Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


APPENDIX 32

Memorandum submitted by the Heart of England Tourist Board

1.  INTRODUCTION TO THE HEART OF ENGLAND REGIONAL TOURIST BOARD

  1.1  The Heart of England Tourist Board (HETB) is the official tourist board for the counties of Derbyshire, Gloucestershire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire, the West Midlands Metropolitan Districts and the new Unitaries of Derby, Herefordshire, Leicester and Rutland, Nottingham, Stoke, Telford and Wrekin and also represents the authority areas of Cherwell and West Oxfordshire. The Board is a Company limited by guarantee.

  1.2  The Heart of England Tourist Board has a key role in the implementation of the Government's strategy for tourism, Tomorrow's Tourism. We receive funding from the English Tourism Council (ETC) to both fulfil this role and to deliver key national services in the region. We also work in partnership with the English Tourism Council in the representation and development of tourism nationally, and with the British Tourist Authority in the marketing of the region overseas.

  1.3  The ETC's Framework for Action and its Prospectus for the Funding of the English regions provide a key context for the role of the Regional Tourist Boards. HETB's ETC 2000-03 delivery plan indicated the outputs and outcomes to be achieved in each year of the new national funding arrangements.

  1.4  We are working with the other Regional Tourist Boards (RTB's) to co-ordinate aspects of national delivery no longer undertaken by ETC. The RTB's joint company, Unicom Tourism Ltd now delivers the national inspections service for the ETC national accommodation schemes.

  1.5  As well as funding from the ETC, HETB receives membership subscriptions from local authorities and from the private sector. Other income is earned through a variety of activities including marketing campaigns, visitor research, training, etc.

  1.6  The Heart of England comprises 20 per cent of the population of England and 22 per cent of its land mass. It has 24 per cent of the country's local authorities within its borders. It attracts 16.5 per cent of England's domestic visitors and 10 per cent of its overseas visitors. It accounts for 19.5 per cent of the country's domestic business tourism. It also has the greatest share of all domestic short breaks in England and second highest level of domestic visits to friends and relatives. Its attractions account for 15 per cent of all visits to UK attractions.

  1.7  The Heart of England Tourist Board region covers two Regional Development Agencies and Regional Cultural Consortium areas in their entirety and, therefore, we relate our activity to two sets of economic, social and cultural strategies and contexts. This uniqueness among RTB regions gives rise to a complexity in relationships and requires a particular style for the management of regional marketing and development. It also requires comparatively more national investment to assist in implementing the national strategy and to fulfil a regional leadership role.

  1.8  "Visitor Focus" is the current regional tourism strategy for the area. Produced in 1997, it covers the period 1998 to 2003. The purposes of this strategy is to provide a regional context for the work for all those involved in this leading industry and is based on a wide ranging consultation with them. It sets out our priorities and provides a point of reference for the preparation of detailed strategies and action programmes at a local level. The strategy is driven by five key principles—competitiveness, sustainability, distinctiveness, inclusiveness and co-ordination—and identifies six strategic aims and priorities for action.

  1.9  The Board is a membership organisation for both the public and private sectors of the industry. We offer a range of services, which for the public sector include:

    —  Tourist Information, Quality Standards, Marketing, Information and PR, Training, Research and Development; and

    —  for the private sector we offer an extensive portfolio of benefits designed to promote and develop business as well as save money.

2.  IMPACT OF THE FMD CRISIS IN THE HEART OF ENGLAND REGION—INITIAL SURVEY ANALYSIS FOR MARCH 2001

  2.1  To gauge the initial effect of the foot and mouth crisis on tourism businesses in the Heart of England region, a questionnaire survey was mailed to approximately 3,000 Member businesses in the last week of March 2001 so the results below were a snapshot of the position at that date. The following headline results are based on responses from just over 800 businesses (approximately 30 per cent response) at the start of April. No factoring has been applied to all businesses.

