Latest Event Updates

Looking forward to Summer 2021(?)

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The first bank holiday of 2021 with at least some hospitality and associated businesses open, proved to be bit of a mixed bag, not least because of poor weather towards the end of the long weekend and the unavoidable focus on outdoor activities and hospitality. Business forecasts for the a domestic staycation summer remain positive, however, there is still a degree of potential for confusion around the age old dilemma of balancing necessarily positive public marketing messaging and the business and practical realities. How much of the forecasted business is actually booked and secured and how much of it hoped for and potentially still at risk to outside influence?

Today there has been a great deal of speculation around the opening up of near European and some other international destinations to UK domestic outbound leisure travel prompted by comments and statements from Westminster and EU Governments. Again, it is always difficult to judge to what degree that will transcribe itself into a relative trickle or a masses exodus. Practicalities and timings suggest the chances of a return to anything near pre convid-19 outbound international travel during the main summer school holiday period are at best remote. Late 2021 overseas holidays, for those in a position to travel in school term, are perhaps a different proposition, as are prospects for 2022 and beyond.

The levels of vaccination rollout in the host countries and the presumption that increased levels of UK infections and/or the transmission of new variants will not be adversely impacted by domestic overseas leisure travel are perhaps key to if, when and at what rate outbound international travel will recover and the first and subsequent order impacts that will invariably have on the still struggling domestic tourism industry. Ultimately it will take several years of bumper main summer seasons at home (or abroad for the outbound operators) to compensate and paydown accumulated debt arising from lost business from March 2020 and, lest we forget, in many cases, still ongoing.

Last week’s comments from the CEO of Whitbread which were largely picked up in business pages, where particularly revelling. Given the ubiquitous nature of their accommodation and hospitality products, its popularity across mid-range business and leisure markets and the sheer scale of this publicly listed company, I am inclined to look to their comments as an accurate and honest, bellwether for much of the popular domestic industry (Whitbread can hardly risk overstating their market performance for marketing purposes): https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-56898843

Last week saw the deadline for the DCMS DMO review submissions. This isn’t the end of the process and we can now look forward to the review team publishing its findings and consulting further in we understand a series of regional meetings. The timeframe is likely to be very short with next steps in late June early July. Colleagues are urged to continue to actively engage in the process and be ready to react to short-notice opportunities during what is going to be an increasingly busy period for all destination managers. The submissions were important, the findings, whatever they may be, absolutely critical to the way destination management develops within England over the coming decade. Unfortunately, it isn’t a simple issue and on balance the opportunities to get wrong are probably greater than the opportunities to get it perfectly right for every destinations of any significance in England. For those who are interested our submission and that of the Tourism Alliance can be accessed at: https://britishdestinations.net/consultation-responses/open-consultations/independent-review-of-destination-management-organisations-dmos-consultation-closes-28-april-21/

Any additional local intelligence on current and future predicted performance that you may have from your own destinations would be most welcome. It not only help us better understand the emerging situation but also allows us to communicate that to other key trade partners and to National Tourist Boards and National Government across the UK.

Countdown to English DMO review

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There are 14 days left to the closing date for DMO review submissions on 28 April. In the Britishdestinations.net page containing the link t the consultation document included a number of strategic concerns, potential additional issues that had emerged from initial discussions with member destination managers (see for more detail: https://britishdestinations.net/consultation-responses/open-consultations/independent-review-of-destination-)management-organisations-dmos-consultation-closes-28-april-21/) .

Subsequent areas for consideration and potential inclusion in British Destination’s own response and those of individual DMO may now include:

We all understand the complexity of the DMO landscape (arguable created or induced by previous reviews of National and Regional Tourist Board structures, changes to regional and local government structure, funding and priorities, and of course as a result of earlier DMO reviews) but it can’t be assumed that those conducting the review will understand that complexity either in its totality or in the case of each DMO responding.

Individual responses need to clarify what the roles of the individual DMOs responding are, who are the stakeholders, how they are funded how the work with other DMO and services providers below, alongside and above, the division of responsibility and how those activities are funded or contracted. This might usefully be achieved within an annex or using a simple wiring diagram with notes? Unless the extraordinary diversification which has evolved to cope with local circumstances and realities is illustrated its critical yet usually fragile nature will be entirely missed. In the wort case that could result in the review we gifting us unrealistic, unworkable one size solutions, in a world where we move well beyond returning to that idealist position.

