain (32%) felt it would take more than a year for life to return to normal following the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This is almost three times higher than at the start of the pandemic (11% between 27 March and 6 April 2020). According to Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) data from between 16 and 27 February 2022, more than 1 in 10 people (12%) thought life would never return to normal, and 9% felt their life had already returned to normal”.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): disabled people are more likely to feel life will never return to normal – Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk)

Managers meeting and Parliamentary Reception. My note to lead contacts on the Parliamentary Reception 3 – 5 pm 24 March, House of Commons and the calendar request for either in person or Teams attendance at a Destination Managers meeting 12 – 2 pm being held at the VB/VE Offices may have caused confusion. It may have read as though it was entirely about physical attendance in London?

For clarity, if you wish to attend the Destination meeting either in-person or online please let me know, so I can either warn off VB for access and/or know who I am expecting online. The agenda for our first hybrid meeting covering the many strategic issue in play, to follow shortly.

If you wish to attend the reception, either in addition to the Destination Manager’s meeting, or on its own, let me know, if you haven’t already done so. I can then send you the invitation and inform the Tourism Alliance who are running the event and coordinating attendance. No invitation and name on the attendance list, not entry to the House of Commons.

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Where are the winds blowing?

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At our last Teams Destination Managers’ meeting in the situation update I was musing about the extraordinary, indeed unprecedented mix of internal and external national factors that were making predicting where the winds might blow tourism and the visitor economy almost anyone’s guess.  Principle among these were Covid-19, the ramifications of “partygate” on the nature and direction of future critical policy decision making and of course potential international tensions at a level not seen since the end of the Cold War.  Seven short weeks later those tensions have become an international crisis of a proportion not seen in any of our lifetimes, with God forbid, significant potential for it yet to become something far worse. 

Assuming/praying that sense prevails, it is too early to say what will happen now in Eastern Europe but not too early to predict with a degree of certain a few headlines that could or should now influence contingency planning for the coming season and beyond.  None of this is particular cleaver stuff and I apologise if it sounds like teaching Granny….

Firstly, although, critical factors like Covid and Partygate’s influence on policy direction may have paled into seemingly insignificance, they have not necessarily gone away. Regardless of the course of the war in Ukraine, Covid has the potential nationally and internationally to continue to impact. That may be mildly, probably during next winter or it may mutate and come back with a vengeance, at any time. We can but hope it is the former. Partygate may have been forgotten by many but is still running and may or may not continue to have subtle or less subtle effects on the direction of policy decision making now or in the future. Ultimately it still has plenty of potential to influence the choice of governing party leader and, thus, potentially on the delivery of key policies yet to be fully delivered and others promised and under development.   This simply maintains if not builds on the current hyper levels of strategic uncertainty.

You don’t have to be genius to see the war in Ukraine is unlikely to come to a benign conclusion anytime soon. Nor to realise that if and when the war ends, whatever the outcome the massive array of negative worldwide impacts won’t also end overnight or indeed anytime soon thereafter. Issue like fuel, energy, staple food stuffs and critical material shortages and consequential higher prices and inflationary pressures will continue throughout 2022 and in all likelihood well beyond. An already fragile UK and world economy is set for a long and dumpy ride.

Again. it is too early to be specific about but not too early to say with some clarity what the known tourism effects of pressures on disposable income are, what historically high fuel prices do to travel patterns, or what instability (war or terrorism) even vaguely thought to be in “Europe” does to key international markets. The only unknowns are how when these things unusually take place concurrently they interact with each other and how, if at all, the change the core assumptions. Those assumptions include:

  • Fewer, shorter holidays, in particularly fewer short breaks, treats and days out.
  • Trading down, less expensive options, some shift from long to short, short to days out, days out to shorter more local activities etc.
  • The “big holiday” may be sacrosanct for some.
  • Lower income and higher committed incomes households, including young families generally most disadvantaged, as they already had less disposable income in the first instance.
  • Some socio-economic groups may drop out of the holiday market entirely, if one or more of these groups are a mainstay, the impacts are far more acute.
  • Shorter journey will be undertaken, potential benefiting destination in or close to major population centres and generally disadvantaging those more remote destinations including some popular coastal and inland destinations towns and more remote rural destination areas.
  • Pressure on pre booked packages at pre crisis prices, including in and outbound international flights and cruises and domestic and international coach-based activities. 
  • Previous pre pandemic cost hypes have historically precipitated cancellations, surcharges and in some cases business and operator failures.
  • Increase in the price of domestic and in particular international packages yet to be sold. The greater the travel element the greater the likely increases in price.
  • Overnight switching off of some/many (already shredded) international markets, most notable the USA which is particularly sensitive to security concerns.
  • Added concern and uncertainty for some outbound international travel. Some possibly marked redirection of business as far away from Eastern Europe destinations as possible. Notwithstanding that long haul will be proportionately more expensive than short haul.
  • Additional energy, ingredients and other cost pressures on attractions, accommodation and F&B and the absorb or pass on dilemma, particularly, in light of other mainly negative influences outlined above.

