Memorandum submitted by the East of England
1. East of England Tourist Board (EETB)
1.1 EETB is a company limited by guarantee,
one of 10 English regional tourist boards. It is responsible for
the development and promotion of sustainable tourism in Bedfordshire,
Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk. It
has a staff of 37 and a board of directors drawn from its stakeholders:
tourism businesses, local authorities and the English Tourism
1.2 EETB's annual turnover is around £2
million, of which 25 per cent comes from government through the
English Tourism Council, 25 per cent from its regional stakeholders
and 50 per cent from its own commercial activities. In the financial
year 2001-02 EETB will receive £650,400 from the English
Tourism Council (not including the additional money for the foot
and mouth activities, as detailed in paragraph 3).
1.3 The use of any of this money for marketing
or PR is explicitly forbidden. The money has been awarded to EETB
on the basis of a detailed bid, and for specific activities related
to its status as an area centre for the administration of accommodation
inspections etc. EETB, like the other regional boards, must report
in detail each quarter on progress against the specific outputs
and outcomes detailed in its bid. There is very little flexibility
in how the money can be spent.
1.4 Tourism contributes approximately £4
billion to the East of England economy each year, about 6 per
cent of the region's GDP. It employs, at a conservative estimate,
135,000. The East of England has the second largest tourism industry
of the 10 regions in terms of nights and spend.
1.5 Over 20 per cent of tourism spending
in the region takes place in the countryside, well above the national
average for all regions. Overseas visitors account for one third
of tourism income in the East of England. The biggest markets
are the USA (16 per cent), Germany (15 per cent) and France (12
per cent), all of which are reporting major losses relating to
the outbreak in terms of forward bookings and all of which have
seen extremely negative and hysterical media reporting of the
2. The impact of Foot and Mouth disease (FMD)
on the region's tourism businesses
2.1 Tourism is a major industry within all
counties of the East of England. The Norfolk economy is the most
dependent on tourism and has the highest proportion of its tourism
based on rural activities. The impact, however, will not be confined
to rural areas: Cambridgeshire is particularly reliant on overseas
visitors, receiving an annual spend of some £173 million,
some 53 per cent of its annual tourism receipts.
2.2 Many of the region's key visitor attractions
are rural or wildlife-related. The East of England receives more
visits to wildlife attractions (20 per cent) than any other region,
and three of its top five visitor attractions are animal-based:
Whipsnade Zoo, Woburn Safari Park and Colchester Zoo. Of these,
Woburn and Whipsnade have been closed since the beginning of the
outbreak and Colchester Zoo has just reopened for Easter, having
suffered a weekly loss of some £35,000.
2.3 Tourism has been a key component in
the survival of many agricultural businesses. About 250 farms
provide either bed and breakfast or self-catering accommodation.
Many more have diversified into craft centres, farm life museums,
nature trails, animal attractions and farm shops. Anecdotal evidence
suggests that farm-based businesses have declined by 75 per cent,
even where they have remained open.
2.4 Only Essex has confirmed FMD cases in
the East of England, and has not had a new case since late March.
2.5 Nevertheless, the impact on the tourism
industry has been severe (as evidenced from our surveys and case
studies, which are available). Heeding the Government's initial
warnings not to visit the countryside "unless absolutely
necessary" visitors stayed away in droves. Following the
national estimates, EETB estimated an early impact of £25
million loss per week. Many businesses, especially farm and wildlife-related,
closed at the start and have reported a devastating impact with
no income to offset overheads. Bookings from early March were
running at between 50 per cent and 80 per cent down across the
region, with many businesses reporting no Easter bookings at all,
at a time when they would have expected to be full. Some quotations
small hotel near Thetford: "bookings
down 75 per cent on the same period last year";
self-catering cottage, mid-Suffolk:
"horrendous impact: no bookings except two in high summer;
would usually be fully booked now for April and May";
caravan touring park, west Norfolk:
"bookings 50 per cent down; usually 100 per cent advance-booked
boat hire, Norwich: "bookings
virtually nil; have had cancellations and a large decrease in
guest house, Sheringham: "have
taken only 15 per cent of usual March takings, and an 85 per cent
drop in bookings, plus cancellations".
