The biggest tourism challenge the UK faces?
The Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s wide-ranging report into Tourism has been released this week with no fewer than 27 recommendations , all aimed at giving the sector a stronger voice in Government and a more powerful and robust future.
By its nature, this cross-party Committee had an exacting remit, tasked with considering visa and border arrangements, airport capacity alongside Air Passenger Duty, VAT and skills and training but also very much more.
So it was stimulating to see that coastal tourism was awarded serious consideration. The report says: “Reversing the decline in visitors to certain coastal places in the UK is, in the words of Bernard Donoghue of Leading Visitor Attractions, “the biggest tourism challenge the UK faces”.
To redress this, the Government launched the Coastal Communities Fund in 2012, the pot that funds the NCTA. Following our written and oral evidence, the Committee has welcomed the start of our work and dissemination of best practice for all coastal resorts, and recommends that this continue. Visit www.coastaltourismacademy.co.uk/resource-hub for a snap-shot.
To stress the importance of coastal tourism’s future, the report quotes its value, £4.3 billion for overnight domestic trips in England and £3.8 billion for day trips in 2012. It also quotes two key recommendations offered by the NCTA.
First, coastal resorts have a very high concentration of MSEs and low representation of corporate brands resulting in serious implications for delivering innovation and development.
Second, reduction in public sector funding at sub-national level has resulted in many coastal towns seeing significant cuts in tourism provision – often a seaside town’s major employer. Furthermore, not all Local Enterprise Partnerships place tourism high on their agenda, so this alongside a lack of private investment, can result in reduced tourism promotion, business support and market research.
So this report spells potential good news for coastal tourism – it recommends that the Coastal Communities Fund continues regardless of who wins the Election. The Fund has spent £116 million on 211 projects across the UK to date.
But the report also states that there’s a need to consider a successor fund, which might have a more focussed approach, targeting key destinations to benefit coastal communities.
Many seaside resorts comprise small tourism businesses that battle to make their voice heard. If this report’s recommendations are followed, their voice and that of the wider tourism industry is poised to get louder in the next Government.
By Sheron Crossman