Memorandum submitted by the Local Government
1. THE LOCAL
1.1 The Local Government Association (LGA)
was formed by the merger of the Association of County Councils,
the Association of District Councils and the Association of Metropolitan
Authorities on 1 April 1997. The LGA has just under 500 members,
including all 238 shire district councils, 36 metropolitan district
councils, 34 county councils, 47 English unitary authorities,
33 London authorities, and 22 Welsh authorities. The LGA provides
the national voice for local communities in England and Wales
and promotes democratic local government, delivering safe, prosperous,
healthy and pleasant communities.
2.1 Local authorities play a fundamental
role in the provision and promotion of tourist destinations. They
deliver a wide range of services to ensure a high quality and
safe visitor experience, including:
marketing and promotion;
building and planning control;
conservation of the natural environment
and Local Agenda 21 planning;
preservation of historic buildings;
coastal protection and beach cleanliness;
theatres and public halls;
footpath maintenance and development;
attractions eg museums and galleries;
car parks and park and ride schemes;
conference and event promotion; and
camping and caravan sites.
2.2 In addition to direct provision of services,
provide support and advice to tourism
businesses, particularly micros and SMEs;
research the volume, value, impact
and trends of tourism;
lead public/private sector partnerships
to develop a strategy for the future of the destination and its
ensure that tourism forms part of
a council's corporate strategy and community plan.
2.3 Of the 561 Tourist Information Centres
(TICs), over 90 per cent are provided by local authorities. It
is estimated that councils invest over £75 million in tourism
development and promotion (Tomorrow's Tourism).
3.1 Local authorities are playing an essential
role in curbing the spread of the foot and mouth disease and tackling
the effects of the disease on communities. This includes:
maintaining a safe network of public
footpaths and bridleways;
giving financial relief and advice
to affected businesses;
delivering personal and welfare support
to families and individuals in crisis;
providing landfill sites for the
burial of animal carcasses;
serving restriction notices on farms
and operating the animal licensing scheme;
providing up-to-date information
on the disease and its effects to residents, businesses and tourists
3.2 In response to the Committee's inquiry
into the promotion of the UK as a destination for overseas tourists
and the provision of tourism information to domestic and overseas
visitors, examples of the essential and effective role of local
authorities are given below. The LGA has defined "tourism
information" as covering practical guidance and promotional
messages, both of which are of value to the industry and its customers
3.3 It should be noted that the LGA's evidence
demonstrates that all types of tourist destinations are having
to support their local industry in response to foot and mouthcoastal
resorts, cities, market townsnot just rural locations.
3.4 The LGA has gathered these examples
of good practice through its close liaison with councils during
the crisis. The LGA itself has an important role in the foot and
mouth communication chain. The LGA is sending almost daily updates
to Chief Executives, sharing Central Government messages, LGA
advice and good practice from councils.
4. LOCAL AUTHORITIESGATHERING
4.1 The first step in the provision of tourism
information is the collection of reliable and up-to-date facts.
Local authorities have close relations with their local tourist
industry from accommodation providers to attractions, through
Chambers of Commerce, TICs, marketing partnerships and industry
fora. Therefore, councils are important in gathering and maintaining
information on what services and facilities are open for business
in the public, private and voluntary sector. Local authorities
have fed this into local, sub-regional and regional databases,
and onwards to the English Tourism Council and British Tourist
Authority, in order to enable the construction of a national picture
of the industry.
4.2 For example, Wiltshire Tourism has undertaken
two mail shots to over 700 tourism operators sharing useful foot
and mouth information and in return requesting details of opening
hours etc. Wiltshire TICs are collating the data for promotion
on the Wiltshire website and are sharing it with South West Tourism
and the Wiltshire Call Centre.