Market failure needs to be discussed and not simply in the traditional context that the typical tourism market does not naturally support the necessary destination place making, the administrative and coordination functions of destination management, nor the distant domestic or international destination marketing needs. Market failure should also look at the rapidly changing impacts of online sales, the growing power of OTAs and of sharing platforms. No longer is it a given that the individual business can’t reach far flung markets, albeit now at the cost of a considerable commission on each actual sale. However, this exacerbates the free loader problems of our traditional understanding of tourism market failure and adds a new dimension.

With few exceptions OTAs and sharing platforms don’t support the symbiotic relationship between the multitude of different businesses and the recognised destination within which they sit but rather create a parasitic relationship, feeding of the lifeblood created by years of good destination management and marketing to create a place people recognise and wish to visit. Ask a sharing platform to promote a destination in order to help enhance that attraction and in doing so drive business to that platform and they will use their growing market dominance, to seek considerable payment for the privilege. That isn’t how local destination partnership function and isn’t what most destinations can afford to do. Notes on the traditional form of tourism market failure produced within DCMS but never published can be assessed at: https://britishdestinations.net/strategies-and-policies/tourism-industry-strategies-policies/market-failure-in-tourism/

The critical role of DMO’s of all types and sizes in communications, coordination and direct business support during the pandemic needs to be highlighted (where it has happened). That role which functions largely unnoticed during normal times has been a godsend especially for an industry largely based on SMEs and micro businesses. False lessons, like the ability of some national bodies to engage directly with an artificially attentive, often enforced idle and therefore largely captive audience needs to be called out. Busy small businesses often need to be forced to water and made to drink and in normal times that can only be done by knowledgeable and engaged mangers using bespoke means and methodologies for the latest set of circumstances.

The role played by some destination management organisations, in providing critical local tourism value and volume measurement, research and statistics should also be highlighted. This is a function more likely to be retained by those DMOs that are public sector based, as business interest aren’t keen on funding general research not directly related to their own business or specific business purposes. The provision of good quality comparable tourism statistics has not simply proved its worth during covid-19 but it is likely to become even more critical as tourism redevelopment and investment starts to have to fight its own corner in fewer bigger funding streams but in direct competition with much higher productivity sectors, with potentially more compelling stories to tell. National tourism statistic (designed largely for use at National and down to English Regional level) remain vital. However, these survey-based estimates were suspended during the pandemic, informed guestimates have been produced in the absence of key survey data. The baseline and methodologies for future data sets will now be reset, so there will be no longer term comparability before 2021/22. Further losses of already sparse local data collection can’t be allowed to happen.

A combination of covid-19 and the development of new routes to and new products in the market have brought the issues of legal compliance, inspections, self assessment, the role of user reviews and the like back to the fore. Going forward do we wish to see at one extreme an unregulated and unchecked free for all, or as is a now, a traditional regulated trade, increasingly questioning why it should follow regulation that others don’t and a new and burgeoning unregulated group of businesses which, at least as far as taxation is concerned, are increasingly being drawn back under a more traditional regulatory regime. Destination management bodies and especially those operating within or alongside local authorities have an increasing role to play in ensuring that the core standards meet: destination brand, customer and minimum legal standards, whether those standards delivered or maintained via gentle coercion, commercial quality assurance schemes and/or robust application regulatory controls (the later increasingly difficult as a consequence of austerity measures). Covid-19 has reinforced the view that meeting necessary standards can’t simply be left to the individual consumers, individual businesses or simple market forces to police and while customer review has a role to play in informing opinion, inspection has a bigger role in both informing businesses of and in then maintaining standards.

If business can’t or won’t support destination management and marketing alone and Central Government is reluctant to enable local government to do its necessary share then there are few other alternatives but to look to the consumer and in all likelihood toward a simple tourism tax, which for ease of application would have to be accommodation based.

The continuation of an application based competitive bidding solution as per the Discover England Fund is not the solution, particularly if the focus remains stubbornly set on international marketing. The vast majority of destinations need t spend their limited funds where their stakeholders decree and for most that is the 80% national average (often high 90s) domestic market. Bidding for money for activities you don’t want or can’t afford in a process that you are not staffed to conduct results in the engagement of a few not engagement of the majority. That majority represent the interest of some of the hardest to reach businesses and arguably those most in need and most likely to benefit from support and engagement with and from national bodies.

Is the review aiming to simplify engagement for the benefit of the centre or to improve engagement for the maximum number of businesses at the coal face currently, for good reason, serviced by a multitude of different types styles and sizes of DMO often working together on different aspects of destination management and marketing across overlapping geographical areas.

