Examination of Witnesses (Questions 110
THURSDAY 26 APRIL 2001
Chairman: Thank you very much for coming.
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
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.
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 tourismand
I agree entirely with the Chairman, it would be a fantastic investment
for all of us as British citizensthere 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
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