Month: December 2022

Senior jobs and other tourism bits and bobs.

Posted on Updated on

1. Jobs. The new CEO post for Visit Isle of Man an executive agency of the Isle of Man Government is being offered with an application closing date of 29 January 2023. The detail has been added to under the “Job Vacancies +” menu tab:

2. New inbound forecasts. Visit Britain (VB) have issued their annual inbound international tourism forecast for 2023. It also includes an upwardly adjusted forecast for 2022. Forecasts for 2023 are 35.1m visits and £25.9bn against the revised 2022 forecast of 29.7m visits and £29.5bn. The 2023 forecast represents 86% by volume and 104% by value of the 2019 figures, however, when adjusted for inflation the value equates to a more understandable 87% of the 2019 level. VB’s short summary of the forecast is well worth reading in full as it contains a description of a number of trend assumptions which will inform different destination about different source and market segments, for example, a reversion to short stays or the anticipated greater growth from within Europe. Personally, I would have assumed that the international publicity from this and next year’s plans for major Royal events would have been a positive promotional factor for UK Plc in general. It is not highlighted in the brief summary but has probably been factored in to the calculations behind them? See the summary and accesses the detail behind them at:,%25%20higher%20than%20in%202022).

3. Council tax and business rate changes. Cornwall Council are the latest to approve a 100% Council Tax premium on holiday and empty home from April 2024, ahead of the potential provision for it within the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill which is still passing through the Westminster process. Cornwall and North Yorkshire, among others now appear keen to be in a position to charge the premium at the earliest opportunity, subject to the relevant clauses surviving unscathed to receive Royal Accent sometime, hopefully early, next year. They and others are also calling for the premium to be raised beyond 100%. There may also be a degree of publicly signalling of intent to local residents and to existing and prospective holiday home owners. Similar provision has/is being made within Wales.

Of equal and linked importance, was the confirmation in late October that the Valuation Agency rules for categorising self-catering holiday lets for business rate’s purposes would be more rigorously applied or changing, as previously proposed in both England and Wales from April 2023. The thresholds which the owner will now have to meet (proactively prove?) will be: available for commercial let for at least 140 days and commercially let for 70 days or more in the previous 12 month in England (technically unchanged) and available for 252 days and let for 182 in Wales. The inference within all of this is that the Valuation Office, an executive agency of HMRC, and HMRC itself are likely as a minimum to pay much closer attention to the promotion (both a physical activity and a business cost) and any rental income declared in future (?). As is HMRC’s way, I would in a year or two stand by for a few very-high profile prosecutions to set an example and show those who might be tempted or those that might assist them, that there really are risks attached.

As a consequence of a combination of more rigorous application or the rules and higher thresholds in Wales, it is anticipated that a number of properties will cease to be registered as businesses in both England and Wales and that some of those currently able to claim anything up to 100% small business rate relief, on any single property within any one local authority area, with a rateable vale of less than £15k will lose the significant benefit. Those former “businesses” will become eligible for Council Tax and in turn potential at a premium rate, if used as a holiday home or left empty in areas where the new charging powers have been adopted. Anyone genuinely trading now, at whatever level, will be aware of the impending changes via among others: their accountants, letting agencies, trade bodies or destination management organisations. Whether, those purporting to trade but not actually doing so will be aware, unless and until the Valuation Agency contact them is questionable. A useful summary can be found at:,in%20the%20previous%2012%20months.

4. Business rate review England and Wales. The Business rate review in England and Wales, we are being told, is throwing up a number of anomalies within the hospitality, leisure and tourism industry, with some welcome reductions, often among accommodation providers but equally some unwelcome rises, elsewhere across a range of other businesses. It is hard if not impossible as yet to get a definitive answer as to what the trends, if indeed there is a definable local or national trend, might be.

The good news if there is any is that the unusually the national multiplies of 49.9p in the pound for small businesses and 51.2p for larger businesses have been frozen. In previous reviews some or all benefit of any reduced rateable value was lost to increased multiplier costs. In addition, the 2022/23 retail, hospitality and leisure relief scheme is being extended for a further year and the rate of relief lifted from 50% to 75% subject to a £110k per business cap. There are also some new transitional arrangements designed to limit the impacts of any rate changes. Whether these are better or worse than the previous arrangements, is currently beyond my understanding. If anyone has any substantive intelligence on what the true local impacts of the review will be from 1 April 2023 on individual businesses, specific business categories or “tourism” in general then please le me know.