The uncertainties created by the Ukraine crisis on their own are significant and if not managed will be damaging to an already fragile domestic tourism industry, that is in any case still under threat from other external influences.  It may seem crass to even be considering what the impacts of a still developing international crisis may have on this coming season. Experience shows that not to do so as soon as practical in advance of the start of the fixed main season, can and will make a bad situation far worse for our industry.  You can’t change the situation but you can take action to prepare and mitigate against the worst predictable effects. I would welcome any thoughts on obvious or less obvious headline implications I may have missed and any thoughts on any new or amended asks of Government that result from them.

Meanwhile, assuming Government policy around strategies like levelling up are no derailed by the ongoing political machinations, I am becoming increasingly convinced that there has or at least there is going to be a seismic shift in importance of local authority engagement in tourism and the visitor economy.  Future funding for all in England now seems set to flow increasingly via combined authority, mayoral/governor arrangements.  Just as not all LEPs saw the relative importance of tourism, there is a real danger that not all combined authorities will do so, although, thankfully, most of the existing tranche do. If all future capital funding comes via the combined body and that body doesn’t prioritise tourism or tourism development, then where does that leave the visitor economy?

Each combined authority decides its own structures and own priorities but by their nature each individual authority within the combined grouping will need to agree or at least accept tourisms importance, if in turn the combined authority is to agree and give it due weight.  This is not to say local authorities need to deliver tourism services to understand it or support it. But it is to say those authorities still directly engaged are probably at an advantage and those that are not need to be warmly embraced by those that do now deliver tourism services or tourism and tourism development will no longer have direct access to centrally run and distributed funding pots.

This one of a number of topics to be discussed at our next hybrid destination manager, midday to 2pm on 24th March at the VB/VE offices London, prior to the Tourism Industry’s Annual Parliamentary Reception 3pm to 5pm.  If you wish to attend both in person or the manager’s meeting online, please contact me ASAP. The full agenda will follow next week.

Welcome to Yorkshire in administration

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Colleagues may wish to note that earlier this week Welcome to Yorkshire (WtY), the County wide destination marketing body, originally formed in 2009 by the Yorkshire Regional Development Agency (Yorkshire Forward) to replace the former Yorkshire Tourist Board, went into administration. Apparently, this was precipitated by the withdrawal of substantial annual, joint local authority financial support for the private company.

Media reports suggest that the Councils in Yorkshire may now pursue the formation of a new but differently structured and funded organisation to carry out what is effectively regional (large County) level generic destination marketing and promotion, with some limited development and management functions for specific large pan-Yorkshire events and activities (I.E. Tour de Yorkshire). Clearly the administrators will also have a view and a potentially significant influence on the future of the company, its assets and any intellectual property.  

Some but not necessarily all of the Councils involved as partners with WtY, have retained their own public/private sector destination management functions and destination management and marketing organisations throughout. Usually at a scale commensurate with the relative socio-economic importance of tourism and the visitor economy to their own localities.  Notable examples, in our membership, include Scarborough BC (the Whitby to Filey coast and a large part of the North Yorkshire Moors) and the East Riding of Yorkshire Council (including Bridlington, major rural coast assets, Beverly and a significant rural tourism area).

As far as we are aware, Welcome to Yorkshire is only the second major “DMO” to go into administration during the period of the pandemic.  Visit Cambridge, now reformed by a partnership of the Cambridge BID, City Council and University, being the other.  However, many destination management and destination marketing organisations, both those principally public or private sector based and/or funded, are known to remain vulnerable. This is due in large part to a combination of pandemic generated pressure on commercial revenues, inherent pre-existing tourism market failure, freeloader issues and austerity and/or doctrinal driven pressures on public funding support for non-statuary tourism services, whether those services are now largely or total internally or externally delivered. (More on market failure issues at: https://britishdestinations.net/strategies-and-policies/tourism-industry-strategies-policies/market-failure-in-tourism/ ).