    —  17 per cent of businesses normally open over the survey period (23 February-23 March 2001) had chosen not to open as a direct result of the crisis;

    —  this ranged from 9 per cent of businesses in urban locations, to 21 per cent of businesses in rural locations;

    —  the highest non-openings were 32 per cent of holiday parks and 36 per cent of attractions;

    —  22 per cent of bednights booked over the four week period had been cancelled (21,000 bednights) with a loss valued at approximately £920,000;

    —  over 5,000 bednights had been rescheduled, valued at over £190,000;

    —  responding attractions estimate visitor numbers were down by 60 per cent over the four week period; and

    —  the value of visitors was estimated at £0.67 million, an approximate 50 per cent reduction in the expected value of visitors over this period (£1.3 million).

  2.2  Businesses responded to operational actions that they were currently undertaking, or considering as a result of the crisis:

    —  16 per cent were currently and 12 per cent were considering reducing traditional media advertising;

    —  5 per cent were currently and 9 per cent were considering increasing traditional media advertising;

    —  8 per cent were currently and 10 per cent were considering increasing web-based advertising;

    —  11 per cent were currently and 12 per cent were considering laying off existing staff;

    —  26 per cent were currently and 5 per cent were considering not taking on any more staff;

    —  6 per cent were currently and 13 per cent were considering not renewing trade memberships.

  2.3  Predicted future impact:

    —  over 60 per cent of respondents believe that the foot and mouth crisis will have a "significant" or "very significant" affect on their business throughout 2001;

    —  the following are "very significant" responses:

      —  39 per cent of serviced accommodation establishments;

      —  47 per cent of businesses in rural locations or "notably affected" counties;

      —  48 per cent of holiday parks and 48 per cent of attractions;

    —  laying off existing staff:

      —  11 per cent were currently laying off existing staff;

      —  12 per cent were considering laying off existing staff;

    —  not taking on more staff:

      —  26 per cent were currently not taking on any more staff;

      —  5 per cent were considering not taking on any more staff;

    —  not renewing trade memberships;

    —  6 per cent were currently not renewing trade memberships; and

    —  13 per cent were considering not renewing trade memberships.

3.  FOOT AND MOUTH IMMEDIATE RESPONSEPHASE 1 MARCH-MAYLATE MARCH/EARLY APRIL

  3.1  The Heart of England Tourist Board was able to marshal its own resources, to draw down funding from the English Tourism Council (£175,000) and secure support from its two RDAs to implement an immediate quick response spring campaign (Phase 1). The two East and West Midlands Regional Development Agencies, through Regional Task Forces have contributed £51,000 of marketing and support activities, and the RDAs, along with attractions and regional radio (Chrysalis Midland Radio Station, Heart FM) will have provided over £60,000 of in kind support to the campaign.

  3.2  In all, around £487,000 of funding and in kind has been secured and delivered Phase 1 activities. Action taken included a detailed assessment of the situation, the staging of a promotional programme to "kick start" inter-regional day visits prior to Easter and the May Bank holiday, and industry support and a helpline.

  Phase 1 an integrated quick response campaign is targeted at potential day visitors to attractions, towns, villages, inns, shops etc in the countryside.

  Open for business Campaign is themed "Getting Out and About in the Heart of England is as easy as ABC". Key message—We have the A-Z of 100's of places to visit open now in the Heart of England.

  Theme and message used in an integrated manner in all advertising campaigns prompting enquiries to the HETB Visitor Information Hotline and the HETB web site.

  All members have received a copy of the recovery plan and HETB FMD research findings.

  Partners and members briefed on the Recovery Programme at a Symposium.

  Letter from CE to 100+ businesses in the region promoting the website and Hotline.

  3.3  Hotline

  HETB Hotline 0800 044 440 contracted to Carrier Direct for initial period 11 April to 11 May. Operational 8 am to 10 pm Monday-Friday and 8 am to 8 pm Saturday and Sunday. Just under 1,500 calls serviced by 17 April.