Not all of these theme will be appropriate for individual responses assuming that you agree with the thrust of any or all of them. However, unless some DMOs expand their responses into wider and associated areas the review will only get answers to the questions it directly posed.

Joint DMO proposal Aug 2020

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I have been agonising over whether or not to alert colleagues in England to a paper published last year.

When published and seen in the context of it being a plea for urgent funding support there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. Seen 5 months later in the context of an on going review of DMOs and in the light of information that suggests not all destination and destination management partners who, with the benefit of hindsight might or should have been informed, if not consulted, it could well be seen potentially in a different light.

There is no indication that all 20 of the original DMOs wish to pursue the proposal into the current DMO review and frankly nothing wrong with it if the do. The problem is the inference from August 2020 paper that this has broad support from the 90 % of other successful DMOs that could and would in all likelihood be negatively effected by it.

If you are already aware of an outline proposal to form and a support a network of 20 existing DMOs in England and content with it then that is reassuring. If not you may wish to visit and read more at: https://britishdestinations.net/599-2/content/joint-dmo-review-proposal-aug-20/

Key consultation update and new research added

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1. You are probably aware that on 1 March DCMS announced a review of DMOs in England. I have been waiting until the consultation document published yesterday became available before alerting you to the opportunity and I would suggest the pressing need to respond to the consultation which closes on 28 April 21. Although about DMOs in England there may be good reasons for colleagues from other Home Nations to consider contributing?

Access to the consultation, together with a number of early observation gleaned from discussions with member destination managers has been posted under the “Consultations tab of Britishdestinations.net or go to the page at: https://britishdestinations.net/consultation-responses/open-consultations/independent-review-of-destination-management-organisations-dmos-consultation-closes-28-april-21/

2. I have added three covid-19 related research documents received this week to the “C19 Research” tab including the latest from ALVA on attractions and Hotels Solutions on the accommodation sector: https://britishdestinations.net/c19-research/

3. The Governments subsidy consultation closes on 31 March 21. Although the detail is likely to be addressed by most local authorities and other due to importance of “state aid rules” as were and what will now replace them there are three practical areas we feel should be aired:

  • The consultation ask whether more favourable threshold should be applied for particularly deprived areas. We would encourage support for this, not least because historically many tourist areas are particularly deprived and could benefit from this concession.
  • Although there is no indication that the Westminster Government are planning to change the levels down to which they measure key economic data, now we have left the EU, it would be legally and practically possible for them to do so. Measurement down to “super output areas” is vital, again not least because that level of granularity allows the identification of economic and social deprivation within destinations and tourism areas in otherwise apparently affluent regions and to pinpoint pockets within destinations and tourism areas down to ward or smaller areas. Any temptation to change the statistical base should be resisted.
  • Combining the two points having identified pockets of deprivation down to super output area level and argued the case that the most deprived areas should be given more favourable conditions for future “subsidy” it may also be worth pointing out that such subsides should not necessarily be tied for deployment specifically in those super output areas themselves. From a tourism prospective, in coastal resorts for example, the pockets of deprivation may lie close to but not in the core resort area and it may be necessary to deploy the subsidy in to less deprived areas in order to improve the economic lot of neighboring deprived area. There is no indication that future subsidy is going to be geographically tied, but again entirely new circumstances could permit it, hence the perceived need to head it off during the early consultation stage, rather than try to correct it after the event.

The consultation can be found in the dropdown list from the consultation tab of Briishdestinations.net or go direct to the page at: https://britishdestinations.net/consultation-responses/open-consultations/beis-subsidy-control-consultation-closing-31-mar-31/

4. And final there been a flurry of reports around the recent UBER High Court finds. Subsequently it appears that UBER may still be resisting the full implications of the ruling to treat drivers as employed staff. Nonetheless, this is a significant change that impacts on the rest of the gig economy and adds to the view that both the gig and sharing economies may well be in the process of being drawn towards and into the traditional more regulated economy, rather than the regulated and higher taxed models falling away in their entirety: https://britishdestinations.net/tourism-the-sharing-economy-and-its-wider-implications/gig-economy/ and some older but relevant sharing economy articles at: https://britishdestinations.net/tourism-the-sharing-economy-and-its-wider-implications/

Time sensitive consultation

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The Westminster Government launched a two week consultation commencing yesterday 16 May 21. Its a very short, very opened ended consultation document with the stated aims:

“The government will assess to what extent certification would be effective in reducing risk, and its potential uses in enabling access to settings or relaxing COVID-secure mitigations”

and

“The government is looking to consider the ethical, equalities, privacy, legal and operational aspects of a potential certification scheme, and what limits, if any, should be placed on organisations using certification”.

