Tourism Levies

This note outlines British Destinations’ ambition to raise the issues around the perceived need for improved and alternative funding models for destination management and destination marketing.  British Destination members are asked to indicate whether they support the objective in principle or not and to provide comment and any examples of their or other’s experiences in this area they may have.  Non-member destination’s views would also be welcomed, as would their support for this initiative. (send them here)

In 2017 the British Destinations board resolved to engender a full and frank debate at national through to local level on the requirement and options for new or improved funding models for destination management and, within that, for destination and higher level national and international marketing.

In particular, we wish to examine whether changed and changing circumstances, including a significant reduction in local through to national public core funding for destination level activity, now means that some form of customer based tourism levy may be necessary to help maintain and sustain destination management and marketing activities in most, if not all, recognized single point and area destinations.  We are taking no hard and fast view on what a customer based levy might look like in practice; part of the process is to understand all the available options and to seek to develop new and innovative ideas.

We are aware that several individual destinations have, or are now looking at, local options.  This local approach to a commonly contentious issue inevitably leads to bespoke solutions that aim to overcome specific local objections and obstacles. To date none have surmounted local or national trade association based opposition and certainly not to the point that they might reasonably achieve the necessary support from Government.  Workable new schemes that don’t need some form of legislative support to function have yet to be proposed.

We believe that by lifting the debate from purely local and therefore the individual destination level we may be able to find workable, semi template solutions that are applicable to a larger number, if not all, destinations; solutions that have support from a wider and large enough constituency to influence Government and others.  On this occasion an adaptable, one size fits all solution is probably desirable as it is far more likely to gain Government support.  The very act of looking at a legislative approach to destination management funding will also give us and others cause to examine how existing public, voluntary public/private and semi voluntary public/private sector (for example, Destination Business Improvement District) models may be improved and, thus sustained, as an alternative.

We are under no illusion about the scale or complexity of the task; the sheer variation in potential options and approaches, the multitude of pros and cons to each element and the potential for resistance from a mixture of residents, customers and businesses.  However, unless the options are examined and some improvements to funding and funding models are found many destinations will, on current trend, cease to be effectively managed and consequently will cease, over time, to be recognized: places, products and brands worthy of marketing as destinations at the sub-regional, regional, national or international levels. Sitting back and hoping that a destination will somehow develop a successful, transferable funding model on its own that, we can all then champion, is no longer a viable option.  The issues involved need to be forced to the foreground of national tourism debate and that needs to be done now, not later.

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