  Call centre draws information from HETB website and has ability to use Places to Visit and Where to Stay databases for more comprehensive information. Enquiries postcoded.

  Hotline subject of press release to all regional media. All TICs informed of the number and asked to put it on their answerphones for out of hours enquiries. All destination managers advised of the number.

  Number registered with Directory Enquiries nationwide.

  3.4  Website.

  www.visitheartofengland.com site has a dedicated "Open for Business" section which is updated daily with A-Z listings of attractions open, events and TICs under counties. Information under each county is being enriched with additional information requested from tourism officers to respond to enquiries more fully. This includes "10 Top Attractions", "10 ideas for Families with Children", "Where to Walk" and suggested itineraries.

  Places to Visit and What's On search added to all county pages and a clickable menu added to county pages to navigate attractions, cycling, walking, TICs, Events etc.

  3.5  Trade and Industry Helpline.

  Trade and Industry Helpline (0800 085 8468) operational in house from 8 am to 6 pm Monday-Friday with Voicemail outside hours. This helpline is co-ordinated with other helplines operating within the region. Line promoted on front page of Website. Letter sent to all members of HETB and press release to regional media.

  Website includes an F&M section with factsheets, contact details and an e-mail enquiry service.

  3.6  Promotion Campaign.

  Advertisements with ABC theme promoting specific opportunities in the Heart of England placed in daily and weekly newspapers throughout the region. Insertions synchronised with Advantage West Midlands campaign in the West Midlands and with consistent theme of "Out and About". (Copy of schedule attached—Appendix 1[15]).

  Radio promotions throughout the region. Heart FM recorded a 30 second spot and circulated it to around a dozen other radio stations. (Stations attached—Appendix 1*).

  In addition, strong campaign through Heart FM accompanied by a competition run by the station for free for which HETB organised over 140 tickets to attractions as prizes. Competition valued at c £7,500 and value of tickets from attractions at c £3,500.

  Contributions towards media promotions of £20,000 from East Midlands Development Agency and £31,400 for Advantage West Midlands.

  3.7  PR Campaign.

  Sustained high profile PR campaign ongoing including television interviews East and West Midlands, radio interviews and editorials in press. These include:

    —  BBC Syndicated interviews with Chief Executive;

    —  local radio interview (eg Radio Derby, Radio Hereford & Worcester, Radio Leicester);

    —  numerous televised interviews with BBC Midlands Today and Central TV before and following Easter; and

    —  interviews with Birmingham Post/Nottingham Evening Post/ and others.

  PR consultancy commissioned to develop A-Z theme with celebrities to maintain momentum of PR campaign through May bank holidays.

  Booklet featuring attractions being prepared for distribution through supermarkets and petrol stations in development.

  All media schedules circulated to sub-regional destinations and TICs.

  3.8  Research.

  Research on business performance over Easter weekend reveals that the majority of attractions open did good business, with some having the best Easter for a long time. (Details in Appendix 2*.) Many had invested heavily in advertising and PR, as well as being within the consolidated HETB Out and About Campaign. This was covered by both BBC and Central TV news.

  The picture with accommodations is very different. They are suffering unprecedented slumps in business.

4.  PHASE 2—MAY TO AUTUMN 2001

  4.1  Submission has been made to ETC, funding decision awaited. Marketing activity in Phase 2 is intended to concentrate on rebuilding the rural tourism economy with the emphasis on generating immediate business and forward bookings for the accommodations sector whilst continuing to maintain the momentum generated in Phase 1 campaigns for day visitor destinations. Image enhancement and definition will also be required to inform future marketing messages. Business support will focus on the use of existing networks. At all stages such measures will be developed in partnership with public and private sectors to ensure co-ordination and maximum connectivity.

