Memorandum submitted by the Tourism Society
Thank you for your letter of 6 April inviting
The Tourism Society to submit written evidence to the Committee
as part of its enquiry into the above, prompted by the foot and
mouth epidemic. The Society welcomes this opportunity to comment
on what has become a burning issue for tourism, both metaphorically
and in reality.
As the intervention of the Easter break would
have hampered a comprehensive survey of its members on this subject,
the members of the Society's Executive Committee have asked me
to respond instead.
The Society, founded in 1977, provides a forum
for the professional needs of those pursuing a career in or associated
with the tourism industry. It is managed by a Council, elected
by the members, and is funded by subscriptions, advertising revenue,
meetings fees and other contributions and sponsorship.
President: The Rt Hon Viscount Thurso FTS.
President Emeritus: Lord Montagu of Beaulieu
Chairman: Graham Wason FTS.
Administrative Director: Adrian Clark FTS.
To provide a forum for professionals working
in, studying or otherwise interested in tourism across all its
Promote and advance professionalism in tourism.
Support training and academic development.
Uphold, explore and enhance best practice.
Encourage sustainable development.
Address local, national and international issues.
Recognise individual achievement in the field
Member of The Tourism Society since 1979 and
its Administrative Director since 1996.
1967-71: British Travel Association/British
Tourist Authority. Graduate Management Trainee; Youth Travel Manager,
USA; N American desk, London.
1971-74: London Tourist Board. Manager,
Ground (Accommodation and Information) Services.
1974-93: English Tourist Board. Manager:
Commercial Development/Travel Trade Liaison Unit. Head: TIC Networking
and Visitor Services Unit.
With the experience gained from over 30 years'
involvement in tourism, the majority of which were spent in working
with the managers and staff of England's Tourist Information Centres
and their regional tourist board colleagues, the following remarks
may be helpful to the Committee in its deliberations.
As a prelude, it may be worth recalling the
Hegelian premise that "We learn from history that we do not
learn from history" when comparing the way in which MAFF
has handled the current crisis compared with its 1967 predecessor.
1. Given the current strength of sterling,
the slowing down of the US economy, the Hatfield rail crash and
the floods in many parts of rural Britain, it was always going
to be difficult to turn round the recent decline in the number
of inbound tourists to the UK in 2001.
2. With the exception of the US element,
a growth in the volume and value of UK domestic tourism was always
going to be difficult to achieve in 2001, especially at Easter,
on account of the same factors plus the annual increase in fuel
prices shortly before.
3. When the outbreak in NE England of foot
and mouth developed into a national epidemic, the confused and
conflicting informationdisseminated by, and the reactions
to the situation from, MAFF, DETR, the NFU and individual local
authoritieshad the effect of persuading the British public
to steer clear of the countryside as a whole, irrespective of
whether or not the infection had broken out.
4. The economic ramifications of the repeated
world-wide broadcasting of pictures of piles of burning carcasses
were not appreciated by the mediaespecially as they deterred
overseas visitors from making or confirming their plans to visit
5. Fire-fighting PR visits to the US and
campaigns mounted immediately the outbreak became an epidemic,
though necessary, were thus rendered more or less fruitless.
6. Painful as it may be to accept, efforts
and public money were wasted at this initial stage in trying to
combat the mixed messages from "the authorities" and
adverse media coverage and to encourage back to the countryside,
first, the British public and, subsequently, potential overseas
7. This task was madeand continues
to beall the more difficult though the lack of a comprehensive
national electronic communications system and associated hardware
to permit the publicand tourism intermediariesto
access information about and make reservations in businesses remaining
open and seeking bookings
8. The progressive decentralisation of (English)
tourist board information collection and management systems after
1994 and the cessation of the ETB responsibility for marketing,
including advertising, handicapped the English Tourism Council
in mounting an early public advertising reassurance campaign.
9. The interim solution of a Government
Notice in the third week of March merely had the effect of reinforcing
the public's disinclination to venture into the countryside.
Some lessons learnt
(a) encourage circumspect reporting
by the media;
(b) provide a single source of
genuinely authoritative information to avoid mixed and disjointed
(c) be aware of wider ramifications