2.6 The Youth Hostel Association, National
Trust, RSPB and English Heritage were all reporting alarming losses
as most of their properties remained closed until the end of March.
The closure of RSPB reserves had a particular impact on the region's
tourism, since Norfolk and Suffolk have three of the premier reserves
at Snettisham, Titchwell and Minsmere, and winter to early spring
is a vital period for birdwatchers.
2.7 Footpaths and open spaces were closed
across the region from the end of February, except in Cambridgeshire
which adopted a more flexible approach, allowing them to remain
open except where farmers required closure (from the beginning,
around 85 per cent of the county's footpaths have stayed open).
Suffolk opened 75 per cent of its footpaths in the first week
of April, and Norfolk 50 per cent of its in the second week of
April. Bedfordshire has opened 10 per cent of its footpaths. All
footpaths remain closed in Essex and Hertfordshire.
2.8 By the fortnight before Easter, most
visitor attractions were open (approximately 85 per cent across
the region). The two pre-Easter weekends showed a slight easing
of the situation for attractions, with many reporting business
running at 70 per cent of normal expectations from a low of 20
per cent. Accommodation bookings still looked poor.
2.9 The only exceptions, pre-Easter, were
the coastal resorts, which reported business as usual as people
visited them safe in the knowledge that they were doing nothing
to increase the risk of the outbreak spreading.
2.10 Immediately before Easter (from a mini-survey
on 12 April), the picture began to brighten, especially for coastal
areas. Some accommodation operators on the coast reported full
occupancy for Easter, and many were up to 10 per cent better than
Easter last year. Reports after the Easter weekend show that attractions
nearer the coast had increased visitor numbers in general, while
those inland, and smaller, reported dismal business.
2.11 One swallow does not make a summer,
however, and there is continuing evidence that forward bookings
are still very shaky across the board. We have begun an impact
survey carried out to national standards to ensure comparability,
and will be able to put figures onto this by the end of April.
2.12 The longer-term impact is likely to
be felt from overseas, where perceptions are extremely adverse
and business is well down (from BTA reports). The prime decision-making
time for overseas bookings is the first three months of the year:
much of this business has been lost, but the impact will not yet
be felt. The worst impact, as noted in paragraph 1.5, is likely
to be felt from the USA, Germany and France, which are the three
prime markets for the East of England.
2.13 One of the most pernicious aspects
of the outbreak is that those businesses that have invested in
their property over the winter, expecting to recoup their reserves
earlier in the year, have had nothing to fall back on and are
likely to go under first. One, at least, has already done so;
a five-star touring caravan park in Norfolk, recipient of the
David Bellamy award and the England for Excellence regional award,
is up for sale, having faced losses of up to 70 per cent since
the outbreak began. Most small tourism businesses have no capital
or revenue cushion, and the outbreak hit them at the worst possible
time, at their lowest financial reserve and just when they would
be expecting vital early-season bookings. We are likely to see,
as a longer-term consequence, better quality operators going under,
leaving a rump of poor quality operators.
3. Activities undertaken by EETB in respect
of the FMD outbreak
3.1 Since the end of February, the Managing
Director and her marketing, information and development teams
have been fully engaged in attempting to mitigate the effects
of the FMD outbreak on the region's tourism industry. We feel
we have responded to the challenge, but have had to gear up very
quickly from a low base, particularly in Information and Communications
Technology and PR skills and facilities, which have not been funded
for the last few years. Full details of the weekly activity to
date are noted below (paragraphs 3.9 to 3.16). The following narrative
paragraphs (3.2 to 3.8) give a brief summary.