Certification could be apply to either and/or both inoculation or negative testing. There is no detailed context given as to what for, example, testing means, (type of test), when and where or how long before the activity being undertaken a test might be needed, or indeed what activities from air travel, to larger events certification might be applied to, other than these measures must obviously have to relate to an activity that may remain restricted by covid secure guidelines going forward, or there would be no point in certification. Nor are the restriction that might be relaxed discussed or the degree to which they might be adjusted by certification specified. Neither are there presumption made about the obvious practicalities, from the costs carried by whom? to how or by whom certification could or would be run, either nationally or at the point of use. I.e. national public or commercial programme or local public or more likely commercial solutions?

It is a Westminster consultation but some of the direct or indirect implications may effect other Home Nations policies, either direct or indirectly, so it may still be of importance to colleges operating outside England.

From a destination prospective the most immediate issues will be around the potential benefits for major conference, events, exhibitions and cultural activities but there also some potential implications for other activities sector and sub sectors within the visitor economy.

Conceivably, certification could(may well?) form the basis for management of covid-19 post removal of all restrictions, acting as an alternative to future lockdowns and the reintroduction of mitigation like social distancing at seat service etc. so there may be good reason for us all to engage in the consultation regardless of whether you are involved locally in seemingly more relevant areas like major event planning and delivery: COVID-Status Certification Review – Call for evidence – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) the terms of reference for certification review which don’t add much more than the consultation itself are at: TORs – Certification Review (publishing.service.gov.uk)

Covid-19 roadmap and other updates

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We have now had the outline of the roadmap out of lockdown for both Wales and England, with Scotland’s details to follow tomorrow and Northern Ireland’s next week. Subject to certain conditions being met it is now clearer what the earliest date for lifting of certain restrictions will be in England and Wales. It is now certain that Easter is essentially written off for the tourism industry in England, whilst in Wales there may yet be some relaxation to allow limited opening for Easter, subject to the Welsh data nearer the time. Details of the announcement for England can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/prime-minister-sets-out-roadmap-to-cautiously-ease-lockdown-restrictions. The information available thus far leaves a considerable number of questions unanswered. Doubtless more details and clarification on specific sectors, subsectors and business types will emerge as the week progresses.

Meanwhile, as a light distraction, I have added more research, including the latest Clearsights update, under the C-19 research menu tab Britishdestinations.net. Go direct to the page at: https://britishdestinations.net/c19-research/ . In addition I have also added links to typical article on last week’s Supreme Court ruling on the UBER driver’s employment status. The court’s finding and the associated potential implications for UBER’s VAT status should have profound implications for he wider gig economy and by implication for a range of other internet disruptors who have benefitted from using the gig economy and gig workers to help them undercut traditional retail, transport and other business models. Not only may it help in time to level the cost base of doing business but it may give Government some further incentive and greater impetuous to apply a range of rules and regulation more evenly: https://britishdestinations.net/tourism-the-sharing-economy-and-its-wider-implications/gig-economy/

Links to important UK Government consultation and new research added

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Two items to draw to your attention:

1. BEIS have launched a consultation on new post BREXIT Government subsidy controls, closing on 31 March. While I am sure it will get a lot of responses, particularly from Local Authorities, I am less certain that tourism will feature as strongly as it could or should. For example, there is a golden opportunity to get the visitor economy and tourism recognised within sector specific provisions and to get the more economically deprived areas, that are often highly tourism dependent, mapped and specifically identified within the future UK subsidy control measures. A brief summary and link to the consultation can be found in the open consultation dropdown menu from the “Consultations” tab on Britishdestinations.net, or go direct to this page at: https://britishdestinations.net/consultation-responses/open-consultations/beis-subsidy-control-consultation-closing-31-mar-31/

2. I have added the February BVA BDRC ClearSights on recovery report to the “C19 Research” main menu tab, or again go direct to the page at: https://britishdestinations.net/c19-research/

I would be grateful if you would consider raising the consultations existence and the perceived opportunities around highlighting the visitor economy and tourism in any local responses with those most likely to be tasked with responding locally.

