1. It is difficult to say anything with certainty about the current unprecedented state of national affairs and in turn, to a lesser degree, the immediate and longer term impact on tourism and the visitor economy. September’s economic figures already looked bleak, with even greater shrinkage in the economy and higher levels of inflation that predicted in an already poor financial forecast.
Among the worst hit by shrinkage was hospitality and leisure, confirming our earlier assumptions that tourism, leisure and the visitor economy in general would be hit hardest and quickest by the cost of living crisis. Economic conditions, the resulting uncertainties and damage to consumer confidences has if anything got significantly worse since the 23rd September Mini Budget. A budget that has since proved to be both economically and politically disastrous for the UK. Regardless of the politics involved, the budget and its unintended consequence have essentially shredded the UK’s Government’s and by default the UK’s international financial and political credibly. Those who understand these things in detail (that’s not me) are talking in terms of years and even a decade or more to recover hard won international credibility, once lost to the degree it has now been.
Although the economy can be turned round, there is little prospect of it happening immediately and magically returning to where we were years, months or even weeks ago. Much national treasure has been expended in recent weeks and months on top of that already used up to counter covid-19. Additional deep economic damage has therefore already been done. Step one is to recover from that which, with an ongoing energy crisis and other internal and external influences from Ukraine through to the UK’s position on the Northern Ireland Protocol, isn’t going to be a simple fix, whoever’s job it ends up being to do it. The reality for us is that the prospects for the immediate Winter season and the coming 2023 tourism year remain generally poor, particularly for those majoring on domestic visitors and their discretionary, disposable expenditure.
2. In among the extraordinary events of the last 6 weeks we were unexpectedly promised a welcome return of VAT free shopping for international visitors. A promise that you may or may not have noticed was withdrawn last week, in among a whole raft of other generally much higher profile tax related changes. If the current Chancellor does get to present his budget on the 28th October (who knows, it may or may not yet happen) he isn’t going to reverse the reversal he made. It is a hunch but I am prepared to predict that any new Chancellor of any political shade or leaning who might takeover, is highly unlikely to risk venturing anywhere near anything associated with the September mini budget, unless it is utterly unavoidable. Granting tax concessions to overseas visitors feels like a potentially contentious issue that isn’t necessarily going to directly benefits the majority of UK voters and is therefore something that isn’t going to be considered, let alone acted upon for several years at best. I hope of course as ever to be proven wrong.
3. I have recently received a copy of the Norfolk Ethnic Domestic Tourism Market Report April 2022. The report was commissioned as part of an South, South Easter and Eastern England Interreg funded coastal area project that is looking at expanding out of season tourism. Although focused towards Norfolk and out of season tourism this report has great resonance for UK tourism in general and for tourism throughout the year. Among other things it highlights the porosity of robust research on ethnic domestic tourism in the UK and raises some frankly uncomfortable home truths about what many destinations do, or don’t do to extend a basic welcome, let alone embrace the social and economic benefits of an inclusive approach to domestic ethnic tourism. It is longish report at 125 pages and in places necessarily academic in its nature. I.E. often citing other research sources, some of that by necessity not UK based, due presumably to the relative lack of historic UK research in to the subject area. Nonetheless it is worth reading at leisure and if possible in full.
I commend the report to you, even if it is only to look at and takeaway some of the headline and nationally relevant comments aired in the executive summary and covered within various parts of the report. The report left me as a white middleclass male of a certain age, somewhat embarrassed that I have not thought more deeply and sooner about, what in some case are with the benefit of hindsight and the report, fairly obvious omissions. My overall feeling is that unless the report is fundamentally flawed (which I doubt) many destinations, probably could and should be doing a lot more and much better when it comes to proactively welcoming and enabling ethnic domestic tourism. I would welcome your views.
Whilst we are no longer in a position to commission further research or to initiate initiatives directly, we are still in a position to highlight opportunities and challenges and encourage others nationally with access to greater resource to take mutually beneficial action, particularly, if it is deemed to be needed and wanted by sufficient member destinations and/or the wider industry.
The report can be found in the research library under the “Research & statistic – by year” and adjacent “+” Britishdestinations.net main menu tab or go direct to the page at: https://britishdestinations.net/research-and-statistics/