5. LOCAL AUTHORITIESENSURING
5.1 There are many vehicles for, and providers
of, information at local, sub-regional, regional, national and
international levels. In order to deliver a consistent message
to tourists it is essential for key players to share information
and work together. All over the country, both long-established
and newly formed partnerships are being used to maintain a flow
of information from the industry to the consumer. Local authorities
are working particularly closely with Regional Tourist Boards.
5.2 Plymouth Marketing Bureau established
the Plymouth Task Force on 15 March. This meets weekly to steer
the local response to foot and mouth and to engage key stakeholders,
especially from the accommodation and attraction sectors. By also
including elected members and the council's Press and PR Officer,
and linking into South West Tourism, Devon County Council and
DACOM (Devon and Cornwall Overseas Marketing Consortium), the
Taskforce can ensure all sectors of the tourist industry, at all
levels, are briefed with the same facts and guidance.
5.3 Lancashire County Council hosted a foot
and mouth conference on 11 April for officers from the county,
district and borough councils, the agriculture and tourism industries
and business advisers. Speakers included the Ministry of Agriculture,
Fisheries and Food, the National Farmers Union and the North West
Tourist Board. As a result of the conference, a task force has
been established to tackle county-wide strategic issues.
5.4 The majority of action outlined in this
submission is additional work, specifically in response to the
emergency created by foot and mouth. Local authorities are investing
significant additional funding to support their local tourist
industry, which will impact upon their future ability to invest
in tourism. Partnerships between local authorities enable them
to not only deliver a consistent message but also to pool resources.
For example, Gloucestershire Tourism has mounted a county PR campaign,
involving the county council and all six county district councils.
6. LOCAL AUTHORITIESDELIVERING
6.1 It is clear from the LGA's research
that local authorities are utilising a wide range of communication
methods to deliver a clear, consistent and easy to understand
message to tourists. Different vehicles appeal to and reach different
audiences and the main methods are highlighted below.
6.2 TOURIST INFORMATION
6.2.1 Over 90 per cent of the 561 TICs are
run by local authorities. They are the first place to which consumers
turn in search of domestic tourist information. All reports from
councils to the LGA are that the number of enquiries to TICs has
increased significantly during foot and mouth. TICs are advising:
visitors on what they can visit;
visitors on where they can stay,
walk, cycle, fish, ride etc;
visitors on what precautions they
should take; and
tourism operators on what services
they can offer their customers.
6.2.2 TICs in Cumbria are also acting as
a "sounding off" point, helping tourism operators to
release their feelings of frustration and isolation.
6.2.3 TICs are also an essential element
of the national response to tourist information needsthe
England Visitor Hotline, which has been established by the English
Tourism Council. This one, national telephone number redirects
callers on to the most appropriate information source for their
needsmainly Regional Tourist Boards and TICs.
6.2.4 The LGA has called on local authorities
to ensure TICs are fully equipped with well informed staff, in
order to support the Hotline, which is being heavily promoted.
Many local authorities have extended the opening hours of TICs,
particularly pre-Easter, in order to support the Hotline.
6.2.5 It is clear that local authorities
are using TICs to give factual information, to reassure customers,
to retain bookings and to promote new and alternative attractions.
For example, South Lakeland District Council has developed a series
of guided walks through towns and villages whilst fell walking
is not possible.
6.3.1 The Internet has been an invaluable
means of providing up to the minute consumer information. Like
many local authorities, in response to foot and mouth, Chester
City Council has created special tourist advice pages on its website
with both internal and external links to related webpages. This
is also backed up by a Chester tourist information hotline. In
Dorset, the County Council, with the support of its district and
borough councils, is collating and promoting all information on
open visitor attractions and events on its website. TICs are accessing
and downloading this information daily.
6.3.2 Whilst not all consumers have Internet
access, local authorities also provide mass access to electronic
information via computers in libraries and electronic information
points in shopping centres, TICs and other public places.
