Two loosely linked items in this week’s tourism new and a linked reminder.
1. On Monday of this week (2th Oct 22) the DCMS Select Committee published their second report on Promoting Britain Abroad. The 36-page main body of the report is quite critical of certain Westminster Government policies and actions, inactions or delays and make a dozen recommendation most of which I think the majority working in tourism and destination management would be broadly if not totally supportive of. Areas highlighted include increasing funding and greater freedom of operational control for Visit Britain, ringfencing some of that additional funding for the promotion of regional destinations, the elevation of the Minister for Tourism to a “fulltime position” (rather than responsible for a much wider portfolio?) and of particular note for destinations in England: “We recommend that the Government should complete the pilot to a swift timescale and commit to implementing the de Bois recommendations in full”.
Before we allow ourselves to get too carried away, it is important to remember that Government, while duty bound to respond to a Select Committee report, usually within two months of publication, there is no compulsion for them to agree with, let alone act upon, any or all recommendations any committee makes. The typical response often takes the form of, we hear what you say and here is a long list of all the things we have done and or planning to do that relate, however vaguely, to what you said or recommended. Some committee’s recommendations will of course elicit positive responses and all, whether accepted or not, provide independent, cross-party support and ammunition for further lobbying activities. Good, positive end results are seldom won quickly or easily at the best of times and this isn’t in all honesty the best of times, particularly, when it comes to proposing additional responsibilities and/or explicitly or by inference corresponding additional funding to expedite them.
The report is well worth reading in full to get the context and the full sense of what and why the Committee is critical of certain recent policies and approaches to tourism. The one-page summary at page 3 and the conclusion which give a short summary of the rational against each of the dozen plus recommendations, at pages 33 to 36, contain the essential must read material for all UK destination management interests: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/30452/documents/175898/default/
The Committee’s reference to “implementation in full” is interesting, especially as Nick was witness and gave evidence to the committee. Although the final DCMS published version of the De Bois report somehow managed not to specify beyond doubt the sum envisaged by the author, Nick himself has since made it crystal clear that his vision was based on £17m per year over the standard 3-year comprehensive speeding round (the maximum period any department can committee to). Or in the grand scheme of things, a very modest extra £51m over 3 years, with the aspiration that the funding should and would continue at a sizable figure, into future CSRs and resulting spending rounds. I would urge colleges to refresh their memories of what the De Bois report actually said and what was actually recommended. This doesn’t always match what some aspiring “tier One” or “LVEPs” destinations are touting to their potential partners as reason to comply and make potentially radical, irreversible changes that as yet may not bring with them guaranteed, replacement funding, for the myriad of locally evolved, local grown and often unique local circumstance driven arrangements that underpin most “tier two” destinations. In some instance the concept of and need for tier two destinations remaining in place and managing the multitude of day to day requirements of their destination seems to have been lost on some. Find a copy of the De Bois report here: https://britishdestinations.net/strategies-and-policies/tourism-industry-strategies-policies/review-of-destination-organisations-in-england/
2. On Tuesday, by happy coincidence, DCMS announced the appointment of the new VisitBritain (VB) Chairman. Nick De Bois has relinquished his appointment Chair of the VisitEngland (VE) Advisory Board, 9 months before his term ends and assumes the far more influential appointment as Chairman VisitBritain. He is replaced as interim Chair of the VE Advisory Board by Fiona Pollard.
It would be hard to think any other senior industry figure, currently better placed than Nick to oversee the work of VisitBritain and, to a degree oversee the position and work of the Visit England department within VisitBritain. Nor anyone who would be more knowledgeable about the strengths and weaknesses of the current VB/VE relationship and of VE’s roles and functions within that relationship and within England’s tourism landscape. It is also impossible to think of anyone better placed to understand what the DCMS Select Committee’s aspirations for full implementation of the De Bois report might actually means in practice. Clearly the Chairman VB can only act within the parameters set by the sponsor department but nonetheless his appointment may help to change the dynamics and understanding around international v domestic tourism in general and the currently, critically undervalued roles and functions of destination management, at least as it currently stands within England.
3. A closely linked reminder, Nick De Bois is one of a number of high-profile guests programmed to speak on Tuesday 15th November at this year’s joint Tourism Alliance, Tourism Society and British Destinations national one day, London based tourism conference. Nick is still programmed to discuss the DMO review, although it his highly likely that in current circumstances Nick and most of the other speakers will deviate towards or at the very least comment on more recent and immediately pressing issues for UK tourism, like the cost-of-living crisis and the resulting pressure on discretionary spend and on hospitality, leisure and tourism. There is still plenty of time and frankly ever increasing good reason to book, if you have not already done so. More detail and booking links at: