The formal submission to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) on behalf of the Great British and Northern Ireland Tourism Industry was submitted by VisitBritain last week.
The bid document comprises over 100 pages of which c 50 form the main body (page 7 to 57) and the remainder are annexes; within these annexes the comments from the SME consultation (pages 76 to 85) and the National and Regions’ round tables (pages 88 to 98) are probably of some background interest, highlighting as they do, additional areas of industry concern. It is relatively big document and, thus, a not a quick read. If you’re pressed for time a very short executive summary can be found at page 7 which will give you a basic idea of what is being sought.
Of particular, strategic interest to most destination managers will be the addition, since the original consultation process started, of a tourism zone proposal (page 28 to 32). You may also like to note that primary authority proposals that came from the work of the original deregulation subgroup have not been dropped from the bid but are now included at page 56 under the improving productivity section:
It is also worth noting that the zone proposals are for five, five-year pilots on a competitive (GB and NI) bid basis. Therefore those that wanting to achieve the status are going to have to fight for it and by default any potential benefits will not be available to those outside the zones, at least in the short to medium term.
I do have some initial questions about the zone’s suggested benefits, for example how the proposed 100% retention of new business rates growth for ring-fenced use in developing product and supporting tourism fits in with the still ongoing move towards local retention of all business rates in England? I also not totally convinced that the ability to extend permitted development rights and other planning amendments via Local Development Order doesn’t already largely exist? The issue is allowing it happen in such a way that it actually benefits the whole destination rather than one or two individual businesses; a particular problem for those destinations where the built or rural environment is one of the main attractions. I am also unclear about the desired scale of a zone and about the likely timescale for bidding both of which are of great relevance to anyone who might like to start considering submitting a zone bid. That probably will not now become clear unless and until the bid is approved. None of that is a game stopper and it is very much up the destinations or areas wanting to achieve tourism zone status to work out if and how it will benefit them.
The process from here is that BEIS considers the bid along with all those submitted over the summer by other industries. Previously our assumption was that reference to those sector bids approved will now be made during the budget announcement on 22 November, or fallout of the detail that accompanies it in the days that follow. Again that is not a certainty and there has recently been reference to negotiations being completed by the end of the year. The success of those negotiations depends on a number of factors including both DCMS and BEIS having total confidence that the bid has wide industry support. Many of those factors are now outside our control; however, making sure that confidence isn’t unintentionally eroded is something that is still very much within our joint gift.