Meanwhile, our focus remains to press for a fundamental review of the system and not simply the c 5 yearly review of the rates and transitional arrangement, and the associated and subsequent reviews of multipliers and reliefs. Fundamentally, how and where business is conducted has changed, often beyond all recognition, in the last say, 20 years. How businesses are taxed for the privilege of conducting business in, or from any locality and, thus, how they jointly and separately contribute to the provision of local and national services, hopefully associated with tourism, urgently needs to catch up. The very fact that a complex system of reliefs is now needed, suggest that the system has indeed failed and urgently needs to be rebuilt or replaced in its entirety. Anyone who thinks that is an easy ask or an easy task is of course somewhat deluded. Business rates as are just too big, too efficient at capturing revenue and too ingrained now to dispense with overnight. There is good reason that a fundamental review has been long promised but has not yet materialised.

5. Tourism Alliance Recovery Proposals. The Tourism Alliance (England) have recently issued a Tourism and the UK Economic Recovery proposal, which highlight10 policy areas that the combined Alliance membership agree could and should be tackled in 2023 and beyond:

1. Introduce a Youth Group Travel Scheme for EU Student Groups
2. Increase Funding for International Marketing
3. Introduce a Low-Cost Five Year Visitor Visa
4. Reinstate the VAT Reclaim Scheme
5. Revise the Package Travel Regulations
6. Fully Implement the De Bois Review
7. Expand and Reform the Youth Mobility Scheme
8. Reduce the VAT Rate for Hospitality and Attractions
9. Use ETAs (Electronic Travel Authorisation) to Boost Business Tourism
10. Reform Business Rates

The report has been added to under the dropdown menu of the “National strategies and polies +” main menu tab or go direct to the page at:

5. The longer-term objective v firefighting. You don’t need me to tell you that ongoing cost of living and energy crisis, increased input cost, subdued demand, staff shortages, rail disruption and so on is causing huge issues and huge concern. That said, I do think it is still worth saying that, while our minds, those of our strategic partners in all manner of trade bodies and associations and, the association of trade associations, the Tourism Alliance, are turn for good practical reason towards post-pandemic, business as usual in terms of reengaging with some of the bigger ticket strategic policy objective, we individually and jointly have not lost sight of the need to campaign for immediate relief from the pressures being experienced here and now at the coalface. Indeed, some of the Tourism Alliance’s 10 points are things that were temporarily addressed during the pandemic and could or should be again, preferably this time not just as short-term fixes.

The difference now, is that HMG and HMT in particular, have far less financial headroom than two odd years ago, while the impacts of the latest crisis are being far more widely felt across most if not all industries. This makes more affordable, targeted special treatment for “hospitality and leisure” far less likely than it was during the pandemic, notwithstanding of course the welcome extent ion/expansion of business rate relief. Other issues that touch in any way on the freedom of movement and access to the UK have become ensnared in more contentious issues around UK Border security. Room for reasoned manoeuvre currently seems very limited. Nonetheless, we are trying and you can in all honesty and with confidence reassure your own local partners, business, members, levy payers etc. that their visitor economy interests are being represented at the highest possible level, when and wherever possible. Albeit now at, and in, far less fruitful times and circumstances.

6. Festive greetings. Unless there is good reason to do so, I am not intending to communicate any tourism news before the start of the (administrative) holiday period at the end of this week. With that in mind, can I take this opportunity to wish friends and colleagues heartfelt festive greetings and a happy, peaceful and hopefully more prosperous new year.


DfT update on rail strikes and latest news of holiday season air and road travel disruptions.

Posted on

1. For those you who are not receiving direct notifications or have had the time to look up the detail, I am copying below today’s update from DfT that looks mainly at next week’s strike. It contains some useful detail and is about as good a definitive summary of the impacts as you are going to get anywhere.

