State of Tourism Industry
I strongly expect 2010 an election year, will turn out to be the most challenging price sensitive, leave it late to book in order to bag a bargain at a big discount year yet.
Let all of us in the tourist industry hope and pray that the sun comes out early and stays out all summer long.
The British media and the public sector kept reporting that 2009 was a bumper UK tourism season. Just presuming "nobody could afford to go away so they were bound to holiday at home" was a Fiction Production on the part of the British Media.
I have spent 30 years in the tourism industry, never before were discounts and special offers available during the peak summer holiday season. Without a doubt 2009 was the toughest trading year on record.
Worringly... increasingly tourist are finding last minute holiday bargains everywhere. So the days of full price advance bookings, and out of season deposits so essential for a healthy winter cash flow, look like they are on the way out. This may be not good for the consumer in the long run either, because most tourism businesses already work on very low margins. A damaging price war genie has been let out of the bottle.
FACT: Trade all over Southwest England was poor all year. The only sector not struggling was the cheaper end of the market e.g. The holiday park and booming C&C sector. London also had an early season mini boom due to the strength of the Euro.
There are a few long established, exceptions around who offer exceptional accommodation, services and/or good value and have good marketing skills.
FACT: UK residents still went abroad, both Easyjet and Ryan air reported an increase in passengers numbers. Heathrow passenger numbers were up too.
FACT: Discounts, special offers and added value extras have been available all year. This is unheard of in the self catering sector.
FACT: Late July & Early in August, a 5 minute internet search found one international, two of the biggest UK holiday cottage agencies, and most of the west country cottage letting agencies discounting vacant August weeks by 20% off the price, one offered upto 40% discount. The serviced sector is not as popular during peak summer weeks, so one can only imagine their despair at lack of trade.
16th August Butlins & Pontins say they are having a wonderful season with bookings up on morning Sky TV news. The day before 15th August, the Sun newspaper carried a double page advert featuring both holiday parks advertising a Last Minute Summer Sale with offers starting from 3 nights £78pp instead of £155pp. Hmmm
FACT 22nd August... the BBC report The TUC say there has been a large increase in unemployment at seaside resorts.
When will totally out of touch Visit Britain wake up to the obvious fact UK residents are NOT having a "stay-cation" in Britain. My local town Minehead... unemployment up by 110%. This huge increase is bound to be distorted by migratory young singles who prefer to live by the sea during the summer when unemployed. The winter figure will more accurately reflect the true state of affairs.
The unsettled summer weather of 2009 added to lack of trade caused by the credit crunch, people with money to spare who were undecided on a destination, will have booked a cheap flight to anywhere sunny or stayed at home.
Maybe an Indian Summer will save the day. If not a growing number of pubs, hotels and over borrowed tourism businesses will not be around to welcome guests in 2010.
The knock on effect on local economies re less visitor spend, must increase high street shop closures. Lack of essential winter upgrade investment by struggling tourism busnesses, will be another factor bringing increased unemployment to the southwest in the very near future.
Overall, increased global competition, lack of trade, dreadful weather, fragmented marketing, a failing grading system, (most seem to get awarded a bog standard 4 star ) also potential guests increasingly prefer to check out online reveiws before booking a place to stay) all add up to an industry in crisis.
Brand New Zealand v Brand Old Britain
I was honoured to be awarded a Winston Churchill Traveling Fellowship in 2007, which funded and opened official doors within Tourism New Zealand this allowed me to compare the marketing of New Zealand with Britain. I visited NZ during Jan and Feb 08. Below is my short report.
Tourism... arguably the world’s oldest and biggest industry is a global economic driver. After 6 weeks looking at New Zealand tourism industry in depth, I found a nation where almost everyone who earns the tourism dollar sings in tune from the same hymn sheet. Britain’s tourism industry would do well to learn a song or two from New Zealand.
N.Z network and pull together in one planned direction. In Britain every single tourism setup from the smallest to the biggest compete with one another for funding and customers. Its a historical problem, Britain's tourism industury evolved in a fragmented way. Brand New Zealand is fit for the future, Brand Britain past its sell by date.
