Memorandum submitted by South West Tourism
South West Tourism as the Regional Tourist Board
for the South West of England is pleased to be invited to submit
evidence to this Committee. It will be represented at the hearing
by its Chief Executive Malcolm Bell.
This paper details the importance of tourism
to the South West of England and in particular the importance
and proportion of tourism that is based on the rural countryside
assets of the region. The paper details the actions taken to promote
tourism and inform potential visitors since the outbreak of foot
Finally, the paper details the impact, so far,
and projected potential impact of foot and mouth on tourism in
the South West. It concludes with some suggestions on the effective
use of promotion information to limit the damage caused on tourism
by foot and mouth and to assist in the recovery of the tourism
and rural economy.
2. TOURISM IN
The South West of England has long been a major
regional tourism destination. Tourism activity is an integral
part of the region's economy. It is affected by, and interacts
with, both the environment and local communities, which together
help to form the varied character and nature of the region and
its life. The South Westwhich like an extended triangle
stretches from Cheltenham and Swindon in the "east"
to Penzance (and the Isles of Scilly) in the far South Westis
by far the largest of the English regions and has the lowest overall
As a peninsula, it has over 500 miles of coastlinemuch
of it designated "Heritage Coast" for its beauty and
"unadulterated" nature. Over a third of its land area
is designated as of national importance in landscape quality terms.
It is those qualities which have helped to underpin its position
today as a major UK tourism destination.
Today, despite variously changing markets and
the expansion of a more global tourism economy (this time stimulated
by another revolution in mass travelthe passenger airliner),
the South West has retained a pre-eminence within the overall
British tourism economy. The value of its main holiday tourism
is still greater than that for Scotland and Wales combined andin
overall tourism volume and value termsit remains the leading
tourism region in England.
There are many world famous tourist destinations
in the South West but the regional tourism offering can be categorised
in five core attractions:
Cities, Cathedral, Abbey and Spa
townsBath, Exeter, Cheltenham.
Coastal areasCornwall, Devon,
Dorset and Somerset coastal zones.
Rural PlaygroundDevon, Somerset,
Dorset, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire.
National ParksDartmoor, Exmoor
and Forest of Dean, New Forest.
Scale/Pattern of Tourism
The South West receives twice as many British
visitors as any other regionmost come from three to four
hour drive time distance (London/S East/Midlands)and increasingly
from within the region itself.
It remains the single most popular destination
It attracts each year around*:
21 million UK trips (one in five
of all trips in England).
2.2 million overseas trips (around
one in 10 of all visitors to the region).
It accounts for 10 per cent of the region's
GDPlarger than banking, agriculture or many other sectors.
around 225,000 jobs (one in 10 of
all jobs in the region).
11,000 businesses in accommodation/attractions
£5,754 million spend benefiting
tourism related businesses across the Regiongenerated mainly
by UK visitors.
Over 60 per cent of all tourism spend is located
within Cornwall and Devon; this pattern is only gradually changing.
*Based on 1997 statistics for the whole S West
Just under 40 per cent of the South West Tourism
spend is directly attributable to the rural and national park
Rural Tourism accounts for £2,300 million
of tourism spend each year;
Farm Tourism in particular has become vital
to providing farm businesses with income at a point in time when
often the farm income itself is marginal or even non existent;
Rural tourism has become vital for many isolated
"poor" communities where it accounts for over 50 per
cent of GDP in those areas.
There are four clear priorities for tourism
The eradication of foot and mouthuntil
foot and mouth has been eradicated we will always be in a damage
limitation exercise particularly for the National Parks, Rural
and to a lesser degree Coastal tourism product.
Opening up of public assetstourism
relies on access to publicly owned assets most notably in the
South West being the coastal paths, key internal paths across
large sways of the country and country parks and the open moor.
Whilst these assets are partially, if not totally, closed it makes
the selling of the tourism product difficult and the argument
that the countryside is open tenuous.