  4.2  The most significant barrier to working towards the full recovery of the tourism industry is uncertainty of the disease's containment date. Realistically, building confidence in the rural tourism product amongst domestic visitors and of the English tourism product amongst overseas visitors cannot start until the outbreak is fully contained. Messages promoting rural tourism however sustained, targeted or focused will not be truly effective until enduring media images of burning cattle and slaughtered sheep disappear from TV screens and newspapers. At time of writing it is not possible to accurately predict when this will be. For the purposes of forward planning it is however suggested that this may occur at some stage during the early summer.

  4.3  The Phase 2 overall objectives are:

    (1)  integrated promotional campaign with print and ICT focus to target staying visitors and maintain momentum of day visitors;

    (2)  working with business to improve competitiveness.

  Promotional Campaign aims:

    —    to develop an effective recovery programme for the region's tourism industry by restoring confidence in the countryside as a visitor destination;

    —  to encourage spending in the tourism sector and minimise loss from both the UK and overseas markets;

    —  to provide support to Destination Management Organisations and destination group marketing campaigns;

    —  to promote and maximise trade for those tourism businesses which are open and continue to operate during the foot and mouth crisis in both rural and urban locations;

    —  to provide a comprehensive information service to potential visitors to the area from the UK and overseas; and

    —  to work closely with the British Tourist Authority in particular to secure the long-term recovery of the overseas visitor market to the Heart of England region.

  4.4  In order to kick start bookings and attract British visitor flows back into the countryside a sustained image rebuilding campaign which highlights the distinctiveness of the Heart of England is of paramount importance. It is proposed that a thematic approach is adopted designed to rebuild confidence in the quality of the countryside product and to highlight the uniqueness of the Heart of England regional product.

Themes include:

    —  developing the lead region status project for food and drink tourism;

    —  a series of themed campaigns targeting identified customer segments, eg great ideas for families, walkers, cyclists, sportsmen, gardeners, waterways etc; and

    —  cultural tourism, film locations in the Heart of England/link to celebrities etc.

  4.5  The public need the re-assurance and "unsolicited" character of "editorial" comment. Many potential visitors will require confidence that it is alright to enjoy a product they have kept away from believing they were acting in the best interests of the countryside. Detailed opinion rather than advertising can be of immense value in this regard, using effective PR. As day visits recover, the view that tourism is now "fine" needs to be carefully managed. The attractions sector will recover more readily than other sectors within the industry. The effect of the crisis on the accommodation sector in particular and its long-term effect on the overseas market need to be kept in perspective.

  4.6  Web based information sources will play a key role in underpinning advertising and promotional campaigns. Visitheartofengland.com is intended to be further developed to provide an authoritative source of tourism information for the region and as a portal to sub-regional websites. This will feed in the latest local information from destination tourism officers and Tourist Information Centres across the region on a daily basis and provide links into local destination and individual tourism websites/Tourist Information Centre contact details.

  4.7  Within Phase 2 the opportunity provided by the emergence of discounted flight seats and special offers will allow potential to target the opportunist visitor in key overseas markets. This period will also be important for planning sustainable campaigns for restoring confidence in the countryside to be implemented in Phase 3.

    —  Primary target audience USA and Canada. Secondary Europe.

    —  Identify cut-price opportunity markets with BTA.

    —  Work in partnership with BTA, airlines, airports and inbound tour operators.

    —  Advertising, direct mail and PR campaign to be developed in conjunction with BTA.

    —  Supported by website information resource featuring packages and special offers.

    —  Planning and development of 2002 overseas campaigns.

    —  Late in Phase 2—industry seminars with BTA to reassess marketing opportunities for sub-regional destinations.

  4.8  Within Phase 2, HETB considers that both itself and its sub-regional partners take time to re-address the sub-regional propositions put to the overseas markets. The overseas perceptions of the UK will clearly vary between segments and their product awareness positioning. BTA intelligence should feed down to the sub-regions to assist them re-align where necessary the core product, the core message and target markets.

