Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Memoranda


Memorandum submitted by the Department for Culture, Media and Sports

INTRODUCTION

  1.  The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has overall responsibility for the tourism industry within England and for incoming tourism to Britain. This paper explains the work that the Government has done, in conjuction with other national and regional bodies, to provide information on and promote the opportunities for tourism during the outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease.

PARTNERS

  2.  In responding to Foot and Mouth, the Department has worked in partnership with the other government departments, principally MAFF, DETR and the Foreign Office, with tourists boards (the British Tourist Authority (BTA), the English Tourism Council (ETC) and regional tourist boards (RTBs)), and the representatives of the wider tourism industry.

  3.  The roles, responsibilities of these bodies and the mechanism for interaction between them are set out in paragraph 19 below. The Committee will also have received evidence from many of them, and this memorandum therefore focuses on the activities of the Government, and of the DCMS in particular.

OBJECTIVES

  4.  Expenditure by tourists in the UK currently amounts to some £64 billion per annum and some 1.8 million people are employed in tourism-related industries. It is composed of 127,000 businesses (not including solely self-employed businesses). rural tourism in England is worth £12 billion, supports 380,000 jobs and 25,000 businesses. It must therefore be supported through the outbreak of foot and mouth disease. However, it has been equally important, for the sake of both tourism and agriculture and all those employed in them, that nothing is done to exacerbate the scale of the disease, and thus the crisis itself.

  5.  The Government's objective throughout has been to protect the toursim industry from the effects of Foot and Mouth as far as possible, without causing any undue risk to livestock. Strategies for the short-, medium- and long-term recovery of the industry have been developed, and are being reviewed regularly in light of the development of the disease.

STRATEGY

  6.  DCMS has developed and published a National Tourism Recovery Strategy, which is enclosed with this memorandum. The strategy is intended to be a living document, the details being updated as and when new initiatives are developed, and made available on the Department's website, www.culture.gov.uk.

  7.  The strategy has five main aims:

    (1.)  to provide facts, information and reassurance: a clear picture for the public of what's open and what you can and cannot do in the countryside;

    (2.)  to open up attractions and footpaths;

    (3.)  to help affected businesses;

    (4.)  to reinforce the message at home and overseas that Britain is open for business and that it is OK in the UK; and

    (5.)  to work together across Government, with the tourism industry and at local and regional levels to find solutions to the problems facing the industry.

  8.  The Strategy outlines the measures that have been or will be taken in some detail, but the most important initiatives on tourism information and promotion from points 1, 2, 4 and 5 are listed here.

FACTS. INFORMATION AND REASSURANCE

  9.  The widespread coverage of the foot and mouth outbreak by British and overseas media has left many potential visitors uncertain about the extent to which the British countryside and its attractions are open; and about the safety of travelling to and around the country. The Government's aim has therefore been to provide potential visitors with a consistent and comprehensive picture of what is open, and a clear list of dos and don'ts; and to provide businesses in the tourism industy with information on, for example, the steps they should take to minimise the risk of spreading foot and mouth disease and on the circumstances in which they should or should not open for business.

  Section 1 of the Strategy sets out a range of initiatives designed to meet this need, including:

Websites

  www.openbritain.gov.uk shows what's happening/open.

  www.countryside.gov.uk has information on what/where footpaths are open.

Hotlines

  An England Visitor Hotline has been set up by the ETC and at its peak was handling an average of 600 calls each day.

  Regional call centres have been set up by all Regional Tourist Boards.

  Overseas embassies, BTA overseas offices and the British Council are providing reassurance and up-to-date information to potential visitors.

Leaflets

  At regional and local levels, a combination of leaflet and web information has been issued and is regularly updated by a wide variety of organisations, including Regional Tourist Boards and Trade Associations. About two million low cost public information leaflets have been distributed that provide detailed local information for visitors.

Guidance

  Guidance has been sent by the Government to tourist attractions, setting out the steps that should be taken to minimise the risk of spreading the disease.

