Accommodation registration in England, new review of the British Tourism Authority (BTA [= VB and VE]) and the latest Tourism Minister
1. In last week’s update I recirculated the Tourism Alliance policy paper on accommodation registration ahead of the looming 7 June consultation deadline (https://britishdestinations.net/2023/05/18/updates-and-news-items/). The policy paper sets out the agreed policy headlines and gives some pointers to how those agreeing with the stance taken, may wish to respond but is light on the detail arguments to be presented. On reflection I should have also distribute the complimentary Tourism Alliance analysis and briefing documents which goes into more detail on the rational behind the policy direction and picks up on the some of the key points and arguments. Critical among these are the points made in support widening the scheme to include all accommodation provision, in order to eliminate a myriad of potential loophole created by DCMS’s proposal to included only short-term letting properties.
It would seem that HMG/DCMS are not aware of the problem of loopholes at the fringes, nor have they been presented with any compelling evidence to suggest that any part of the established accommodation industry might be operation outside current regulation and rules. If the scheme is to be amended to include all accommodation, the need and reasons for doing so will have to be very strongly evidenced. With hindsight the case for introducing registration has been made largely off the back of a need to level the playing field, without necessarily referencing the fact that there may be some poor standards and poor practices already in play in the established market: Statutory_registration_for_short_term_lets_briefing_and_analysis_for_members.pdf (mcusercontent.com).
2. Last Thursday HMG announced the commencement of a second stage review into performance of the the British Tourism Authority. “The review is looking at how the operator of national tourist boards VisitEngland and VisitBritain support places across Great Britain to develop and market high-quality tourist offerings, create jobs in the sector and boost the economy”. Currently the detail available is confined to outline terms of reference, the name and credentials of lead independent reviewer but very little more yet about the how this review will be conducted. This will doubtless follow soon, now that Emir Feisal has been appointed. More at: Review of British Tourist Authority underway – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) and Debate: Announcing the Public Body Review of the British Tourist Authority – 18th May 2023 (parallelparliament.co.uk).
3. The announcement of the review in Parliament was one of the first substantive acts of the latest tourism Minister, Sir John Whittingdale who, in fairness to all concerned has only taken on the roll as maternity cover for Julie Lopez who it is widely assumed will return to post at some point before the General Election (no later than 23 Jan 25). Sir John is well qualified to fill the post having held DCMS ministerial positions during 2020-21, including tourism and was perhaps more significantly he was Secretary of |State for DCMS in 2015-16.
Coincidently, Sir John was the Secretary of State during the implementation of the last major review of BTA- VB/VE. It was during his tenure as Secretary of State that rather than creating an independent and strengthened VE, as recommended by the independent review, VE was instead reversed back into VB as a department within it. As part of that process the role of managing and marketing domestic tourism was largely (totally?) dropped in favour of a limited remit to manage international visitors to England and develop product that had appeal primarily to the international market. The decision was heavily criticised at the time as a retrograde step that leaves much of the market and much of the industry unsupported.
That is all now water under the bridge. Nonetheless, it is a useful reminder that high level reviews of efficiency and value for public money seldom result in more resource and better outcomes. With that in mind we would all be well advised to jointly think long and hard about how we ensure that we retain and maintain what we currently have, rather than wishing forlornly for more done radically differently. A wish that could inadvertently risk helping HMT cases to further denude tourism support for both the international inbound and domestic markets. More on the review will hopefully follow soon. At which point we can discuss in far greater detail what should or should not be said, assuming of course that the review allows for us to contribute views.