My new article has just been published in the Skyline Business Journal, called ‘Tourism Policy Research after the COVID-19 Pandemic: Reconsidering the Role of the State in Tourism’.
The article is open-access, meaning anyone can read it. I argue that the decisions that governments around the world have taken to intervene in their tourism industries means that we need to re-think the role of the state in tourism. You can read the abstract below and access the whole article here.
“Over the last thirty years of research into tourism policy, there has been a dominant assumption that the appropriate role of the state in tourism is mostly settled. The state has a legitimate role in the tourism industry, but it is essentially one of ‘steering and not rowing’. This assumption has developed against the backdrop of the neoliberal shift towards small states, powerful markets and light touch policy interventions in industry. This research note argues that the measures that have been taken by governments around the world in respect of their tourism industries, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, are sufficiently significant and long-term to warrant a re-appraisal of the role of the state in tourism. Specifically, this note makes the case for a renewed focus on research into tourism policy in non-Western contexts, where the role of the state has not been as constrained by the neoliberal shift, and for an increase in international comparative policy research, which has been notably absent in the tourism policy field to date.”
“National tourism policy in Bangladesh is a relatively new development and this research is the first to focus on the implementation of tourism policy in Bangladesh. Taking a social constructivist perspective, interviews were carried out with 13 elite stakeholders, from the public and private sectors, who are associated with the creation and implementation of tourism policy in Bangladesh. The data were analysed qualitatively using a content analysis approach to examine perceptions of the policy implementation process, and its success. In the case of Bangladesh, it is the persistence of hierarchical governance structures that appears to be hindering the effective implementation of tourism policy. This can be seen in the selection of priority areas by the government, the preferred policy instruments, and in the ways in which the private sector is being incentivised to support national tourism development.”
One of our aims with this collection, was to add to the tourism governance literature, with research from developing countries and on using new methods and approaches. This special issue certainly does that, and you can read a summary of the contents in our editorial piece.
Effective governance is a fundamental condition for the sustainable development of tourist destinations. The inherent complexity of tourism also requires that its development be accompanied by efficient planning and management processes based on the basic principles of sustainability.
Previous studies in tourism governance have identified the shift from government to governance in tourism policy; the emergence of new networked and postmodern forms of governance affecting tourism; the changing roles of destination management organizations and the complexities of tourism governance in a globalized world. However, much of this research has been carried out in the developed core countries of the international tourism industry. There is a need to bring together new research on this topic from more diverse geographical and socio-economic perspectives, as well as to re-examine the area of tourism governance in light of the many contemporary crises affecting the sustainability of tourism destinations.
“This report proposes the development of a strategic approach to the creation, programming and promotion of events in Greenwich, under the brand ‘Royal Borough of Greenwich Events’. The report identifies clear opportunities for Visit Greenwich to take a more strategic approach to events within the tourist and visitor offer of the destination. With its partners, Visit Greenwich should aim to use events to enhance the positive impacts of tourism and visitation in Greenwich.”
There has been a lot of public attention given recently to the sharing economy in tourism, especially air bnb and uber, and although this is an important new entrant to our visitor economy, it isn’t yet clear what the future of this sector is on many levels, not least in terms of its social and economic sustainability, and its integration with the country’s wider tourism product.
In contrast to this, Self-catering accommodation is an established, well-regarded and often very high quality product that makes a significant contribution to our tourism industry, especially in our rural and coastal communities. Despite this, it is hardly ever mentioned in the many reports, policies, strategies and destination management plans that have been produced by government and industry alike.
One of the reasons for this is its lack of visibility – paradoxically, one of the great strengths of this accommodation sector is a weakness in this regard. Self-catering is a low-impact, sustainable solution for integrating visitors into a local economy – it creates jobs in family businesses, as well as domestic SMEs, and makes use of accommodation and services like village pubs and public transport that might otherwise struggle to survive without tourists.
We’ve carried out the first national study of the economic impact of this accommodation, using actual booking information, that has allowed us to estimate the economic impact of self-catering accommodation in rural and coastal areas in England. We’ve used the same multiplier calculations that are used by our public tourism bodies. We’ve actually been quite conservative in our calculations. We haven’t made assumptions about how much self-catering tourists spend, we’ve just looked at how much they pay to book their accommodation and what happens inside these properties.
We have calculated that these self-catering properties contribute an additional £3.04 billion to English GVA each year. We haven’t looked at the impacts of additional spending by these tourists, but it is clear to us that this figure would significantly increase this impact.
In addition to this, the sector supports more than 20,000 FTE jobs in our rural and coastal communities.
There are three main conclusions that we have drawn from this:
It is clear that the more than £3bn economic contribution made by self-catering properties alone to rural and coastal economies in the UK is significant, and under-acknowledged. To give some context, the government’s own statistics suggest that the entire contribution of agriculture and fishing to these same communities economy is only £10.7bn
It is clear from the booking data that we have analysed that this economic impact involves a significant transfer of economic activity from the prosperous regions of the UK, especially London and the South-East to the countries rural and peripheral areas, not least the south-west and the north-west. This has implications for the rebalancing of the economy and the government’s approach to our rural economy
The sector should receive much more attention, not just from researchers, but from policy-makers and tourism agencies, who have a sustainable, high-quality, services industry available to them to support growth in often disadvantaged areas, with high potential for future growth.
We hope that this report helps politicians and policy makers to look at the self-catering sector with fresh eyes and makes a contribution to the current debates taking place within government about how to grow the English economy outside of London.
In our presentation, we present research where we tested the utility of the concept of punctuated equilibrium, for understanding recent changes in UK tourism policy. Punctuated Equilibrium draws our attention to two different groups of people and organisations in understanding change and continuity in tourism policy. Firstly, the policy community involved in framing, creating and implementing tourism policies in the UK. Secondly, the role of issue networks in attempting to shift the tourism policy agenda – broadly speaking, this would be activity by non-governmental interest groups, such as lobbying and campaigning.
In our presentation, we presented two brief case studies. Firstly, we explained how the conservative elements of the UK’s coalition government, which was elected in 2010, slowly worked to change the composition of the tourism policy community until they were able to achieve their ideological goal of significantly reducing public sector support for tourism, despite this having no real support from the broader tourism sector in the country.
We concluded that the perspective of punctuated equilibrium was helpful in explaining why a long period of stability in tourism policy and been broken by a series of quite dramatic changes in tourism governance in the UK. Punctuated Equilibrium suggests that we should be able to explain the evolution of tourism policy through analysing the tension between policy communities and issues networks – our initial investigations have led us to conclude that, in the case of the UK, the policy community is the dominant part of this equation. We plan to develop this further for a paper next year….
Under the New Labour government of 1997-2010, tourism policy in the United Kingdom was characterised by a high level of continuity between the policies of successive administrations. Since 2010, the United Kingdom has had two different new governments. Each of these governments has launched a new tourism policy. The Coalition government’s policy made fundamental changes to the funding and governance of tourism and the new Conservative government have enacted significant changes to the National Tourism Organisations (NTOs) for the United Kingdom and England.
This paper analyses the changes in the United Kingdom’s tourism policy between 1997-2015, using a combination of structural explanations based on exogenous factors and the perspective of punctuated equilibrium theory. Research was conducted through content analysis of key policy and strategy documents including national tourism policies, policies of the devolved administrations of the United Kingdom, and other key documents such as NTO strategy documents and consultation records. Although this study is based on the United Kingdom, the approach taken could be used to analyse periods of tourism policy change in other countries, especially those that have seen recent changes in government following the global economic crisis.
The paper concludes by showing that although structural explanations of tourism policy making are useful in examining the determinants of tourism policy at any given time, punctuated equilibrium theory helps to explain periods of change in tourism policy by drawing attention to the role of policy communities in setting policy problems and selecting potential solutions By utilising a theoretical approach that has not been applied widely in studies of tourism policy, but which has been used extensively in studies of other policy arenas, this paper shows the utility of incorporating theoretical perspectives from other parts of the policy studies literature when considering changes in tourism policy. Recommendations are made towards the end of the paper for how this could be applied in future studies, including for international comparative analysis of tourism policy.
The majority of tourism in Suffolk (94%) is day visits, but day trip spending is around £25 per day, way below the national average of £31. Increasing day visit spend should be a big regional priority.
The growth of staycations offers the opportunity for Suffolk to grow a high value domestic tourism market, but this is very competitive and tourism businesses should consider how to offer even more high quality, high value products to the top end of this market.
The UK Government recently published their new ‘five point plan’ for the tourism industry. You can download it from here. In this post, I’m going to have a critical look at this new policy, which actually contains very little policy at all…
As Kurt Janson, the policy director of Tourism Alliance, has pointed out, it is a good sign for the sector that the Government is at least talking about tourism as a policy area in a time of public sector spending cuts. Despite the rumours that were circulating before the recent election about further cuts to public support for tourism and the gloomy future for the Department for Culture Media and Sport (where tourism sits in government policy), it seems as though this Government is continuing to say the right kinds of things about the UK tourism industry, which contributes around £60bn a year to the economy.
Despite this optimistic view, it is worth considering the detail of this policy, to see what it offers to tourism businesses, local government and the nearly 10% of the workforce who are employed in tourism-related jobs. The problem is, there really isn’t much detail here to go on. With a colleague, Samantha Chaperon, I published this paper on the last UK Tourism Policy, and in this paper I reviewed the tourism policies of successive Labour Governments, from 1997-2010.
The lack of detail in this new policy document, which is only 6 pages long, makes it difficult to engage with in the same way. The policy sets out five key areas, and in this blog post, I’m going to say something about each of them.
This first area of the policy is about the governance of Tourism in the UK, or, actually, in England. As we’ve pointed out before, tourism in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland is dealt with by their own, devolved governments. The last tourism policy seemed to ignore this fact, and it is good to see the Government acknowledge this issue in this new document.
This section starts from the premise that the governance of tourism in the UK is fragmented and confusing, and that the mix of relationships between DMOs, local government, national bodies and tourism businesses needs to be simplified. This seems-self evident. Certainly the industry will welcome a simplification in this area.
This is clearly an example of this new Government attempting to make up for some of the hasty mistakes of the last one. The cuts in public funding for tourism, including for the national tourism bodies, regional development agencies and for local government, directly contributed to the fragmentation that this policy aims to address. Hopefully this Government has learnt from its mistakes in this area as part of the 2010-2015 coalition.
2. Skills and Jobs
Again, after cutting funds for, or completely removing, specialist sources of support for the tourism sector in the UK, the government is now emphasizing the support that is available to tourism businesses. There is no new support announced in this policy, but the Government is right to point out that there are a wide range of business support services available to all businesses, and that it is important to communicate this effectively to the tourism sector. This is especially important for micro-businesses and SMEs, many of whom were previously able to access specialist support through Regional Development Agencies, local authorities or DMOs.
The policy then goes on to talk about jobs in the industry. There are no new initiatives mentioned, but the aspiration to help to create and support apprenticeships in tourism and to raise the status of jobs in tourism is a welcome one – organisations like the British Hospitality Association are already taking the lead in this area and should expect more support from the Government following this policy.
3. Common Sense Regulation
This area of the policy contains nothing new for the tourism industry, despite a brief mention of the sharing economy. The policy makes a commitment to reducing unnecessary regulation – which all governments say at the start of their terms – something that most businesses see as a priority. It is not clear which regulations they think are a problem, but it will be interesting to see whether European Working Time Directive is on the list when Britain attempts to renegotiate its membership of the European Union this year. It is hard to be against something that calls itself ‘common sense’, but not all regulations are a bad thing and it remains to be seen where this policy aim will lead.
The Davies Commission recently recommended that the Government builds a new runway at Heathrow. This is the big decision on travel that the tourism industry has been waiting for. This policy gets us no closer to finding out what the Government will do about that recommendation, and instead seems to concentrate on how the train network can better support tourism outside of London. This seems like an idea that is hard to disagree with – who doesn’t want faster, cheaper, cleaner and more dependable trains? Unfortunately,within the constraints of a privatised rail industry, it seems unlikely that Government has the right levers to pull to achieve any of these things.
5. A GREAT Welcome
The word GREAT in this area is a reference to the GREAT Britain destination marketing campaign that was launched following the last tourism policy, in 2011. The policy extends the concept to the welcome that is provided to tourists arriving in the UK. However, this area of the policy isn’t really about the welcome. It is about the visa application process for tourists. Of course, applying for a visa is an important part of the way that some tourists form their perceptions of the UK as a tourist destination. I’ve never heard of the Visa process being reported as a big problem by our most valuable tourist markets – the USA, France, Germany and Australia. It is a much bigger issue for emerging tourism markets, such as China. At the moment, China isn’t even in our top ten source markets -the new policy may go some way to addressing this.
The welcome provided to tourists in the UK has often been rated poorly, especially compared to many of our competitors. I don’t think that changing the visa process for some tourists will make a major contribution to solving this problem, which requires training, partnerships with industry, investment in facilities and a long term culture-change.
This new policy doesn’t really contain many policy initiatives. Compared to previous policies it is very light touch, which some parts of the industry will welcome. Many others however, will be concerned with the lack of any content on sustainability, the outbound sector, domestic tourism or the ongoing campaign to cut tourism VAT. As with the last policy, it is probable that the real action on tourism will come from the planning and actions of Visit England and Visit Britain.
We are getting closer and closer to the point where the UK Government doesn’t feel the need to publish its own policy on tourism any more. Some people would say that this is no bad thing. In a few year’s time, we will be able to see whether this non-policy has helped the tourism industry in the UK, or held it back.