The key takeaways include: confirmation that even if the RMT Ballot on the 12th resolves the issues it will be too late to reinstate normal services 13th-14th and 16-17th (also effecting 15th and disrupting18th). The strike will shut-down half the network completely, with only an average of 20% of normal services running on the other half. The special timetables for next week will be issued tomorrow, Friday 9th, at which point it will become clearer what the local impacts are in those places where trains are still running. Where services are running, early and late trains will be particularly impacted. The advice to rail travellers remains “only to travel if absolutely necessary”. In all likelihood that advice will be heeded and not necessarily just by rail users.

2.Meanwhile, you will have seen in todays headlines that PCS (Public and Commercial Service Union) yesterday announced a strike of around 1000 of their Border Force members on 23rd -26 and 28th -31st December at airports including Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, Glasgow, Cardiff and Birmingham and the port of Newhaven (others may also be effected, reports and predictions vary). The initial assessment, include that of HMG, appears to be that this will cause considerable inbound and outbound travel disruption and do so over a significant proportion of the peak of the Christmas holiday travel season.

The Home Secretary’s comment today, that those with plans to travel abroad this Christmas should “think carefully”, may well be sage advice. If nothing else it clearly illustrates the very seriousness nature of the situation. How ever, sage and how ever well meant, or necessary, I can’t help thinking that the already highly publicised comment, it will not have gone down too well today with the domestic outbound or international inbound markets and, especially, on the supplier side of that equation who are are still in differing stage of post-covid recovery.

3. Less well publicised and therefore I suspect know, is the PCS strike of Highway Agency staff and, specifically, National Highways England’s PCS members. There is a rolling series of region-based strikes planned on different dates, all but one taking palace across the Christmas and New Year holiday period and a national strike called 3rd -4th January. It is unclear, to me at least, how many highway patrol and other Highways England staff are PCS members, the degree to which those members will heed the call, or indeed what the impact of removing any, some or all coverage, on some or all of the National Highway’s, motorway network in England might be.

It is not perhaps unreasonable to assume it could and probably will be significant, especially the moment something goes wrong from a breakdowns, through accidents to other obstructions, or just poor winter weather. All things we can be certain will be taking place all too frequently during the peak winter road travel Christmas and New Year holiday period. We do not have very long to wait to start finding out if it is going to be a serious problem or not. The first region strike, covering the North West, Yorkshire & Humberside and the North East regions takes place 16th to 17th December. More details from PCS, including regional strike dates, can be found at: .

The DfT rail strike update reads:

Passengers warned to plan journeys in advance and only travel by train if absolutely necessary due to 48 hour strikes on 13, 14, 16 and 17 December

  • With the RMT, TSSA and Unite staging strike action on 13, 14, 16 and 17 December, only around 20% of services will operate, and in some parts of the country there will be no trains at all and services finishing earlier on 24 December 
  • Special timetables will be published on National Rail Enquiries on Friday, with trains starting later and finishing much earlier than usual, between 7.30am and 6.30pm   
  • Passengers who must travel should expect disruption, plan ahead and check when their last train will depart 
  • The RMT leadership have also imposed an overtime ban across 14 train operators from 18 December until 2 January, which will disrupt travel during the festive period with wide regional variations

The rail industry is working hard to keep a limited number of trains running despite upcoming national strike action called by the leadership of the RMT, TSSA and Unite, but is warning passengers to expect significant disruption and check before they travel. 

Thousands of specially trained and fully qualified back-up staff will step in during the walkouts to keep vital services running for those who need them, but passengers are being warned that even if the RMT call off strikes on 12 December following their membership referendum on Network Rail, it would be too late to reinstate services. As a result, it is now inevitable that industrial action on 13, 14 and 16, 17 December will see around half of the network shut-down, with only about 20% of normal services running. 

Rail passengers are asked to only travel if it is absolutely necessary during this time, allow extra time and check when their first and last train will depart. 

Special timetables for 13-17 December will be available for passengers from Friday 9 December.  In addition:  

  • Passengers are also advised that services on Thursday 15 December will also be affected; 
  • There is also likely to be some disruption in the early morning of Sunday 18 December as workers return to their duties;   
  • Passengers should also expect disruption from 18 December until 2 January, with wide variations on service provision, due to an overtime ban across 14 train operating companies imposed by the RMT;  
  • Christmas Eve will also see services close down significantly earlier than usual as a result of further strikes announced by the RMT and passengers are advised to plan ahead.  