Promotion and informationit
is clear from our experience at Easter that it is vital to provide
the information in an easy format for the public to absorb. The
clear message that there was still a lot for our visitors to do
was clearly understood by the customer and resulted in the benefits
for the cities and towns, resorts and to a lesser degree the coastal
products. Whilst the rural product continued to suffer 50 per
cent reductions in business.
Business supportthere are
businesses particularly on the Moors, in the Forest of Dean and
in the deep rural and farm tourism sector who are in danger of
going into bankruptcy in the next few weeks. This is due to the
blighted nature of their product and they require intensive business
support and financial help if they are to survive long enough
for when the business returns in sufficient numbers.
4. ACTIONS TAKEN
During the first few weeks of the FMD crisis
the priority has been on information on the product available
and promotion to the local and loyal/repeat customer, this consisted
Promotion via press advertising on
the London Underground and national newspapers. The purpose being
to stimulate and generate enquiries with a particular emphasis
on the westcountrynow.com website. This website was linked to
all other public websites and there was a rapid rise in traffic
from around 50,000 unique visits per week to over 111,00 visits
Public Relationsusing a crisis
PR company to assist South West Tourism to manage the message
and gain maximum exposure for the positive activities and offering.
Informationthis was provided
through the westcountrynow.com website, using additional information
pages, a newspaper supplement distributed throughout most of the
region and to all Tourist Information Centres (over 1.6 million
produced and distributed before Easter.)
5. IMPACT OF
The impact of foot and mouth on the South West
Tourism industry began towards the end of February and accelerated
through March and the first week of April. The complete closure
of many of the regions assets meant that all sectors of tourism
suffered, albeit some suffering more than others ie Farm Tourism,
the Moors, Devon and Forest of Dean tourism.
This resulted in on average a 30 per cent drop
in bookings for March and more worryingly a significant reduction
in forward bookings for May, June and early July. To date the
loss of business in the South West has been calculated at £50-£60
million in March together with a further £45 million lost
business in the first half of April including Easter.
The total loss of business over the year is
difficult to calculate at present, but is likely to be in the
range of £300 million-£600 million. This total impact
is calculated by looking at the proportion of the South West tourism
sector that is based on rural farm and moorland tourism (£2.3
billion per annum). At present over 50 per cent of this business
is being lost and we are predicting that even with a recovery
in the summer and the autumn, business will not fully recover
during this year and probably not for a further one to two years.
Therefore, if the overall reduction in trade for this sector is
20 per cent over the yearthis is calculated on the assumption
of a 30 per cent to 50 per cent loss in the first half and a 10
per cent loss at other times.
The clear conclusion from the experience in
the South West at Easter is that advertising, promotion and information
are key weapons to ensure that the damage to tourism is limited.
However, this damage limitation can still only be achieved in
certain market areas ie resorts and cities. These sectors could
even benefit this summer from transference of business from the
inland to the coast.
However, there is a different picture for the
National Parks, Forest of Dean, Farm Tourism and the rural product.
These have and are likely to suffer from between 50-100 per cent
losses. There was no discernible increase in trade over Easter.
The positive message is that information and promotion did work
at Easter and ensured that the public knew there were plenty of
things to do and they chose, they camealbeit late and went
earlyand enjoyed Easter and this bodes well for the main
summer school holiday season.
The challenge we face is three-fold, namely:
The promotion of the shoulder season
particularly May, June and the first half of July. If we do not
get increased trade across the whole region and throughout all
sectors then tourism's profitability and viability will be greatly
affected. We will also need to ensure that we prepare for a comprehensive
and effective autumn shoulder campaign to bring back the business
that did not come in the spring to the region.
We need to prepare for an effective,
aggressive and sustained campaign to help the blighted areas of
the region and in particular farm tourism, National Parks and
the Forest of Dean and the rural/countryside product.
Finally, we have to prepare for extensive
campaigns in the new and overseas markets to generate the business
that we would have started to be getting if it was not for foot
and mouth and to put on track again the growth and development
of tourism in the South West.