The Economic Impact of the Self Catering Sector in England

With a colleague, Ewa Krolikowska, we recently published a report for the English Association of Self Catering Operators, on the economic impact of the self-catering accommodation sector in rural and coastal England.  This was the first national study of its kind and you can download the report from the EASCO website by filling in your name and email address here.

James Kennell & Ewa Krolikowska at the House of Commons launch for the report
James Kennell & Ewa Krolikowska at the House of Commons launch for the report

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.

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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:

 

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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.

Tourism and Economic Development in Suffolk

This is the presentation that I gave last week, at the Suffolk Inside Out event in Ipswich.  This excellent event was organised by Events Management students from University Campus Suffolk, who brought together some great speakers and delegates from Suffolk to discuss the development of tourism and the visitor economy in the region.

The main points of my presentation were:

  • Tourism makes a strong contribution to the economic growth priorities of Suffolk,  and tourism stakeholders need to make that clear when they talk to politicians and policy makers
  • 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.

Implementing the Witty Review: Universities and Economic Development

I”ve been invited to chair this Inside Government event on 21st January 2014.  ‘Implementing the Witty Review: One Year On’, looks like a very interesting event and, as always with Inside Government events, there is a great range of speakers lined up.

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Click this image to read Sir Andrew Witty’s report

I’ve been to a couple of Inside Government events and I spoke at one back in 2012, when I gave this presentation on tourism and local economic development. They tend to keep their events quite small, for around 50 delegates, and this means that there is lots of scope for meeting people and getting involved in discussions.  In my work with the Economic Development Resource Centre at the University of Greenwich, I’ve been involved for a few years in linking academics to public and private sector organisations seeking to promote economic development and I’m very much looking forward to learning from the other participants in this event in January.

 

Economic Insurgency – paper for the Future Cities 2011 conference

Graham Symon and I have had an abstract accepted for a paper we will present at the Future Cities 2011 conference, being held in London on 15th & 16th December this year.  The paper builds on an idea that came from some work  on localism we were doing earlier in the year for the Economic Development Resource Centre, in which we suggested that an economic insurgency was one potential outcome of a radical localism in economic development.  The full abstract is below:

How low can it go?  The devolution of economic development and the possibility of economic insurgency

This presentation provides a critique of the UK Government’s policies and plans for devolving economic development processes from the regional to the local and neighbourhood levels.  Drawing on economic development theory and experiences from Europe, Latin America, the United States and Japan, radical approaches to economic development are reviewed that suggest possibilities for innovative approaches to the problems of economic development in the cities of the UK.

International examples show that alternative models are available for growing the economies of our cities and towns that have the character of a challenging, bottom-up insurgency – a stark contrast to the conservative models of growth being offered by the new Local Enterprise Partnerships and Government departments[1].  In an economic insurgency, traditional, hierarchical institutions and frameworks come under attack from below as new economies take shape and start to re-shape places from within.  

Following the financial crisis of 2008, Western governments have struggled to develop consistently successful responses to stimulating sustainable growth in post-crash economies[2].  In the UK, the Government’s ‘local growth’ white paper appeared to promote a return to pre-crash methods of top-down economic development with an increased role for the private sector, despite the rhetorical references to a ‘new localism’[3] and economic ideas of subsidiarity and sustainability.[4] However, despite these contradictions, recent Government espousals have the potential to create an environment in which more radical approaches to economic development are becoming possible.  This presentation argues that an economic insurgency is a necessary next step in local economic development in the UK.


[1] Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (2010) Local Growth,London: HMSO

[2] Florida, R. (2010) The Great Reset: how new ways of living and working drive post-crash prosperity, New York: Harper Collins

[3] Bentley, G., Bailley, D. & Shutt, J. (2010) From RDAs to LEPs: A New Localism? Case Examples of West Midlands and Yorkshire in Local Economy, Vol. 25, No.7, pp. 535-537

[4] Schumacher, E.F. (1973/1993) Small is beautiful: a study of economics as if people mattered,London: Vintage