Senior jobs and other tourism bits and bobs.

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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 Britishdestinations.net under the “Job Vacancies +” menu tab: https://britishdestinations.net/jobs-vacancies/chief-executive-officer-visit-isle-of-man-negotiable-closing-29-january-2023/

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: https://www.visitbritain.org/2023-tourism-forecast#:~:text=We%20are%20forecasting%2035.1%20million,%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: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/changes-to-business-rates-rules-for-self-catering-properties#:~:text=The%20changes&text=If%20your%20property%20is%20in,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 Britishdestinations.net under the dropdown menu of the “National strategies and polies +” main menu tab or go direct to the page at: https://britishdestinations.net/strategies-and-policies/tourism-industry-strategies-policies/2022-tourism-alliance-tourism-and-the-uks-economic-recovery/

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.

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