Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the English Tourism Council

TOURISM INFORMATION AND PROMOTION: THE CURRENT SITUATION

  Thank you for your letter of 6 April addressed to our Chief Executive, Mary Lynch in whose absence and on whose behalf, I am responding. We will, of course, be pleased to accept your invitation to attend and give evidence to the Select Committee on 26 April. Details of our witnesses (myself and Mary Lynch) are enclosed.[1] While we appreciate that your Committee will doubtless be well briefed on the tourism industry, it may find the following background statistics of interest:

TOURISM STATISTICS

  In 1999, tourism in the UK was worth approximately £64 billion (rural tourism £12 billion).

  UK tourism employs 1.86 million people (380,000 jobs in rural England) and has recently accounted for around one in four of all new jobs created.

  The tourism industry in England comprises in excess of 120,000 businesses, over 80 per cent of which employ fewer than 10 people.

  The local economic impact of tourism is very pronounced and has a high multiplier effect. Other businesses and suppliers heavily dependent on tourism spending include petrol stations, laundries, food suppliers, shops, pubs and further down the line, construction firms and financial services.

  We will be happy to respond on 26 April to any specific queries that the Committee may have. For the moment, however, this submission, is confined to a short account of ETC's actions and achievements since the outbreak of the crisis.

  1.  The English Tourism Council is represented on a number of foot and mouth-dedicated bodies, including the DETR's Rural Task Force, which is held on a weekly basis, and the Secretary of State's Tourism Summit. Since meeting the Prime Minister on 20 March, the ETC has also worked in very close, daily liaison with the Cabinet Office.

  2.  At the 20 March meeting the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State asked the ETC to create a Tourism Cabinet, to facilitate the review of current information and co-ordinate dissemination of messages and facts across the tourism industry. It is chaired by the ETC and meets weekly. Membership includes representatives from the Cabinet Office, Regional Tourist Boards, the Local Government Association, and from commercial enterprises and bodies such as the National Trust, Tussauds, Hoseasons and the British Hospitality Association.

  3.  In order to respond to the central role given to the ETC for the duration of the crisis, we created a project team, located in Thames Tower, and staffed among others by experienced tourism professionals (Elaine Noble, Tom Buncle, Malcolm Wood) and a secondment from DCMS. This group has been admirably supported by Regional Tourist Boards, TICs, destinations and attractions providing, despite the very low level of IT infrastructure, regular feedback from the front-line.

  4.  In fighting the negative impact of foot and mouth on the industry, public perception is crucial. ETC commissioned a survey of public attitudes, looking specifically at how those attitudes might affect the public's holiday intentions. A copy of the key findings is enclosed*. The results reflect a positive trend. Some 81 per cent of respondents agreed that there is plenty to do in the countryside. However, some ingrained negative perceptions remain and need to be addressed eg the belief that visitors to the country are likely to witness the destruction and disposal of animals. ETC has now commissioned focus group research to understand more about consumers' negative perceptions and to consider how these can best be corrected.

  5.  ETC produces a daily briefing for opinion formers. A copy of the most recent briefing is enclosed* and from this you will see that the briefing contains the latest information on facts and figures, key messages and relevant contacts.

  6.  ETC has prepared a Recovery Plan for the tourism industry and this has been submitted to Government in support of a bid for £35.5 million, being the sum estimated as needed to carry out the recommendations contained in the plan. Delivery will take place both at national and regional level. Together with the Regional Tourist Boards, ETC has received £3.8 million to implement the short-term measures identified in the plan. £1.4 million was immediately provided to Regional Tourist Boards.

  7.  In order to ensure that the public has access to the latest information about what is open and what activities they can enjoy in a particular part of the countryside, the ETC launched on 28 March its Visitor Hotline. The hotline, operated from a Call Centre in Chiswick, directs callers to the people (initially the local Tourist Information Centre but latterly Regional Tourist Boards), who can supply the most up-to-date details. The hotline has proved very popular, with some 10,000 calls being received during its first two weeks of operation. The hotline is supplemented by the website, www.openbritain.gov.uk which again, contains details of what the public can do in different parts of the country and specifically, allows the user to access information about some 15,000 attractions and events. The site received in excess of one million hits in one week.

  8.  On 5 April, the ETC launched a national advertising and promotional campaign, funded by part of the £3.8 million mentioned above, to encourage Easter holidaymakers to "getaway" on holidays and trips throughout England. The campaign emphasised that over three-quarters of visitor attractions in England were open and that many thousands of events were taking place. The advertising campaign will also target the two May bank holidays. Many of the regions have also run their own regional campaigns to encourage visitors back to the area. The campaigns have been successful with most regions reporting that bookings and attendance over the Easter weekend were not as poor as had been feared. Some areas, however, reported that they had been very badly hit, and forward bookings are very light indeed.

  9.  Throughout the Easter weekend, the ETC maintained a staff at Thames Tower co-ordinating the flow of information from Regions and tourism destinations, and meeting media requests. Mary Lynch gave 15 interviews on Easter Saturday alone.

  10.  On 11 April the ETC organised and ran a Tourism Forum, chaired by the Secretary of State, attended by some 120 leaders of the tourism industry. The Secretary of State took a wide-ranging series of questions from the floor in a lengthy but very constructive session, providing an opportunity for himself and the ETC to hear and react to concerns throughout the industry.

  11.  ETC has reached agreement with Tesco and BP to distribute 500,000 leaflets through their outlets, promoting short breaks, and featuring the Visitor Hotline number and RTB websites. Tesco and BP have agreed to support the promotion through 550 supermarkets and 1,290 petrol stations.

  12.  In all this work, ETC is liasing closely with its established partners, including the British Tourist Authority and the Regional Tourist Boards. In turn, the RTBs are themselves working at regional level with the Regional Development Agencies, the National Farmers Union and MAFF.

  I trust the Committee finds this information of assistance. If you feel that any particular point requires clarification, I will be happy to provide further details.

April 2001


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