3.2 At the time the outbreak began, EETB
did not have a web site that was accessible to the public, due
to lack of available funding. A prototype site had been developed
with a local designer at low cost. It was clearly of critical
importance to provide accurate and up-to-date information in this
situation, so EETB brought forward the site's development. Since
5 March EETB's website www.eastofenglandtouristboard.com has been
available to prospective visitors and tourism businesses, providing
up-to-date information on what is open.
3.3 Only around 25 per cent of the region's
tourism businesses have e-mail facilities, and only 60 per cent
of Tourist Information centres (TICs). This has made information
gathering and dissemination quite cumbersome and labour-intensive.
Nevertheless, EETB has provided regular newsletters with information
and advice on the outbreak, and has attended and called several
meetings across the region to share information. These have included
tourism officers, TIC managers, local authorities and tourism
3.4 EETB has collected information from
businesses about the impact of the outbreak since mid-March, through
a brief telephone survey followed by a more detailed postal survey
and telephone-based case studies. Immediately after Easter EETC
mailed to its members the national impact survey devised by ETC
and the regional tourist boards. This survey, to be carried out
each month, will provide detailed and nationally comparable information
on the impact on businesses, including employment and forward
3.5 EETB has collected details of specific
business issues relating to the outbreak for dissemination to
ministers and MPs through briefings, meetings and the DCMS summit
3.6 EETB has lobbied local authorities and
other organisations about the need to be flexible in opening footpaths
and open spaces, as well as Broads moorings and historic properties.
3.7 EETB has met and briefed EEDA, the regional
development agency, on the impact of the outbreak and EETB's activities.
EEDA has been positive about financing business support activities,
but cannot find funds for marketing and PR.
3.8 From the earliest days of the outbreak
EETB has briefed the media and has been positively received, with
a great deal of coverage. As well as providing regularly updated
information on its website, EETB has devised "121 great ideas"
to help people plan visits, and has provided a regional call team
to handle the regional information hotline seven days a week.
EETB launched a pre-Easter marketing campaign, "This way
for a great day out", designed to stimulate day visits to
attractions. From late April to the end of May, EETB plans two
new campaigns with offers from tourism businesses, to stimulate
days out and short breaks.
3.9 Week beginning 5 March:
EETB launches website with up-to-date
information on attractions that are open or closed, and advice
EETB provides information to tourism
officers and businesses with e-mail facilities on how to deal
with enquiries from prospective visitors and the media, as well
as advice on cancellations; and
EETB fields media enquiries on the
effects of the outbreak on tourism businesses.
3.10 Week beginning 12 March:
12 March: EETB conducts a telephone
survey of a sample of businesses to establish impact of FMD;
14-16 March: EETB conducts detailed
case-studies of 40 businesses to establish impact of FMD;
14 March: newsletter issued to tourism
businesses, local authorities and EEDA, describing impact of FMD,
advice to visitors, details of the case being made to government
for support and cancellation advice for tourism businesses. Also
included a brief questionnaire to assess impact;
15 March: EETB attends DCMS summit
meeting chaired by Janet Anderson MP, Minister for Tourism, Film
16 March: new advice for visitors
issued by the Chief Veterinary Officer;
EETB contacts all Tourist Information
Centres with request to run information hotline to respond to
17 March: EETB issues news release
welcoming the new advice and providing information on the impact
of FMD on tourism in the region;
17 March: EETB writes to all county
council leaders and chief executives asking them to review footpath
closures in the light of CVO's new advice. EETB also writes to
RSPB, English Heritage, National Trust and Broads Authority on
same lines; and
EETB appearances on regional TV,
press and radio describing impact.
3.11 Week beginning 19 March:
20 March: EETB launches "121
great ideas" campaign on the web site, with suggestions of
activities that conform to the CVO's advice.
National and regional media release
on "121 great ideas", generating national coverage (weekend
press) and regional coverage (press, radio and TV).