5.  PHASE 3—AUTUMN 2001 ONWARDS

  5.1  Phase 2 makes recommendations that not only address the short term but, due to the forward looking nature and pre-booked activity typically associated with the industry, has to look forward to Phase 3 and the 2002 season and beyond.

  5.2  Sustained activity, particularly that targeted toward the overseas market is required. The message that England is open for business and has got back to normal with a strong focus on quality should be at the heart of this campaign. Phase 3, looking ahead to rebuild confidence, in close association with BTA, requires strategic intelligence provision from BTA and the confidence of the industry to co-invest in marketing with regional and national partners.

  5.3  The need to assess and help rebuild businesses within the rural economy will be necessary. Some businesses will have failed, while others will have to rebuild market share. Moves to develop a Heart of England rural tourism strategy, and e-tourism capabilities within SMEs in particular will feature in Phase 3.

6.  OTHER ISSUES FOR THE COMMITTEE'S CONSIDERATION

  6.1  Many of HETB's activities already undertaken, and those which we desire to implement, noted above relate to a number of wider issues which have been voiced for sometime by many parties. These impact on Regional Tourist Board operations and include:

    —  marketing and comprehensive information provision;

    —  national lack of funding for such actions;

    —  ICT infrastructure; and

    —  impacts of business not spending on promotions, quality standard inspections, membership fees, refurbs and capital investment, etc.

  6.2  It goes without saying that the current situation has demonstrated how the lack of core government funding to both the ETC and RTBs for marketing activities has been shown to be a deficiency. It has created the need to bid for new monies that have been specifically provided to counteract public behaviour because of FMD. The English National and Regional Tourist Boards are disadvantaged in comparison to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland where the devolved administrations provide direct funding for marketing and promotion. Regional Tourist Boards have had to move quickly to provide information, marketing and support, to assist both visitors and businesses.

  6.3  Whilst the Government's packages aimed at providing help to our tourism businesses has been welcomed, many small businesses in this sector do not qualify for VAT or rates relief. Whilst we also welcome the extension to the Small Firms Loan Guarantee Scheme we are concerned that businesses will be carrying greater levels of debt forward, making future refurbishment and capital investment more difficult. In our view the £6 million provided to ETC/BTA nationally for this sector which accounts for 6 per cent of GDP, contrasts sharply with the £120 million plus of funding provided to the West Midlands region in the wake of the Rover crisis.

  6.4  Clearly information, marketing, market intelligence and business support have been facilitated over the past month or so by means of the existing e-mail, Internet and other electronic channels. Whilst HETB, and the other Regional Tourist Boards have risen to the challenge, and used ICT channels to provide updated real time information, the immediacy of needing to quickly react to the foot and mouth outbreak has demonstrated the lack of a comprehensive national, regional and sub-regional ICT infrastructure and personnel dedicated to working with it. This covers a number of areas, including:

    —  two way information dissemination and intelligence gathering from RTBs to local authorities/Tourism Offices is not 100 per cent by electronic means, thus paper, fax, e-mail (direct and indirect via other departments) has been required;

    —  similarly to/from the networked Tourist Information Centres, of which 50 per cent are networked; and

    —  communications with visitors/enquirers (business to consumer) and with the trade/business support (business to business) has become confused at all levels, whereby a multitude of private/commercial, public sector/local authority, and regional/national hotlines, websites etc are being promoted—leaving those seeking advice to have to choose between which to use.

  6.5  One of the most significant issues facing the tourism industry is the need for small businesses to equip themselves with new technology to attract both domestic and international business. This with a heightened awareness of e-business amongst small businesses would do much to help the industry recover and trade more successfully in future years. A national perspective on this is developing, however, actual support to businesses in deciding which IT to invest in is also required.

  The Heart of England Tourist Board very much hopes that this evidence is of value to the Committee and would like to thank the Committee for the opportunity to present, both in written and oral format.

April 2001


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