Steve Montgomery, chair of the Rail Delivery Group, said:   

“Regrettably, the RMT leadership’s refusal to put our proposed 8% pay offer to its membership means we are unable to reach a resolution at this stage, although we remain open to talks. With the deadline having passed where disruption could be avoided even if strikes were called off, our focus is on giving passengers the maximum possible certainty so they can make their festive plans.  

“No one wanted to see these strikes go ahead, and we can only apologise to passengers and to the many businesses who will be hit by this unnecessary and damaging disruption.   

“We continue to urge RMT leaders to put our proposals to their members rather than condemning them to weeks of lost pay either side of Christmas during a cost-of-living crisis.” 

Andrew Haines, Network Rail chief executive, said:

“The RMT has deliberately chosen to try and ruin Christmas for millions of passengers and businesses. They’re also intent on inflicting a monumental act of harm on an industry still desperate to recover from post Covid challenges by sabotaging a vital £100m programme of rail upgrades planned for Christmas Day and Boxing Day. The industry will do all it can to keep services running and projects on-track but serious disruption is inevitable given the RMT’s action.   

“In talks over the months we have sought to address all the RMT’s concerns by putting a decent pay rise on the table, guaranteeing a job for anyone that wants one, significantly raising base salaries for the lowest paid and offering a new, huge rail travel discount scheme for members, and their families. By any reasonable measure, we have put a fair deal on the table.” 

Ticketing arrangements   

Passengers with Advance, Anytime or Off-Peak tickets for travel on a strike day can instead use their ticket on an alternative date: 

  • Tickets for 13, 14, 16, 17 December can instead be used the day before the date on the ticket, or up to and including Tuesday 20 December 
  • Tickets for 24, 26, 27 December can instead be used on 23 December or up to and including Thursday 29 December. 

Passengers with Advance tickets can be refunded fee-free if the train that the ticket is booked for is cancelled, delayed or rescheduled. 

If the Advance ticket is for a train that is scheduled for a strike day, is not cancelled, delayed or rescheduled, but a customer prefers not to travel, they should contact their ticket retailer.  

Customers with 2 x Advance tickets (an outbound and a return), to be used as a return journey, may be able to get a fee-free refund or change of journey for any unused legs/tickets, if one (either) of the legs is scheduled for a strike day. Customers should check with their ticket retailer. 

Passengers who are Season Ticket holders (flexi, monthly or longer), and who do not travel, can claim 100% compensation through Delay Repay for the strike dates of 13, 14, 16, 17 December. 

Passengers can also check on the National Rail Enquiries website or their rail operator’s website to see if their operator is affected by this industrial action. 

UK’s first Accommodation Business Improvement District (BID) approved.

Posted on Updated on

The Liverpool BID Company has announced a successful ballot of accommodation providers in the City Centre and the remaining Liverpool City Council area, the majority of the latter businesses being in the proximity of Liverpool John Lennon Airport. The new BID encompasses over 80 hotels and apartments with a Business Rates, rating set at a minimum of £45k.  As a consequence, Liverpool City will have first accommodation-based BIDs in the UK from 1 January 2023 to the end of 2027, generating an estimated £4.3m revenue over that 5-year period.  Perhaps not unsurprisingly this genuinely welcome, good news headline is on closer examination a little more complicated than it might first appear.

Those of us involved in, or aware of, the detail of the inception of BIDS in the early 2000s, the amendments to allow multiple local authority area BIDs, the subsequent creation of a few dozen plus genuine Tourism or Destination BIDs and, until now, several failed attempts to build support for similar accommodation BIDs elsewhere, will recognise that this a potentially seminal moment, and one which undoubtedly will soon begin to be touted as the “way forward” for all.  It is therefore all the more important to understand the warts and all background, the rational and the complexities and, importantly, the local happenstance advantages.  In particular, those advantages relating to the Liverpool BID Company which has been in existence from 2005 and already runs a successful Retail and Leisure BID covering 35 acres and 670 business in central Liverpool (£10k rateable value threshold) and, since 2011, the larger, adjacent Cultural and Commerce BID that covers 470 acres and 450 businesses (with a £45k rateable value threshold). Both BIDs contain hotel and holiday letting apartment/aparthotel levy payers. For ease of visualisation see the existing BID area map , blue for the retail & leisure, green for culture & commerce.  The existing area essential takes up the main central retail area and the surrounding cultural, commerce and hospitality area up to and including the bulk of the iconic Liverpool water front.