21 March: EETB launches regional
information hotline, staffed seven days each week (0900-2000 weekdays;
23 March: request for marketing plan
from ETC by 26 March.
EETB begins daily phone-calls to
media requesting mention of the website, information hotline etc.
23 March; second newsletter issued
to tourism businesses, local authorities, EEDA etc. Details of
new advice from CVO, EETB's activities, help announced through
the rates system.
EETB appearances on regional TV,
press and radio describing impact; CVO's advice to visitors and
what people can see and do in the region.
3.12 Week beginning 26 March:
28 March: funding allocation of £125,000
notified, with the stipulation that a report on activity be submitted
every two weeks.
Guidance on opening visitor attractions
disseminated to attractions and local authorities.
Article on tourism and farming written
for Crops magazine.
EETB appearances on regional TV,
press and radio describing impact; CVO's advice to visitors and
what people can see and do in the region.
30 March: Regional Task Force led
by EEDA meets for the first time.
3.13 Week beginning 2 April:
2 April: EETB attends meeting with
the Prime Minister in Colchester (EETB does live BBC TV interview
following the visit).
5 April: meeting with TIC managers
and tourism officers; FMD briefing.
5 April: EETB attends DCMS summit
meeting chaired by Secretary of State for CMS.
6 April: EETB attends breakfast meeting
with Deputy Prime Minister in Norfolk.
Briefing note issued to the region's
MPs describing impact and current activities.
Third newsletter issued to tourism
businesses, local authorities, EEDA etc. Details of meetings with
Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister; amended government advice
on visitor attractions and events; government help for businesses
(small firms loan guarantee scheme); national, international and
regional marketing activity; advice to businesses.
Continued operation of regional information
Continued updating of regional website.
"This way for a great day out"
campaign launched in regional media; aimed at encouraging day
visits within the region in the run-up to Easter. Press advertisements,
posters in TICs etc.
Articles quoting EETB in regional
3.14 Week beginning 9 April:
Notification by DETR of £15
million support for some RDAs, excluding East of England.
"This way for a great day out"
Continued operation of regional web
11 April: EETB attends ETC's tourism
forum to discuss recovery plans.
12 April: EETB conducts survey on
13-15 April: EETB collects information
on Easter visits to attractions, TICs and accommodation.
Interviews on regional TV, radio
and press on Easter expectations.
3.15 Week beginning 16 April:
16 April: EETB provides media with
details of Easter activity;
interviews on regional TV, radio
and press regarding Easter business;
19 April: first detailed report on
two weeks' activity against FMD budget due and submitted to the
English Tourism Council, with a plan for mediumlong term
19 April: meeting of EETB's commercial
members and regional tourism council; FMD briefing with BTA and
EETB's post-Easter days out and short
breaks campaign launched to tourism businesses.
3.16 Week beginning 23 April:
23 April: meeting of EEDA business
25 April: DCMS summit meeting;
27 April: meeting of Regional Task
media launch of new marketing campaigns.
4. Funding awarded to EETB for information
and promotion in response to the FMD outbreak
4.1 The Government has awarded tourism in
England, through the English Tourism Council, £3.8 million
to combat the impact in the short term (to the end of May). (ETC's
complete recovery plan added up to £35.5 million; so far,
there is no indication that any more money will be forthcoming).
4.2 The £3.8 million compares with,
for example, a £13.5 million relief package announced by
the Scottish Executive, of which £5 million is for information
and marketing. This exemplifies the disparity in tourism funding
within the UK, especially for marketing (please see paragraph
4.3 Of this £3.8 million, £1.36
million was awarded by the English Tourism Council to the regional
tourist boards, as follows:
£75,000 to London Tourist Board;
£115,000 to South East England
£115,000 to Southern Tourist
£125,000 to East of England
£125,000 to Yorkshire Tourist
£125,000 to North West Tourist
£125,000 to Northumbria Tourist
£155,000 to Heart of England
£195,000 to Cumbria Tourist
£225,000 to South West Tourism.