6.4 MEDIA CHANNELS
6.4.1 Television, radio and newspapers are
powerful means of communicating with mass audiences. It has been
evident that whilst the national media has focused upon the negative
impact of foot and mouth, there is more potential for local and
regional media covering "good news stories". Therefore,
local authorities have been using both the editorial and advertising
sections of a wide range and level of media.
6.4.2 The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead
sent its "open for business" press release, promoting
its Easter message that all but four of its 33 attractions were
31 editors of national newspapers;
six main tourism trade magazines;
56 regional news editors;
four major TV channels; and
6.4.3 Local authorities recognise the importance
of rallying the support of local people for the tourism industry
during the crisis, and the economic impact of the day trip market.
Local visitors can deliver immediate income for the industry whereas
the overseas market will take longer to win back. Local promotions
are therefore important. For example, coverage of the new Lancashire
"Great Days Out" brochure in the County Council's public
newspaper in March, which was sent to every household in the county,
generated over 300 brochure requests in just 14 days.
6.5 DIRECT MARKETING
6.5.1 Local authorities' provision of information
to tourists is both reactive and proactive. Councils are not just
ensuring that staff are ready to answer queries when approached
but are also sending positive messages directly to receptive audiences,
with the aim of securing continued support, interest and visits.
6.5.2 Restormel District Council is conducting
a direct mail campaign to 25,000 potential holiday takers who
have previously requested tourist information from the council.
The mailing, in the form of a greetings card, reinforces the message
that the "Heart of Cornwall" is still beating strong
and the area is ready for business.
6.5.3 South Lakeland District Council has
invested £5,000 to send out its Accommodation Guide free
of charge (instead of £1.99) to bolster local trade.
6.5.4 Plymouth has fast tracked the launch
of its new discount voucher leaflet. It offers reduced admission
at 11 attractions, plus discounts in shops and restaurants. It
costs £1, but will be given free of charge to all 14,000
cruise ship passengers sailing into Plymouth and all conference
delegates staying in the city this year.
6.5.5 Bournemouth has written to all domestic
and overseas tour operators involved in the summer Music Makers
Festival, which brings over 1,000 participants to the resort,
to reassure them that festival is still going ahead, the area
is perfectly safe and their experience will be unaffected. This
is after the All-England Netball Association cancelled its April
tournament for 2,000 people in Bournemouth, apparently on the
advice of MAFF.
7. LOCAL AUTHORITIESEFFECTS
7.1 It is clear from the information above
that local authorities are playing an active and varied role in
the provision of information to tourists. Without them, the industry
would lack support and a promotional vehicle with local presence
and a regional, national and international voice. Certainly, the
England Visitor Hotline would not have been able to provide such
detailed and up-to-date information.
7.2 However, foot and mouth is a significant
cost to local authorities. Carlisle Council currently estimates
foot and mouth is costing it £250,000. In Oxfordshire, the
Council has lost £12,000 in revenue from the forced closure
of educational residential centres. East Devon District Council
has stated that their waste collection costs for cleaning beaches
have soared as dog owners are using beaches rather than fields
to walk dogs. TIC income has fallen throughout England and Wales
due to lost commission on accommodation bookings. Therefore, future
local authority support for the industry and promotion of destinations
will be under threat. Especially as the private sector, which
ordinarily invests in local authority promotional material, will
be similarly cash poor. This will be at a time when promotion
is essential to rebuild the industry, communities and people's
7.3 Therefore the LGA is calling for:
An extension of the Government's
hardship relief from business rates policy to all local authorities
(not just the 151 "most rural") to cover businesses
with a RV of up to £50,000, to provide 100 per cent of the
costs of relief, to allow relief support to be available for longer
than three months.
Central Government financial support
for Councils in their work to rebuild the tourist industry at
a local level in the medium and long term. Investment at only
a national and regional level will not reach the people really
affected by foot and mouth.
Central Government investment in
the ageing TIC network which has played an important role in addressing
foot and mouth but could have been so much more effective with
e-communication between all centres and Regional Tourist Boards.