1 July PM Covid-19 update

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A few general intelligence request and updates.

I am getting very mixed messaging about both the pace and scale of hospitality reopening, especially but not exclusively around the serviced accommodation sector.  There is also some marked differences and contradictions around forward bookings.  It would be helpful if colleagues could continue to share their local experiences around the number/percentages of businesses by type reopening, from when and any intelligence you might have around booking (and cancellation?) levels.

There does appear to be a bit of a chicken and egg situation developing, especially for serviced accommodation and potentially consumer confidence around the knowledge that sufficient eateries, bars, restaurants etc. will be both open and relatively easily accessible to them to support the overall holiday experience. There may also be some similar concern around accesses to attractions, especially but again not exclusively, in urban destinations and popular resort towns.  Any intelligence you may have on these issues and on businesses in areas such as self-catering, caravan and camping etc. anecdotal or otherwise, would also be appreciated.

Open access business advice from the likes of UKHospitality and PASC, much of it either applicable UK wide or with Home Nation variants, has been well received.  An excellent set of advice from the B&B Association (a slimmed down B&B/guesthouse targeted version of the UKHospitality guidance) has now also been published.  Unfortunately it isn’t that easily located, so in order to help you and your local businesses here is the link: http://www.bandbassociation.org/BBA-COVID-19-Secure-Guidelines-V1.pdf .

The VB/STB/WG, “We’re Good to Go” UK hospitality industry kitemark, launched last week, is proving to be very popular. The scheme, in combination with trade association and other assurance scheme guidance on reopening and risk assessment, should help to ensure businesses understand what is required of them and how to adequately risk assess their business circumstances, in order to meet or exceed an appropriate covid-19 secure standard. https://www.visitbritain.org/business-advice/were-good-go-industry-standard

I have been diligently adding local and national covid-19 research to the C-19 page on Britishdestinations.net, but without necessarily alerting you to every new addition.  If research is of interest to you please visit the page and take a look at the last half dozen or so items: https://britishdestinations.net/c19-research/

My personal assessment is that the next 2 to 6 weeks are almost certainly going to be some of the most challenging in living memory for the tourism industry and without doubt the most critical that the modern domestic tourism has ever faced.  By early to mid-August we should have a much clearer understanding of how individual businesses and business types and sector are preforming, if and how the often vital but unsung symbiotic relationships between seemingly differing business types are now functioning, whether the  new largely untried businesses model that have had to be hastily adopted are capable of safely generating sufficient income to be viable (now and to cover the lean winter months) and critically whether we as an industry or the UK in general can successfully avoided the very real threat of location specific, or more wide spread, spikes and associated new lockdowns.

Recovery proper and a return to something approximating passed normality still feels some considerable way off, if indeed it is ever going to be obtainable.  Meanwhile we have no realistic choice but to make the very best of all the opportunities reopening and the “new normalities” allow us.  If you or your business community require any additional support during the coming critical weeks to ensure success or to help avoid obvious pitfalls please let me know.

PM 26 June Hospitality reopening update

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The UKHospitality guidance documents for England, Scotland and Wales, which covers a number of sectors from hotels and caravan parks, through pubs and restaurants to family amusement centres and amusement parks has now been published and is freely available at: https://www.ukhospitality.org.uk/page/UKHospitalityGuidanceforHospitality

Please be aware that the hyperlinks may not necessarily function on the online version but will do if you download a copy.

Other sector specific advice, like PASC’s excellent free to access self catering guidance, is also available and can be accessed below (some but not all are England specific):

Hotels and other guest accommodation

Indoor and Outdoor attractions

Business Events


AM 25 June – Hospitality reopening update

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The PM’s announcement on the relaxation on restriction within the hospitality industry in England from 4 July and various announcement on differing changes within the other Home Nations, to different timetables, has prompted a plethora of amendments to existing guidance and/or the release of new guidance.