4.4 EETB is due to receive £125,000
for use until the end of May. The use of the money is to be accounted
for through detailed reports every two weeks. A further £600,000
remains to be allocated to the regional tourist boards. From the
end of May, there is no indication that any further money will
be received to continue marketing campaigns into the summer, or
to mitigate the long-term impact.
5. Issues for the Committee's consideration
5.1 There is no government funding to the
English Tourism Council or the regional tourist boards to support
marketing. This is unique within the UK. The funding England receives
for tourism is also significantly smaller, given that it generates
approximately 85 per cent of the UK's tourism receipts. For example,
in 1999-2000 the English Tourism Council received £11.8 million
(£0.24 per head of population); Scottish Tourist Board receive
£19.3 million (£3.78 per head); Wales Tourist Board
received £15.4 million (£5.24 per head) and Northern
Ireland Tourist Board received £13.9 million (£8.18
per head). This is at a time when the English tourism deficit
is growing: that is, more people are leaving the country for holidays
year on year than are visiting, even before the FMD outbreak.
5.2 There will undoubtedly be a long-term
impact of the FMD outbreak, and there is a need for long-term
investment in English tourism, especially the reinstatement of
funding for marketing. It is a great shame that it has taken a
disaster like this to put tourism at the top of the political
agenda. The importance of tourism to the national, rural and regional
economy has been demonstrated beyond all doubt, and the very long
supply-chain of affected businesses has also been demonstrated.
The industry needs long-term investment, not only to help it recover
from this crisis, but also to maximise its potential return to
the economy over the long term, and reverse the declining trends.
5.3 Funds for marketing are generated by
the regional tourist boards themselves, through promotions, including
brochures, which are supported by commercial advertising. This
limits the scale and scope of tourism promotion: for example,
major consumer advertising campaigns and PR campaigns cannot usually
be undertaken because funding from tourism businesses is not available
for generic campaigns.
5.4 This deficiency in marketing funding
for England has been highlighted by the foot and mouth disease
outbreak. The regional tourist boards have had to respond very
quickly to the need to provide information and advice for tourism
businesses, and information for visitors about where to visit.
5.5 They have risen to the challenge, but
with great difficulty. There is a lack of Information and Communications
technology infrastructure within the regional tourist boards,
tourist information centres and tourism businesses themselves,
which has hampered communications. Most regional tourist boards
have a small marketing team and have had to buy in PR support:
in some, as in EETB, the Managing Director has undertaken the
PR work personally.
5.6 The outbreak will cause a longer-term
impact on regional tourist boards' finances. Tourism businesses
won't have enough spare money to support accommodation or attractions
inspections, which will have an impact on quality assurance and
the quality of the English tourism product in the longer term.
It will have an impact on tourist board promotions, because businesses
won't have cash to support them, and on membership fees, on which
the regional tourist boards rely. DCMS has allowed regional tourist
board funding to be advanced to help with cash flow, which is
welcome, but this does not compare with the subsidies (50 per
cent) announced in Scotland for quality assurance inspections
and area tourist board membership.
5.7 The Government has announced an additional
£15 million for four RDA areas: the south west, north west,
west midlands and north east. This takes no account of the impact
felt elsewhere in the country: funding should be available for
5.8 A further important issue is the disparity
of VAT rates for tourism between the UK and our European competitors.
The rate is 17.5 per cent in the UK, while the average is 8 per
cent across Europe.
5.9 The Treasury appears to be arguing that
as VAT returns have not been affected, the impact of the outbreak
is minimal. This ignores the fact that the vast majority of tourism
businesses are small or micro-businesses, and are not VAT registered.
5.10 Tourism is also under-represented in
the Standard Industry Classifications, which take into account
no element for retail (which relies on tourism in many places),
public sector or self-employed people in some models (again, a
large proportion of the industry).