  The Government has provided guidance for those staging events with a large number of spectators.

  The ETC has issued guidance for accommodation providers; and has set out answers to some of the most frequently asked consumer questions on its website.

  The BTA has issued guidance to the overseas travel trade.

OPENING UP KEY ATTRACTIONS, FOOTPATHS, ETC

  10.  In the early stages of the foot and mouth outbreak many visitor attractions and footpaths were closed to the public for precautionary reasons, while national restrictions on the movement of animals were in place and the way the outbreak had occurred and spread was assessed. While there are clear reasons for some attractions and footpaths remaining closed, such as the protection of livestock that would come into direct contact with visitors, or the location of an attraction on infected premises, many can and are being reopened. To facilitate this, the Government has issued guidance to local authorities and others on access to the countryside and on the opening up of rights of way. As more attractions and rights of way have opened, a series of measures have been taken to make the public aware of the range of attractions available and to encourage them to visit. For example:

    —  DETR has issued guidance to local authorities on opening up public rights of way, and MAFF has issued guidance to the public on how to avoid spreading the disease.

    —  The ETC has launched a promotional campaign that aims to minimise the short-term damage being done to local economies by encouraging people within England to take short holidays and day trips over the Spring and early Summer period, especially the Easter and May Bank Holidays.

    —  The BTA and the ETC plan to market, principally via their websites, any specific and/or localised schemes of special/discount offers that tourist operators and attractions may wish to promote over the early summer period.

GETTING THE MESSAGE ACROSS AT HOME AND OVERSEAS

  11.  As the outbreak of foot and mouth disease is brought under control and increasingly confined to fewer locations, and the number of daily cases is significantly reduced, it will be possible to begin a more proactive campaign to encourage visitors from abroad. In the short-term, however, the most urgent need has been to correct current misperceptions especially those of overseas citizens whose desire to visit Britain has been seriously affected by a series of news bulletins featuring pictures of burning pyres. Within the UK the approach is slightly different. We can take action now to promote the British public the many opportunities for travel and leisure. Although trade is down overall, the first stage of the campaign by Government Ministers and the paid advertising by the ETC already seems to have had some success, with Easter performance better than feared.

  12. The Government is monitoring very closely the effect of the outbreak on British tourism. £35.5 million of public expenditure had already allocated for the BTA for expenditure in the year just starting, and £10 million for the ETC. Ministers have commissioned outline plans for proactive work by the tourist boards in the light of the outbreak. These are the plans which have been referred to publicly by the BTA and the ETC. The immdiate work proposed in those plans has been funded with additional public expenditure within the terms of the exisitng Vote. On 6 April, DCMS announced £6 million of additional funding for the promotion of tourism. £3.8 million was provided to the ETC for domestic advertising and PR (to be delivered at national and regional level) and £2.2 million was given to the BTA for overseas promotions. The full plan of work is proposed to take place over many months. In the view of the Department, only some of the proposals can properly be decided on in the short-term and exactly what is done in the longer term will depend partly on the course of the outbreak takes. Already the advice from the tourist boards, and which lies behind the plans, is quite properly developing and changing. For example as a result of the Workd Travel Leaders' Summit last week, and the latest reports from overseas, the BTA have been asked to look again at what might be done in the shorter term to promote the summer season with trade partners and repeat customers and to estimate the cost of that.

Overseas

  13.  The BTA has developed a three step strategy.

    I  In the short-term, concentrate on providing accurate information and reassurance, dispelling misconceptions about the disease and letting people know how much there is to see and do here.

    II  When the hysteria has been calmed, increase tactical promotion of Britain, working with commercial partners to encourage short-term visits.

    III  When FMD has abated, launch a global campaign to re-brand and re-market Britain and ensure long-term recovery of our tourist industry.