Rather than issuing updates on the updates about things you’re probably already aware of I have waited in the hope that all the piece of the jigsaw would quickly fall into place during the week. This is not yet the case, and while all the generic high-level material is now available, some of the more detailed, practical, free to access advice from individual trade bodies is due to be released imminently or in some instances remains available but to “members only”.

What has prompted this note is this morning’s release in England of the detail of the ‘We’re Good To Go the UK wide industry standard mark, the detail of which will be a great interest to many individual hospitality businesses.  Many of those businesses will be keen to understand precisely what is expected of them, before they apply. To my mind a proper understanding of that, in many cases, will be largely informed by a combination of the higher-level government advice and the sector specific advice available from trade bodies and accreditation schemes, like those of Quality in Tourism and the AA. Other larger businesses will be following their own corporate guidance.

The welcome good news and the increased certainty about some aspects of the opening up of the hospitality industry, could, in the short term, prompt rather more B2B questions in some quarters than it initially answers. Doubtless more consumer questions are likely to follow thereafter.

Ongoing support, particularly, around sign posting of the most appropriate sources of detailed business advice is going to be more important, rather than less, now that we have to start delivering a hopefully seamless and demonstrably safe reopening of both destinations and the businesses that, jointly and separately, form them.

Some of the more useful links on changes in England from 4 July include:

New guidance for reopening the visitor economy to take effect in England on 4 July.

Specific advice on safety in the workplace has been published for:

New guidance has also been released on:

PM 10 June Covid-19 update

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Three thing of potential note for you:

1.  You will have seen yesterday’s announcements regarding hospitality in England, which on the one hand removed the hope of an early 22 June reprieve for pubs with garden and on the other offered some hope of a reduction in the two metre rule but seemingly only after initial hospitality reopening, commencing from 4 July, has demonstrated it can work safely at the current 2m distance. And somewhere in between the two, a minor about face on the closure of zoos and safari parks which can thankfully now open from next Monday in England.

Whilst we now have more information, it hasn’t necessarily given us the degree of clarity that we might have hoped for by now.  If anything, this reinforces the strongly held belief that getting the opening of general retail in England (from next Monday) right, first time round, is absolutely critical to the prospects, course and timing of the reopening of hospitality, leisure and tourism that will follow it.  I appreciate that engaging retail in destination management and tourism matters isn’t always that easy in every urban destination but this may be the one time that retail holds the key to the immediate future prospects of all the other component parts of the visitor economy? If it isn’t firmly on your radar by now then it should be.

2. I have added among other research this week’s BVA BDRC covid-19 consumer attitudes tracker to our c-19 research page. It is yet another excellent report in their now 11-week series. I was interested to note the headline comment: “Anticipated lead times for domestic holiday bookings continue to shorten, but it is international holidays and flight booking intentions which have seen greatest momentum in the last couple of weeks”. I was initially alarmed by this comment because until now the general assumption has been that any recovery would be led largely by the domestic market and the presumption attached to that, at least by me, that this included both inbound international and outbound “domestic” travel, which along with the UK domestic component, make up the three complimentary and sometime, to differing degrees, competing legs of the “UK tourism industry”.

The increased interest in overseas holidays might easily be attributed to the number of recent popular media reports highlight well know budget airlines plans to resume flights, travel companies and travel writer promoting the likelihood of price led promotion and news from popular near European destinations of their domestic reopening and expressions of a strong desire to welcome UK holidaymakers this summer.  On reflection I don’t get any sense that this media reporting, or in turn the interest it may have generated, as taken too much account of the practicalities and a potential mountain of rules, regulation and processes yet to be agreed, let alone overcome at both ends of such holiday trips.  Or indeed any proper realisation that the summer 2020 holiday trip being offered abroad is likely to be very different to anything they may have experienced before and, therefore, potentially less appealing, once that starts to become more obvious to all concerned?

