Changes at DCMS

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Following Nigel Huddleston appointment as Government Whip (Lord Commissioner of the Treasury) on 20 September, Lord Syed Kamall was appointed last week to replace him, as Minister for Civil Society, Heritage, Tourism and Growth, our 7th Tourism Minister in the last 7 years. 

Whilst welcoming Lord Kamall’s appointment, it is disappointing that Nigel, who oversaw his Sports, Tourism, Heritage and Civil Society portfolio throughout the period of the pandemic, will not be in post to see us through the recover and, in particular, to press home to a successful conclusion some of more radical programmes started but not completed during his watch.  Most notably among them, for destination interests at least: the DMO review and proposals on the potential accommodation registration scheme for England. 

Destination management interests and others will now have to redouble their efforts to ensure that Lord Kamall fully understands why both are seen as essential developments.  So that he in turn can persuade his colleagues in a much more: small government inclined, low tax, lower public funding, less regulatory leaning, new administration of the need for public funding support for a DMO network and for the introduction of an accommodation registration scheme, that results better application of necessary regulation within some or all parts of the accommodation sector in England.  If the rest of Government don’t support the progression to full implementation, then the small scale 2 year DMO pilot now under development and further considerations around the nature of a potential registration scheme, will not progress to fully, funded fruition.

Although it isn’t uncommon for junior Minister to sit in the House of Lords and one or two of the 20 plus Tourism Ministers, we have had in the last c 20 year have done so, it can sometimes be regarded as reducing the clout of the Ministerial positions concerned.  There are genuine practicalities involved with operating from within the House of Lords, rather than the House of Commons, not least of which is representing the entire DCMS portfolio in the House of Lords and not just those relating to their own DCMS Ministerial responsibilities.  Personally, I think the effectiveness in role, is largely down to the standing and determination of the individual. 

Lord Kemal a former MEP 2005 to 2019, ennobled in 2021, has served for the last year as Minister for Technology, Innovation and Life Sciences. He therefore has recent Ministerial experience, as a member of the upper house and should be well placed to deliver for us.  As with all new Ministers it is incumbent on us all to offer our full support to him and to the existing Team within DCMS, to help him do so.  Official details of his appointment are at:

https://www.visitbritain.org/lord-syed-kamall-announced-tourism-minister

The new Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Michelle Donelan appointed on 6 September chose to highlighted the reintroduction of VAT free shopping in her recent Party Conference speech in which on tourism she said: “Another area of growth is tourism, which we are also boosting, by re-introducing VAT-free shopping for overseas visitors. And we will replace the old paper-based system with a modern, digital system that will come into place very soon”. 

This confirms previous statements concerning the intent to reintroduction of the VAT refund scheme, previously removed, UK wide by HMG in January 2021. Introducing a secure, digital system that can’t be easily abused, may prove to be an interesting challenge, particularly if it is genuinely to be deliver “very soon”? 

Whilst an important factor in driving some international visits that should be broadly welcomed, VAT refunds to international visitor are not a universal panacea for tourism’s ongoing difficulties either internationally or domestically. Indeed they are all but irrelevant to much of the domestic market and those many places that major in it. Let us hope we can look forward to hearing more soon from the new Westminster Government on targeted support for tourism and hospitality; notwithstanding of course the welcome but more general support from the capping of business energy prices for the next 6 months, already announced. Although welcome, that too is not a panacea for energy crisis or indeed for a raft of cost and demand related issues now increasingly in play. More support will almost certainly be need to get many individual businesses through what is going to be a long, hard and dark winter season.

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