CEO VisitBritain Sunday Times Travel Article

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You might be interested in seeing a copy of a consumer facing Q & A article with Sally Balcombe CEO VisitBritain from the latest edition of the Sunday Times (31 Jan 21).  The link to the subscription only page is: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/visitbritains-ceo-sally-balcombe-our-vaccine-progress-gives-us-a-big-competitive-advantage-9zckcqvvn .

For ease a photo of an original copy can be accessed here:

Covid-19 update pm 29 Jan 21

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We have added a copy of the latest British Destinations’ destination managers’ 21 Jan 21 meeting notes, together with the eighth edition of Hotel Solution’s “From Survival to Recovery” report to our C19 research page on Britishdestinations.net. Please note, the first few sentences of this page contains fixed links to other sources of covid-19 research including the VisitEngland consumer sentiment tracker currently on its 23rd wave. Links to new material are added in date order immediately below that: https://britishdestinations.net/c19-research/ .

The destination managers’ meeting was attended by c 20 member representatives. The notes are intended as a means of briefing those members unable to attend, rather than a record of proceedings for those that did. The meetings allows hard pressed managers to share experiences and undertake a reality check on their own situation and emerging plans. It also ensures that the secretariat have an up-to-date understanding of the current situation and clear direction regarding immediate and the longer term actions required.

The next meeting will take place in early March, post the 3 March Westminster budget (date and details to follow). If you are not in receipt of the invitations to these meetings please let me know. Certain selected, non-member guests may also be included, again please let me know if you would like your attendance to be considered.

New short report with potentially big implications for tourism

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I want to draw your attention to a short report from the Economic Statistic Centre of Excellence (ESCE) issued on 14 January. The report’s authors question the current accuracy of the recent key ONS employment data/estimates, the Labour Force Survey (LFS). Data they say, through no fault of their own, ONS has compiled using assumptions, the validity of which ESCE report questions, given the unprecedented effects of covid-19 on the well-established, tried and tested patterns. This is then compounded by the unavoidable cancellation of key surveys, IPS included and, lower than normal levels of response to those surveys still being undertaken. Even with a layman’s level of understanding of statistics, I can appreciate that quality of both the assumptions and results of the surveys used in conjunction with them to create national estimates, will be critical to the quality of those estimates, like the LFS. I also appreciate it is rare for either the assumptions or the surveys to be critically weakened by external events and unprecedented for it to happen to both concurrently, as appears could be the case in 2020.     

The report does not claim to be definitive but rather says that the concerns that it raises about LFS are worthy of further, urgent investigation.  I tend to agree and it is in support of that argument that I am acting to try and help make sure the issues are aired nationally and confirmed or denied as a matter of urgency. I do so because if they are right, in terms of scale and/or the nature of employments most effected, it could well have profound implications for our understanding of and the strategies used to support, tourism and the visitor economy, now and well into any future recovery.

I think it is important to read the report (blog) which runs to approximately 4 sides, in full and draw your own conclusions.  In essence, what I believe it suggests is that due to covid-19 impacts on themselves or their employment a figure of up to 1.3m European and foreign adults of working age may have left the UK last year unrecorded within the LFS or elsewhere. This potential 1.3m includes, they believe, a disproportionately high number of those most likely to have been employed in hospitality, arts and entertainment. London is said to have been particularly effected.    

The report itself doesn’t say it but if they are correct, in the short term that might, for example, reduce some of the secondary impacts on the UK economy (a good thing?) but equally it could result in an underestimate of scale and direct damage done to those industries involved (a bad thing)? Once a recovery starts some of those 1.3m may not be inclined or, due to the concurrent effects of BREXIT I am presuming, may not be able to return to the UK to resume their former employment?  That might be a positive initially, reducing competition for scarce job opportunities but sooner or later it could well become a major negative holding back full recovery and prospects for future development due to skills and workforce shortages? There could of course be many other potential implications I have not yet even considered.

All of this is speculation but I can speculate because of the uncertainties raised by the Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence report. I do so to illustrate why I have a hunch that their report may be far more important than it might initially appears and to show why I might think that this is something that may need to be formally aired nationally and resolved, one way or the other, as soon as it can be. I hope you will agree; if you do, or especially if you don’t, please let me know, if only to help me to decide how much time and effort, if any, to throw behind what for now is essentially an exercise in red flag waving. Hopefully, others may have also picked up on the potential significance and it will not be an overly onerous task.

I have added the link to the report to our C19 research page on Britishdestinations.net. Access it from the C19 research menu tab, or go direct to it at: https://britishdestinations.net/c19-research/