Whilst much the same might also said about the 2020 domestic summer holidays, save of course for added outbound complications like: airports, flights, travel insurances and medical arrangements, it would be a travesty if UK residents found it easier and/or were actively encouraged in part by UK policy decisions to travel en masse abroad to destination where the product and experience was outside UK control, rather than holidaying and have a fulfilling experience within the UK (the bulk of which directly benefits the UK economy and employment).  It would be particularly galling if any imported increase in the R rate generated by leisure trips abroad (if there was any) then resulted, as it might, in the extension to or the reintroduction of restrictions on the tourism and leisure industry operating within the UK (accommodation, transport, retail, attractions etc.)  and not simply on any UK based elements of outbound domestic industry (travel agents, carriers airports etc.).

I am sure that any changes to air travel advice and regulation will be taking in to account the potential covid-19 health impact of short-term, outbound short break and longer holiday travel (where many UK residents are mixing mainly with other UK residents) and will not focus on inbound international leisure and on inbound and outbound international business travel (where the indeed travel may be from and to place where the R rate may be lower than that in the general UK population).  I hope I am either wrong about the potential issue or, at least, right about the likely policy approaches to it.

3. With the permission of Visit Wiltshire I thought colleague might benefit from seeing the domestic marketing and messaging being used in reopening promotion for the Great West Way. Clearly a good deal of thought and effort has gone into this approach:

Great West Way Targets Responsible Travellers

2 June PM New research added

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Three pieces of research has now been added to the C-19 Research library on Britishdestinations.net:  the latest edition of BVA-BDRC weekly tracker, Great Yarmouth’s weekly business survey  and an update of Hotel Solution’s May report, “From Survival to Recovery”, it is entirely new material containing additional useful links .

Access these reports from the C19 Research menu tab or go direct to the page at: https://britishdestinations.net/c19-research/

1 June AM update SLG collapse and Group Travel impacts

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Last week I shared concerns about the potential much deeper impact of the headline failure of the Specialist Leisure Group and its nine brands and 40 odd major hotels in 30 odd destinations (see that here).

Conversation last week with approximately 20, mainly coastal resort destinations, confirm that the fear that many medium and larger hotel have business models predicated on the ready availability of business from companies within the SLG, David Urquhart the largest independent owner operator (now closed) and other equally vulnerable regional and local companies. To some hotels it is core business, to many more its filler when other business may be slack and thus critical to keeping the business viable regardless of seasonal and other ebbs and flows.

As promised, I contacted the coaching arm of Confederation of Passenger Transport and the Coach Tourism Association.  They too are struggling to quantify, in precise terms, the scale of the loss of supply to group travel, other than to say that its big.  Nor can any of us be entirely certain about the impact of convid-19 on confidence of their typical customer and, therefore, the impact on the demand side, other than to presume that in all likelihood it is very significant. Three points from CPT and CTA did strike me as immediately relevant to the debate at destination level:

  • Coach business are classified by Government as a transport industry and even where the entirety of their business is tourism group travel, they are not entitled to access the tourism and leisure support mechanism. At the very least something to lobby on?
  • Just like most other tourism businesses unless there is some movement on the 2m rule it is going to be almost impossible to reach viable passenger numbers. Restriction on numbers  will impact on the costing formula and further limit the supply side; it isn’t simple going to be a case of fewer available coach, as each remaining coach may carry as little as a third of the pre-covid-19 load for the foreseeable future, adding to an already difficult situation.
  • Some of the SLG brands only used third party coaches putting further financial pressure on some of the regional and local companies contracted to them.  Moreover, even where the SLG company used their own fleets, for example Shearings, they were heavy reliance on smaller local companies for transfer and feeder journeys (or more to the point some companies were heavily reliant on SPG business).  The collapse of SLG may well do far more to exacerbate the pressure on other coaching companies than we might have at first assumed and in turn the likely impact on future supply may be much bigger than we might have originally anticipated?