  14.  As part of step 1, British Embassies are working hard to counter myth and overreaction in the media overseas. The Foreign Office has also been feeding TV coverage and news stories to the foreign media, both in London and overseas, and has set out in more detail the action it has been taking in a separate memorandum submitted to the Committee.

  14.  Ministers have made a series of overseas visits designed to reassure potential visitors and counter myth. For example, Janet Anderson visited New York with industry representatives as soon as it became clear how negative were the reports in the US and the calls received in the BTA offices there. She gave television and radio interviews and met trade and trade press representatives. Chris Smith is visiting Canada and George Foulkes will soon visit Belgium, with similar plans in mind. Brian Wilson has briefed Ambassadors from the important tourist markets. The visits are being co-ordinated in conjunction with overseas embassies and BTA overseas offices, and will be tailored to the relevant markets. Other Ministers on other business overseas have also made time during their visits to help promote tourism to Britain.

  16.  The World Travel Leaders' Summit, 17-20 April, enabled both information-giving and PR opportunities. The BTA and embassies abroad are now working to ensure the maximum follow-up publicity.

In England

  17.  In England, a more proactive media strategy is already being pursued whilst the disease is in the headlines. The ETC directed a major promotional campaign at families over Easter, and is due to expand its activity in advance of the two May Bank holidays, targeting appropriate market segments. Ministers, in travelling around the country, have been active in support of the ETC's campaign.

WORKING TOGETHER

  18.  Since the outbreak of foot and mouth many Government departments and other agencies have been battling to counteract its effect on tourism. Each has done significant work but a co-ordinated strategy has been needed. A number of inter-agency groups have thus been established to promote a co-ordinated campaign of action as described in Section 5 of the Strategy, including:

    —  Rural Economy Task Force—set up by DETR, this body is at the centre of the attempt to co-ordinate the response to Foot and Mouth across Government. Tourism is represented by ETC, BTA and BHA, as well as Janet Anderson.

    —  FMD Tourism Summit—convened by Ministers in DCMS on an ad hoc basis to canvass opinion from the highest levels of the industry, the first Summit fed into the Rural Task Force's first announcement, and the second played a key role in developing the National Tourist Recovery Strategy.

    —  ETC Tourism Cabinet—a weekly meeting of representatives from Government and industry that monitors the situation on the ground.

    —  BTA British Tourism Development Committee—equivalent to the Tourism Cabinet, co-ordinating overseas strategy.

    —  Cross-Government Tourism Information Group—plans promotional activity, and links into the National Communications Centre. Composed of representatives from, for example, DCMS, FCO, BTA, ETC and English Heritage.

    —  Regional Meetings—Regional Tourist Boards have set up their own forums to provide a local focus.

  19.  Foot and Mouth strategy is co-ordinated at the centre of Government by the Cabinet Office Briefing Room (COBR) meetings take place every morning, and by the News Co-ordination Centre in the Cabinet Office, both of which involve a wide range of Government departments. On tourism promotion and information DCMS has mainly been working with:

    —  MAFF—who have responsibility for offering guidance to the public on the risks of spreading the disease.

    —  DETR—who have responsibility for opening footpaths and waterways and who coordinated the Rural Task Force.

    —  FCO—who have been working in cooperation with BTA to promote tourism to Britain.

    —  BTA—a Non-Departmental Public Body (NDPB) whose mission is to build the value of inbound tourism to Britain by: promoting Britain overseas; contributing to the improvement of the quality and competitiveness of the industry; providing advice to Government; and working in partnership with the devolved administrations.

    —  ETC—the national body for tourism in England, also a NDPB, with a role to drive forward the quality, competitiveness and wise growth of England's tourism industry by providing intellegence, setting standards, creating partnerships (with the industry, Government, trade associations, key agencies and RTBs) and ensuring coherence.

    —  RTBs—all private companies receiving 10 to 25 per cent of their funds from the ETC with a brief to complement the ETC's role in delivering national and regional programmes.

April 2001



 
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