New Zealand is marketed overseas as ONE branded destination by innovative people at Tourism New Zealand using a similar marketing budget to Visit Britain. N.Z. is domestically marketed by 8 Destination Marketing Organisation, ONE appointed body for each designated tourism area. N.Z adapted quickly to IT marketing promoting ONE superb website. The Qualmark Logo is everywhere. N.Z i-Sites are branded, well located, expected to be profitable and employ well trained logo dressed staff. Branding a county works, 100% Pure New Zealand tourism’s industry is worth 17.5 billion N.Z dollars a year, employing 1 in 10 people.
Aware of 20 years of my areas tourism issues, where since the demise of a proffessional tourism officer 15 or so years ago, public funding has flowed down deep drains on the advice of committees, mostly made up of the semi retired from other trades, serial committee seat collectors, people with their own agendas, and public sector bodies. The full time tourism proffessionals who can count beans, do not have time to attend these time consuming Hydra like, often squabbling, waffle meetings. Public Private Partnerships setups lack professional input and accountability.
I soon discovered that my areas fragmented marketing problems, also existed throughout Britain. When the oportunity to apply for a Winston Churchill Travel Award appeared on my doormat. I took full advantage to carry out an in depth study comparing Brand Old Britain with Brand New Zealand.
Shock Horror - The first thing I did, was look at Visit England's website where on the home page to my utter amazement was an unmissable top bar banner advert for a well know company advertising boating holidays on the Norfolk Broads, in Ireland and France.
This was wholly unethical and totally unfair on all of Visit England's officially inspected and graded tourism businesses.
The job of a marketing website is first and foremost to sell the destination and fill advertisers beds. All Visit Britain's accommodation providers were being betrayed for a few thousand pounds advertising fee.
Then I searched for Britain's best scenic areas National Parks, another shock ! All searches produced = London Parks & Gardens.
Tourism is languishing under the hobby and recreation department... Arts Media & Culture & Sport, the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform would seem more appropriate for Britain's 5th biggest income earner. With a bit of "strategic vision " The Tourist Industry could be a Key driver of economic recovery.
Visit Britain 2007 budget (overseas marketing) £35.5m
( Alledgely similar funding split in 2008)
Visit Scotland £21.7m
Visit Wales £13.5m
Visit England £12.3m
Northern Ireland Tourist Board approx £5m
Total approx £88m ( NOTE! not sure where this sum was spent )
Source Conservative Party Website
Why is England only alloted roughly half the overseas marketing funding of Scotland ?
Fragmentation at work.. Each country that make up the British Isles, then market their own bits of Britain to the same global customers.
However in England Visit Britain remit from Government is to allot tourism funding to all areas of England equally, be it a unsuitable northern industrial area or an area heavily and historically dependant on its tourism income such as southwest England. This may seem fair, but must have political implications, because its not a sensible marketing policy. My conclusion, South West England has drawn a very short straw in the funding stakes over the last few years.
Recently £8 million went to Yorkshire for tourism, alledgly from a diffrent funding pot, the RDA. And South West England received ? Not sure, but so little it managed to get the former CE of South West Tourism slate the unfairness of it in the media.
For example - Fragmented Devon has 8 diffrent public funded tourism groups, each marketing their own bits of Devon and a DMO to market Devon. This sort of fragmentation actually puts Devon locations into direct competition with each other, rather than create a strong Brand Devon. This is marketing madness, and a clear waste of public funding. This fragmented in house marketing strategy both local and national is clearly not working for Britain or Southern England.
My 2008 report concluded. Unlike New Zealand, in Britain tourism evolved without a plan. The way tourism is run and funded in Britain at local and national level is Fragmented, Tribal, Wasteful and Ineffectual. Britain's Tourism industry requires radical reform and re branding.
Everything has changed ... Britain's tourism industry lacks a strategy fit for the internet age, lacks a tourism minster, lacks proffessional input, lacks infrastructure investment in coastal resorts...lacks private sector marketing...lacks a strong Brand Britain.
Tamara Cody-Boutcher Tel 01643 841247
Updated Feb 2010
Please do not plaguerise this report, only use it to effect change.