Conversation with colleagues also confirmed that the day trip market both from place of residence or within a staying/overnight coach trip or tour is likely to be heavily impacted and in turn impact on their local visitor economy businesses.  The loss of that market and especially the unsung trips within an overnight package will hit a wide range of destinations, from small and quaint to the larger coastal and inland destination (of every type).  It is also likely to impact on attraction and, especially on things like parks and gardens and historic houses which are particularly popular with the core, domestic group travel market.

I was also reminded by colleagues that group travel and coaches as a means of transport were often central to parts of the international market.  A potential lack of UK coach supply could in due course impact on the international inbound tourism recovery too.

In essence what might on first glance have seemed like some other sector of the tourism industry’s problem, may turn out to be as much of an issue for destinations as it is for the coach travel and tourism industry.


AM 26 May Covid-19, Coach Tourism and Retail reopening

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The breaking news late last Friday that the Specialist Leisure Group has gone into administration is perhaps one of the grimmest for the domestic tourism industry thus far: https://www.specialistleisuregroup.com/ .

The 9 brands including National Holidays, Wallace Arnold and Shearings has taken out the biggest public owner and operator of coaches and coach holidays in the UK, along with c 40 major hotels operated in over 30 major UK destinations.  This of course follows on from the less high profile but nonetheless damaging loss of David Urquhart Travel, the UK largest privately owned operator of coaches and coach holidays; https://www.davidurquhart.com/ .  In the background over the last 10 weeks, numerous local and regional coach owner and operators, many offering both day and staying holidays, have also go into administration. More are likely to follow.

The coach market has often been characterised and, in part, dismissed as a generally high-volume low value trade.  The reality for many hotels and destination is that the staying coach trade is vital, if for nothing else, as a filler especially for the shoulder and off-season months.  The day trip market, both local and day trip within a staying or touring holiday, supports a wide range of attractions and businesses, both in and out of main season.

There has been a growing concern that the predominantly older coach market customer may be more warry than most of returning quickly post convid-19 lockdown to their former patterns.  Although clearly linked this demand side concern may now be outweighed by a far more worrying supply side issue.  Even if and when there is a return to normal demand for coach holidays and/or day trips the vehicles and operators to provide them, may be few and far between.  For those many destinations that previously attracted coach holidays and coach trips this is further complicating factor in the recovery for their hotels, attractions and other businesses.

I am contacting colleagues in the CPT (Confederation of Passenger Transport) and CTA (Coach Tourism Association) in the hope of obtaining a more accurate assessment of the cumulative scale of the loss of coach, capacity passengers carried, holidays, bed nights etc. Meanwhile any local intelligence you may have on the coach market or those local businesses reliant upon them, it would be appreciated.

More detail on the welcome announcements made yesterday regarding the reopening of some shops from 1 June and others by mid-June will follow, once the guidance has been analysed and hopefully better understood.

I may be wrong but the safe and orderly reopening of retail is perhaps now the biggest test and barrier to the reopening of tourism, leisure and the wider visitor hopefully starting from 4 July onward. Retail may not be every destination mangers primary focus but on this occasion helping retail get it right and doing it quickly could be a or the critical step on path to the tourism industry’s  recovery?

We are working on a destination wide reassurance package for all visitor economy businesses, with QiT.  Hopefully we may be able to make announcements shortly.

21 May More covid-19 research reports and other paper added

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Over the last week I  have added a half dozen new pieces of research, reports and other papers of potential interest to members, to the covid-19 section of our research and statistics library.

These include a couple of piece of local area impact research, 2 paper on the impacts on specific age groups (younger and older) and a draft UKHospitality proposal for “secure advice and risk assessment” guidance for tourism industry sectors.   On this occasion I am not going to make any attempt to summarise or direct you to key sections within the papers, if they look interesting to you then you will have to read them!

You can find the documents under the Covid-19 tab in the main menu bar of Britishdestinations.net or go to the page direct at:


15 May Update Discretionary Grant Scheme (England)

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Yesterday, 14 May, BEIS issued guidance to local authorities in England on the Discretionary Grant Scheme first announced on 2 May (original announcement).  This has allowed those authorities to firm up and further develop their local approaches. Like the original grant scheme the discretionary scheme is hospitality and leisure orientated.

