Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 110 - 119)



  Chairman: Thank you very much for coming. Mr Fearn.

Mr Fearn

  110. Good morning. In the debate yesterday I asked questions on the £35.5 you had requested. That is, I presume, the minimum you require. £3.8 is what you have had so far and £1.4 you have passed on to the regional tourist boards. What have they done with the £1.4 and how near are you to getting the £35.5?

  (Ms Lynch) On the regional tourist board allocation we initially asked all the regions to make proposals to us about how they felt they could most usefully use any money which was available because, as you heard this morning, the scale of the problem varied enormously from region to region and the kind of activities needing to take place varied. The basic thing we allocated for straight away was an amount for crisis management. Many people had to bring in staff or have people working seven days a week, so it was just to cover the physical personnel. We allocated immediate funds for public relations activity and we allocated funds for a variety of marketing activity which did vary from region to region. Finally, we allocated funds for providing tourist information to support the hotline on a seven day a week basis, because it was obvious that the public badly needed good quality and up-to-date information at a local level. So we put in place a national hotline and that was supported by regional and local hotlines very locally.

  111. I have spoken to some of the boards. The crisis really began on 19 February, when did you actually set in being the motions you have just outlined?

  (Ms Lynch) The first formal discussion we had was with the Tourism Minister on 26 February but I was talking to the regional tourist board directors in the few days before that, so it was within the first week of the outbreak because it was obvious very early on that this was going to have a major impact on the tourism industry. 26 February was when the chairman met the Tourism Minister at another event and gave her the first briefing on the issue.

  112. Is that when the 3.8 came or did you have to wait for that?

  (Mr Britten) That was merely an early discussion of the issue. I raised it at the Secretary of State's tourism summit which was of course attended by MAFF and other ministers. It was not until after the meeting with the Prime Minister we got the £3.8, but that was a significant point. We met with the Prime Minister on 20 March and on that date things did start to move extremely quickly. Fairly shortly after that, we got the £3.8 million which was our request for short term funds, the same day as the BTA got their £2.2 million.

  113. It is a pity, is it not, you had to go to the Prime Minister to get that first kick start, five weeks after the crisis started?

  (Ms Lynch) Just to clarify, the Tourism Minister called a meeting of industry representatives on 15 March and at that meeting we tabled a formal proposal for what we thought was required. We had been in discussions with the regional tourist boards between the beginning of the crisis and 15 March to collect their views about what was required. We said straight away there would be short, medium and long-term implications of this and that we needed to make sure we were putting a balanced proposal together and not just reacting to the immediate issues. The meeting with the Prime Minister came after the first Rural Task Force and after the first DCMS-initiated meeting where we talked about this as an issue. The other point I would make is that as the first two weeks evolved, the mindset of everybody changed. Certainly the message people had in the first week or two was this was an agricultural problem and a problem which was being handled by MAFF. All of us in the tourism industry did not know a great deal about foot and mouth, and we have learnt a great deal about foot and mouth, and we did not understand the scale of the problem we were about to deal with and the tentacles of the impact. So between the first couple of weeks and putting our formal proposal, we were actually collating ideas about how to deal with this impact, and while we were putting some initial ideas together we were actually quite concerned we presented a coherent and total package to DCMS and the Treasury.

  114. So MAFF did not go to you and say, "There is going to be a big problem" straight away, you had to start fishing around for your own information?

  (Mr Britten) Yes. I think there is a very different view legitimately taken between something that you think is a crisis which can be brought under rapid control and eradicated, and that takes one course of action, and something which you see as a national crisis which is not under control and is spiralling upwards. In the early stages everybody thought it could be brought under control fairly quickly, at least that was the received information as far as we were concerned. Our information, I am sure Mary would agree, came primarily from the regional tourist boards who were telling us how serious things were.

  115. You have no marketing budget?

  (Mr Britten) We have no marketing budget.

  116. What have you done about that?

  (Mr Britten) It has been a source of discussion, as you know, since the English Tourism Council was set up in July 1999. There is no doubt foot and mouth has highlighted a lot of serious concerns which were evident earlier than that. We do believe there is a need for marketing funds for a national tourism board and we think the foot and mouth crisis has made that more obvious than it was before.

  (Ms Lynch) We recognised from day one that in the short-term tactical marketing would be critical, and in the medium and long-term image marketing and rebranding would be critical. To answer the question, what do we do about it, as soon as we knew there were resources available we created a marketing department and designed advertising and promotion campaigns.

  (Mr Britten) Chairman, what I said about marketing in no way is intended to undermine my firm belief that the strongest operational marketing for tourism is done through the regional tourist boards. I think that is an absolutely right decision but I believe there is a national requirement as well.


  117. But the regional tourist boards are not going to advertise in the New Yorker or the Melbourne Herald, are they? They do not have the money and they do not have the skill.

  (Mr Britten) No.

  Chairman: Again and again and again I have found since this Committee first looked into tourism this hugely valuable industry is chronically-under-valued at every level, including may I say by the press. It is not that I regard this Committee as the most important body in the world, it is only about the third most important, but at the same time when you have read the hysteria in newspapers and on the television about the effect on tourism you would have thought they might actually have strolled along to listen to what you, not we, were saying. With that I will move on to Mrs Golding.

Mrs Golding

  118. There are some long-term lessons to be learned, perhaps lessons you already knew about. They are going to be a big influence on the future policy and management of the tourist industry if we are lucky and if we grasp the opportunity. What do you think are the lessons to be learned? How do you think the policies need to change?

  (Mr Britten) If there is a total reappraisal, as there should be, of what money should be spent on tourism—and I agree entirely with the Chairman, it would be a fantastic investment for all of us as British citizens—there are a number of things which in our 18 months of existence have been apparent. One is a severe shortage of data, something the foot and mouth crisis has pointed up. We have the gravest difficulty collecting data, it is simply not available, we do not have proper data on leisure day visits, we just do not have the information to get our own story across, so that is a fundamental need. Half connected to that is the need for much better information technology. As has been said, I believe, a large number of the TICs, which are the backbone of tourist information, do not even have computers, and that is a major requirement. There is a need for a degree of national marketing. I think there is no capability for themed marketing. You can market perfectly well if there is money in the regions, but you still need a degree of themed marketing for people who want to make things like cathedral tours, tours of Roman Britain, that sort of thing. There is a need to promote quality standards very heavily. Quality standards are out there and they are very good but they are only as good as the consumer perceives them to be and we need much more consumer awareness in there. Also there is a need longer term to look at the actual positioning and tasks and roles of the regional tourist boards. They are going to be greatly affected by the IT revolution, by the emergence of more destination markets, and they need to address the marketing budgets which they have and also the potential conflict between their role as membership organisations and as public service bodies. That is a rough overview of the sort of things which should be considered.

  119. There obviously is a great need for much more linked-up and joined-up thinking on this. How are you going to manage this? You can say there is a need for it but who do you think should take control of it and knock heads together and say, "Right, we will all sit down together, National Heritage, everybody, and get our act together"?

  (Mr Britten) We do talk to my boss, the Secretary of State, and the Minister, and they have proved very open to suggestions. I am sure we will have a full review of the situation.

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