Each BID has a Board representing the levy payers and the BID Company, an Executive Board overseeing the strategic direction of the organisation. The new accommodation BID will bolt into these existing arrangements. All of the accommodation provider currently paying into one or other of the existing BIDs by dint of their location will cease to make payment to them and start paying the new accommodation levy from 1 January 2023, this will obviously reduce the revenue of the existing BIDs by some margin.  The single BID Company arrangement that allows this to happen, without significant adversely impact on any or all the BID’s over all administration and finances arrangements is perhaps the key happenstance in the Liverpool model. Unfortunately, this model is not necessarily replicated everywhere else in the UK. Nor do that many major destinations have in the order of 80 major, mostly relatively new hotels or at least not 80 hotels with a rateable value over £45k to call on for funding.

For comparison in 2002 there were 22 hotels, with 2,333 bed spaces in Liverpool City Centre. Twenty years and the 2008 European Capital of Culture later, the figures are 77 with 7,321 bed spaces (plus aparthotels, Airbnb etc.) and others in the pipeline.  Faced with ever increasing supply and the increasing financial  pressures, especially on Liverpool City Council’s budgets and, in particular, the loss of subvention funding for conference, business tourism and sports, cultural and other events, many of which the City Council either own (MS Arena for example), runs (many of the cultural events) or in some way support, Liverpool City Region’s Combined Authority (different to, but often externally confused with Liverpool City Council) made the case to Central Government to allow the City/City Region to undertake a time limited, national pilot of an accommodation-based tourism tax scheme.  

Not perhaps, surprisingly that request was roundly rejected on a low tax/no new taxes doctrinal basis by the Johnson administration in 2020 or 2021 (?). However, the principal of businesses needing to pay more towards destination management and marketing had been firmly established. Moreover, it had been strongly supported by Liverpool Hospitality the trade body for accommodation providers in the City (the key partner in any accommodation based scheme).  From that point on it became clear that the underlying problems were not going away and that the only feasible solution within existing legislation and therefore in the pressing timeframe, was the Business Improvement District route.  Subsequently, Liverpool City Council’s widely report financial difficulties have got considerably worse, culminating in the appointing of a Financial Commissioner by HMG to run the City Council’s finances from 8 November 2022. What the City Council will or will not fund from 2023/24 onward, indeed what may be withdrawn from in what remains of 2022/23 is far from certain.

The two existing BIDs declared a levy income in 2020-21 (I.E. including accommodation providers) was c £950k and other incomes c £230k (C £1.18m) between them, against an expenditure, including contributions from reserves of c £1.75m. Last financial year’s expenditure is quoted at c £2m (21-22 annual report not yet published). To add to the many practical issues, the 5-year term start and end dates for BIDs seldom conform to financial years dates, nor necessarily to the same dates as partner or neighbouring BIDs created in often different years.  In Liverpool’s case the Cultural and Commerce BID has only very recently renewed. It is also proposed that when the Retail and Leisure BID next goes to ballot in 2023 for the 2023/24 – 2027/28 5-year term, the rateable value threshold should be raised from £10k to £45k, bring the minimum size for all three BIDs inline. The loss of smaller business levy payers will have some obvious impacts on overall revenues and the overall size of the BID’s combined “membership”.  However, it is being convincingly promoted on the basis of smaller business gaining most of their currently paid for benefits for free. Albeit that this may be potentially at the small cost of a loss of an already limited share of voice and of potential influence within the BID and BID company? 

Given that, save for a few major hotels near or on route to the airport and potentially a few more to be taken in by what are in effect some minor tweaks to the boundary of the old City Centre area, where does the required financial uplift come from, especially when the vast majority of “hotels” are already paying in to one or other existing BID?  Not mentioned in the brief headline published to date but made crystal clear in the financial tables within the Accommodation BID Business Plan are increases to the levy percentages from 1.60% in the remaining 6 months of this financial year, rising to 4.50% for the following two years, then 5.5% in years 4 and 5, the increase being necessary, “to compensate for reducing public sector contributions”.  This is a not insubstantial percentage or real term increase in the levy for both existing and new accommodation levy payers. Nonetheless, it is an increase, willingly accepted by an impressive 84% of accommodation businesses in the ballot and now, as a consequence, an increase to be paid by all eligible accommodation providers in the City Councils area.  The year 4 and 5 annual levy revenues estimates are shown in the business plan as raising £1.137m pa at 5.5%, plus to be added to that the residual, somewhat reduced, annual currently 1.6% levy over the next 5 years of of £60k and £250k (3310k) from retail & leisure and culture & commerce, respectively. 