I am aware that designing schemes to meet differing local circumstance, on differing scales with different amounts of money available, is proving more problematic than might have at first appeared. Moreover, local discretion may unintentionally create anomalies that could cause local friction once the details of differing approaches in other authority areas become more widely known?

If we can help by sharing in confidence, any areas of concern, proposed approaches or anything that might assist members with the creation of robust and subsequently more easily defend solutions then please let know.  A potential subject for a Team/Zoom conference call if there is sufficient interest?

The guidance can be accessed here: local-authority-discretionary-grants-fund-guidance-local-government

14 May, new research library, new papers and new campaign to consider supporting

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Three things:

As promised, I have created a separate Covid-19 research, statistic and paper section within the British Destination research and statistics library. A simple one pager with documents in descending date order. Any additions, including national papers I have missed or local data you are willing to share would be welcomed. Access it from the “C19 research” main menu tab of Britishdestinations.net or go direct to the page at: https://britishdestinations.net/c19-research/

A couple of very recent papers of immediate note are included at the top of this page (read the rest at your leisure):

  • From Andrew Keeling at Hotels Solutions an Hotels an excellent paper specifically on the hotel and visitor accommodation sector. Andrew I believe is taking comments with a view to updating this study as events progress: andrew@hotelsolutions.org.uk
  • A report from McKinsey on tourism recovery in China and potential lessons for the rest of the world.
  • And a paper/letter from the Tourism Society to the Chair of the DCMS Select Committee putting forward the case for an inquiry in to the adequacy of support to the tourism industry and England. Given that British Destinations fronted the industry wide campaign that sadly failed to stop the VisitEngland being revered back into VisitBritain with a significantly reduced role and remit and given that we have campaigned for recognition of the true roles and critical functions of Destination Management Organisations and support for functioning network of DMO across England, I can’t believe that British Destination members would not wish us to support this campaign and where appropriate also support it themselves.

It should be noted that the request for an inquiry is an in addition to the ongoing, delayed inquiry into the reaction to covid-19 of DCMS and their agencies across DCMS’s full portfolio.  This inquiry gives an opportunity to make similar comment but it will be but one area within one sector of a much, wider inquiry.  The new deadline for that inquiry remains 19 June 20.

For those of you wishing to consider lending you own weigh to the Tourism Society’s efforts the to obtain a specific inquiry into the supporting structures for tourism in England here is the text of the explanatory note sent to Tourism Society members (membership isn’t a prerequisite of supporting their campaign):

The Tourism Society’s recent online workshops to establish how best to support the UK’s tourism businesses have revealed a common theme: the current structure in England is not conducive to an effective rebuild of the tourism economy post Covid-19.

The pandemic’s swift and severe impact on the tourism sector highlights the weaknesses from the lack of a well-financed and clear tourism structure in England.  The disparity in resources between DMOs has led to a high variation in the level of support they can offer their businesses.  Addressing this is crucial if we are to ensure that our industry can recover swiftly and sustainably.

To underpin the recovery of the economy we recommend the strengthening of the English tourism structure through high yield, sustainable growth.  As our attached Call to Government paper explains, England’s tourism sector needs much stronger leadership and better coordination if its economy is to recover, rebuild and become more resilient.

I have sent the paper (linked here) to the Chair of the DCMS select Committee with the suggestion that the committee undertake an inquiry into the subject, his contact details are: julian.knight.mp@parliament.uk

I would be grateful for your support in this matter by contacting him, supporting our request for an inquiry and asking your members to contact their local MPs using the text in this email and the attached document if they wish too. MP email addresses can be found through this link: https://members.parliament.uk/members/Commons

If you have any questions please contact me either through the Society or his personal email address is   kevin.kaley@tourismukltd.com

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards,

Kevin Kaley FTS, MIH


The Tourism Society