The failure of WtY, previously held up by some, particularly outside of Yorkshire, as an icon for the primacy of private sector models in the world of “DMOs” brings the need for a successful outcome of the English DMO review recommendations (still awaited) and a potentially reinvigorated debate about the central role of local government in supporting, if not delivering some or all key destination management functions, back into very stark focus.

The old system in England, if the myriad of by necessity locally evolved solutions and compromises can be called “a system”, is at best creaking, if not somewhat broken.  That doesn’t mean tourism isn’t being managed properly anywhere on the ground; it is in many places.  It is just that it probably could be managed far better, everywhere and done so in England more efficiently and with a far greater degree of clarity and a unity of purpose that flowed more easily down from the national level and was more constantly informed and updated upwards from the local level.

Depending on very different local circumstances now experienced, there is room and, indeed, a well-established need for both private and public sector led models (Tourism/Destination BIDs, third sector and hybrid arrangement included), very often working on different aspects of the management or marketing tasks, at different appropriate levels and preferably doing so in calibration. However, where tourism really matters, there is no room for local government, at whatever level, simply to disengage entirely in the mistaken belief that it is someone else responsibility to manage a critical local social and economic driver, or that destination marketing, albeit important, is the same thing as holistic destination management.

Marketing is a subset of management and something that can only be done well when you have successfully managed something, in this case urban places, rural areas or combinations of both, into a recognisable, well-ordered state, worthy of wider geographical, coherently structured and consistently branded, promotion. Something a mass of individual business acting alone can’t or will not do (the essence of the market failure in tourism).

Above all it is now time for the Westminster Government to acknowledge that tourism (destination) management and place management are often two sides of the same coin and unavoidably so wherever people chose to visit in any significant number.  Local Authorities have a duty to managed and develop their administrative areas. If that area happens to be, or include a significant destination then by default they must manage tourism, or risk losing control and influence on, among other things: quality of place, wellbeing and the local economy.

Uniquely, tourism as an industry is essential about the movement of people and people in any number have significant impacts on places, regardless of whether they are residents or visitors. Acknowledgement of this would at the very least, start firming up some common understanding of who’s job it is to physically manage a recognised destination, in what circumstance; albeit that it might not answer the critical question of, “how and by whom is it then to be paid for”.

I could suggest that successive Westminster Governments have perhaps dodged this issue on the grounds that if it is a publics role then it might be reasonably argued that some or all of it should be funded from the public purse? Personally, I don’t actually care from where or how it is funded, just as long as it is and that its funding streams are both adequate and robust enough to survive ebbs and flows of domestic and international tourism demand.

As an absolute minimum I think we should now all be using the recent example of Welcome to Yorkshire, as timely reminder to anyone who will listen that all is still far from well in the world of DMOs, however you might choose to define what a “DMO” is or what a “DMO” does, where and for whom.  The key message being that continuing to do nothing about the often-parlous state of destination management in England isn’t a sustainable option.

Other Home Nations have tended to taken a more structured and a more publicly minded approach to tourism support and destination management. That doesn’t necessarily mean that aspirations for good quality destination management is then always matched by the public resources available and allocated to it. Colleagues working in destination management outside England can and do face their own versions of the, who’s role and how funded dilemma. Arguable that dilemma can on occasion be adversely influence by the example and misconceptions about how things are being done more, “successfully”, elsewhere in the UK.

There are a number of short regional news report on the demise of WtY that are worth reading for information and background awareness.  A typical example is at:  https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-york-north-yorkshire-60574461

Colleagues seek information on local structural solutions

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Colleagues in Scarborough are seeking information on where cultural, arts, festivals and events sit within other destination’s structures, in order to help inform the ongoing North Yorkshire Local Government Review. The specific questions and answers sought are detailed on the BritishDestinations.net “Forum, ask questions get answers” page or go directly to that page at: https://britishdestinations.net/need-an-answer/culture-arts-festivals-and-events-where-do-they-sit-within-existing-organisational-structures/

Any assistance you are able to offer will be gratefully received..