The additional revenue from the now smaller existing two BIDs gives a key combined annual levy revenue total of £1.447m in year 5.  Commercial incomes and critically, already secured levels of Strategic Investment Funding (SIF) from the Combined Authority would see total estimated revenues for the BID Company peaking in year 3 (2025) at £1.937m and then falling back to a steady state of £1.545m in year 5 (assuming no other changes). From the prospective of understanding the pure monetary value of the accommodation and currently separate supporting BIDs, I would suggest the 2027 figures of c £1.5 m, of which a little over c £1.1m will be derived annually from the new accommodation BID levy itself, are the ones to keep at front and centre of mind. They are approximate but memorable.

Subject to ballot, it is intimated that the intent is to role both the retail bid in 2023 for 2024 and then cultural bids 2026 for 2027 into the accommodation BID, presumably creating by design or default a visitor economy BID? (that’s what its called in parts of the business plan). In the lead up to each re ballot the levelling up of the percentage rates payable for each of non-accommodation businesses and other such thorny issues may or may not be up for debate and potential change? An agreed changes could increase the total BID Company 2027 revenue above the currently estimated c £1.5m mark.  Despite having one BID company there remains some very trying issue arising from having three legally separately constituted BIDs and BID areas.  This is all part and parcel of the bigger BID picture and hopefully helps illustrates the pressing need to understands that where you end up is heavily influenced not only by the journey taken (or not) but often, as much if not more, by the simple practical consideration of where it was you actually started from.  Liverpool will undoubtedly be cited in due course as a potentially the model for destinations everywhere, hopefully even an exemplar? 

Such accolades are deserved, just as long as is also equally widely recognised that some key components of the Liverpool model kit may actually be unique in time, place, space or pace to Liverpool and not therefore universally available regardless to all other destinations. The analogy comes to my mind of being asked to build a simple flying model aircraft from a kit that then turns out to be missing one of its wings and the elastic band to power the propeller.  You might be able to botch something together but if you do, both you and those asking you to build it shouldn’t then be surprised if your version of the model proves not to fly very well or very far, if indeed it get off the ground at all.

Please don’t misinterpret any comment above as being critical of the Liverpool proposal.  Far from it as I firmly believe that this new development, is both genuinely exciting and on balance very good news for UK destination management, giving as it does, some larger, most probably City or bigger urban destinations, a potential as yet untried or tested new tool in the armoury to help crack the increasing problem of who and how you pay for necessary destination management and marketing in a frankly increasingly hostile environment for local, regional and national publicly funded support for local tourism and the much wider visitor economy.  I am firmly convinced it will work well and is the right solution for Liverpool City Councils area and in particularly the City Centre with it large concentrated accommodation base and by default therefore of direct and indirect benefit to the wider City region.  All I am really saying is don’t let us and in particular others with less local practical knowledge but potentially more power, jump to the conclusion that its therefore bound to be right for everywhere else.  For the time being, at least until the Accommodation BID has settled in and the higher bills have been paid by businesses, old and new costs and existing and extended services have been covered or delivered by the new revenue model, it is going to remain difficult, if not impossible to tell with any certainty, whether Accommodation BIDs will be suitable for use by anyone, anywhere else.

Having got this far in this missive, please don’t just now read the headline details surrounding the new BID. Read and digest in slow time the full business plan; a plan that got this quite radical proposal firmly over the line.  Only then will you be anywhere near being able to answer the quite predictable and, in all likelihood, rapidly approaching question “could this, would this work for us in the specific circumstances we have here and now”.  I do genuinely hope the answer for you is yes. However, my initial analysis is telling me that, from the simplistic point of view of required scale v sustainable business costs v meaningful return capable of sustaining the virtuous circle, the cost benefits are by no means universally applicable.  Please consider taking the time to judge for yourselves: