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.”
Changes in political economy, the rise of emerging economies outside of the traditionally USA-dominated trans-Atlantic region and the globalisation of culture enabled by democratised technological channels, have led to profound shifts in the balance of the global economy. Attempting to explain this geopolitical shift, commentators and academics have introduced terms such as the ‘Chinese Century’ (Beckley, 2012; Brands, 2018; Hartley, 2008; Hongling, 2015; Pan, 2013; Stiglitz, 2015), the ‘Pacific Century’ (Borthwick, 2018; Scott, 2008) and the ‘Asian Century’ (Atonopoulos, 2017; Morrison, 2014).
The aim of this special issue is to consider the impact of these macro-level changes on the events industry and research into events, and to help to address a geographical, but also an ideological and cultural, imbalance in events management research, which has tended to focus on the traditionally dominant global economies of North America, Western Europe and Australasia (Kim & Kaewnuch, 2018; Robertson et al., 2018; Spracklen & Lamond, 2016). Recent research has begun to engage with this new context in areas as diverse as education (Werner et al, 2018), events and public diplomacy (Wang, 2018), regional development (Hussain, et al., 2018), the growth of the Chinese events industry (Liu & Lou, 2018) and mega events (Liang, et al., 2016).
Papers for this special issue should
engage with the context of the Chinese Century, and the implications of this
for events management research and practice.
Relevant, recently published research has include the following thematic
areas, suggesting that they are worthy of further examination, although the
list is not intended to be exhaustive.
Development of the Chinese Events Industry
Political Economy of Events and Public Diplomacy using Events
and Regional Development
in the Events Industry
and Urban Development
Authors should submit to James Kennell (email@example.com).
In the first instance, authors should submit an abstract for consideration and
feedback, according to the timeframe below.
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.
In my presentation, I argued that, in the absence of strong government policies on tourism and culture, and as public sector funding and control of regeneration reduces, there is an opportunity for heritage groups (like the fantastic Sevenoaks Society, who presented their work on local lists at the event) to influence how their local heritage is presented to tourists and to influence the nature of local economic development.
My main point was that tourists want fantastic, memorable experiences. If heritage groups can present their local heritage to tourists as interesting stories and use exciting narratives, then heritage can be a great resource for regeneration. This might mean them becoming comfortable with the inauthentic heritagisation of their areas, but seaside towns like Whitby and Blackpool show that this can be highly effective in bringing in tourists and generating economic impacts.
There are at least two questions worth asking in response to all of this. Firstly, do all of these arguments really carry weight in the UK? Secondly, what would happen if we didn’t have a tourism policy?
The complexity of tourism was described perfectly by Bob McKercher in the first issue of the Journal of Sustainable Tourism in 1993: “Tourism is a multi-faceted industry and, as such, it is almost impossible to control”. This is certainly true, but begs the question of why we need to control tourism at all. In the UK, with a strong and stable government, the tourism industry is regulated and monitored through a range of legislative measure, guidelines, NGOs, partnerships and communities. Concerns about the control of tourism are caused by the bogey-man of tourism businesses running out of control and seeking profit at the expense of everyone else, but it is very hard for anyone to do that in the UK without running up against some pretty big obstacles, none of which are tourism-policy specific.
This first issue of control helps us to understand the arguments about the impacts of tourism. Clearly, tourism has a range of impacts and some of these can be very negative. Tourism Policy in the UK, however, doesn’t actually put any limits on the activities of tourism businesses – limits come from more general legislation such as planning and employment law.
As I’ve argued in this article, although previous UK tourism policies did make the case for sustainable development, this has been dropped from the current policy in favour of economic growth, in any case.
The market failure argument is a difficult one to evaluate, especially given the success of the tourism industry in the UK. Of course, problems of free-riding mean that it is true that non-contributing tourism businesses can benefit from the destination marketing activities funded by their competitors, but most tourism marketing is funded by the public sector, or in partnership with the public sector. Aside from that example though, it is hard to see real problems of market failure in the UK tourism industry – the industry makes a large contribution to GDP, is dominated by SMEs, offers huge diversity to customers and has low barriers to entry.
So what would happen if we didn’t get a new tourism policy in the UK after the general election in 2015?
Let’s assume that Visit Britain would continue in some form. Despite having its funding slashed in half since 2010 and becoming a public-private partnership in all but name, it has continued to carry out the international destination marketing campaigns that an NTO should. With reduced government support and, potentially, no government department overseeing it, it would probably be wrapped up with UK Trade and Investment and Higher Education as a PPP with a relationship to the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, much as happened when Visit London became part of the new London and Partners, the ‘official promotional company for London’. International destination marketing would almost certainly carry on as before.
At the local government level, it would become harder to justify support for tourism activities without it being endorsed by a specific government policy area. But tourism has always been an area of discretionary spending for local government and has already seen huge cuts at this level. A new breed of Destination Management Organisations is emerging, outside of local authority structures, and it is likely that these private-sector-led bodies would take on destination management and marketing roles, as they already are.
And I don’t think it would make a difference to the day-to-day running of tourism businesses, who spend large amounts of their time grappling with employment law, taxation, health and safety regulations and the like, but very little struggling with the implementation of government tourism policy. At events over the last few years, I’ve heard tourism business leaders and small businesses arguing for reduced regulation, improved employment legislation and a reduction in VAT. I haven’t heard anyone calling for an improved tourism policy.
This is the second in a series of posts about UK Tourism Policy in the run up to the 2015 General Election. You can read the first post here. Over the next couple of months I’ll be reviewing each of the main parties’ proposals for tourism policy, but I don’t think it is impossible to imagine the UK without one.
I posted a series of blog posts in the run up to the publication of the 2011 UK Tourism Policy, which you can read here, here and here. In these posts, I suggested that the government needed to develop a serious industrial policy for tourism, cut VAT on tourism, invest in skills development and education for tourism professionals and create tourism enterprise zones. Over the last few years, I’ve written (mostly with my colleague Dr Samantha Chaperon) a few papers that evaluate the UK Government’s recent approach to the tourism industry along similar lines.
In 2010, we published this paper on the prospects for English Seaside Towns in the context of the closing down of the Regional Development Agencies and their replacement by new Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs). We concluded that the LEPs did not place sufficient emphasis on tourism and that they did not recognize the challenges to developing seaside towns associated with their peripheral locations.
In 2013, we published this paper critiquing the UK Government’s 2011 Tourism Policy. In the paper we outlined the major changes that had taken place in the governance and public funding of tourism following the publication of this policy and suggested that the policy did not offer a clear vision of how the government would support the industry in a period of public sector austerity.
Also in 2013, I published this paper, which reviewed the tourism policies of successive UK Governments from 1997-2010 in terms of their relationship to local economic development. This paper shows that, although the current government’s tourism policy continues with many of the assumptions of previous policies about the links between tourism and economic development, it does introduce some new thinking that may create an environment in which the tourism industry can contribute to local economic development.
I think the chances of tourism making it into the published manifestos are pretty slim – tourism isn’t really a doorstep issue. However, we should expect to hear something like this statement from the Labour Party from all of their rivals over the next few months. As they do so, I’ll be reviewing them on this blog and trying to get a sense of what the post-election tourism landscape will look like.
On 11th December 2013, we’ve invited Graham Wason, the chairman of the campaign to cut Tourism VAT, to give a talk at the University of Greenwich.
Graham Wason is Chairman of the Campaign for Reduced Tourism VAT, which urges UK Government to reduce VAT on visitor accommodation and attractions to 5%, arguing that this will make the UK more competitive with the rest of the EU. Independent research shows this measure would create jobs and give a positive return to the Treasury of £2.6 billion over 10 years. He will present the work of the Campaign. You can book your place at the event here.
Graham is also Co-founder of All Being Well, which inspires people towards well-being, growth and fulfilment in life and work. What is the link between cutting tourism VAT and fulfilment in life and work? Is it to be found in Graham’ country of residence, Denmark, which has the highest rate of tourism VAT in the EU yet consistently tops the league of the world’s happiest countries? Graham will present the findings of the latest World Happiness Report and suggest an alternative route to fulfilment and happiness.
Graham Wason Biography
Graham Wason is Chairman of Cut Tourism VAT, the industry-wide campaign for reduced VAT on tourism, which he leads on behalf of Bourne Leisure, Merlin Entertainments, the British Hospitality Association and the British Association of Leisure Park Piers & Attractions.
Since 1993, he has prepared eight in-depth reports on the impact of reduced tourism VAT on UK jobs and the economy: www.cuttourismvat.co.uk .
Graham graduated in Hotel and Catering Management at the University of Surrey and worked in hotels in England, Wales, Germany and Nigeria, and as Hotel and Tourism Inspector for the consume magazine, ‘Holiday Which?’. He then spent nearly 20 years with Deloitte, where he was partner responsible for tourism and hospitality consulting and worked on 500 tourism projects in over 50 countries.
His roles have included Strategy Adviser to the World Travel & Tourism Council, Consultant to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, Special Adviser to a House of Lords Select Committee, Chairman of the Tourism Society and the British Consultants Bureau Tourism and Leisure Group, and member of the advisory boards of the University of Surrey School of Management and the Institute of Tourism Guiding.
Graham owns and overseas Cossington Park, a five-star gold award winning self-catering operation in Somerset. Graham is co-founder of All Being Well, which provides well-being, leadership development and coaching to companies and individuals. Whilst his professional activities are carried out primarily in the UK, Graham lives with his wife and son in Denmark.
“This review considers the UK Government’s 2011 tourism policy document. The policy was produced during a period of public sector restructuring in the UK and also during the global economic crisis, which began in 2008. The policy sets out a number of reforms to the governance of tourism at the national and local levels, which aim to increase the level of private sector involvement in leading and developing the tourism sector and to reduce the sector’s dependence on public funding. During a period of economic slowdown in the UK, the tourism industry can make a significant contribution to growth, but it is not yet clear whether these proposed reforms will support or impede the future development of the tourism industry in the UK.”