May I firstly extend every good wish for a very happy and enjoyable festive period.
2019 has been an interesting and fast paced year. Political uncertainty has dominated, but as the year draws to a close, a clearer direction emerges. Technological developments have continued apace with conversations about the use of Big Data dominating. Aspirations set out within the UK Sector Deal to create a Tourism data Hub are therefore to be welcomed. Climate Change concern has rightly intensified and has challenged the way we live and work. In summary, as we enter 2020, tourism businesses have much to think about, reinforcing the view that the launch of the new WG Tourism Strategy at the end of January 2020 is well timed.
The WTA has continued to consult, collaborate and communicate with interested parties to further the cause and to protect the interests of the sector. Progress to date:
We were delighted that Jim Jones has accepted the position of Vice-Chair and may I take this opportunity to record my thanks to our Policy Advocate Adrian Greason-Walker for his support and unstinting dedication, which is of such value to members – and to Eirlys and Ffion in North Wales Tourism for providing such effective and efficient administrative expertise.
Finally, a date for your diary, next year’s Wales Tourism Week Reception will be held from 12:30 in the Senedd on the 7th May 2020. We look forward to seeing you there.
Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!
Andrew Campbell – Chair WTA
The Queen’s Speech contained a significant number of programme items that will have implications for the Tourism industry. Many were in the Queen’s Speech in October, but there are new additions and some of the previously announced Bills have changed in scope and direction. The main tourism-related programme items are:
Simon Hart has been named as Welsh secretary, replacing Alun Cairns, who quit the job at the start of the election. Nicky Morgan has been retained as the Culture Secretary even though she is not an MP – it is unusual and raises questions about accountability as they are not responsible to the electorate and cannot have the whip removed, although not unheard of. She has also said that she will only be in position for “a matter of weeks”, reinforcing the widespread belief that there will be a major reshuffle in February once the UK has left the EU. Helen Whately MP is remaining in post at least until the February reshuffle.
Andrew Campbell, WTA Chair and Adrian Greason-Walker, WTA Policy Advocate met with Janet Finch-Saunders AM (11/12/19). Discussion centred on Non-Domestic Business Rates and the impact of taxation and regulation on Tourism Business across Wales in general. The growing costs of running businesses were discussed in light of current UK National politics and in regard to BREXIT. The WTA was delighted that Janet Finch-Saunders affirmed her future commitment to working with the WTA and the Tourism Cross Party Group in 2020.
Out of interest....it is worth noting developments to the so called 'Tourism Tax' around the UK. In particular a recent response by Scottish Tourism Alliance to proposals being made by the Highland Council for such a tax. It looks as if the Council, in a recent consultation report has disregarded much of the advice, views and insights of three Chambers of Commerce – Inverness, Caithness and Fort William and five other business groups who strongly oppose the introduction of a tourist tax on the basis of the significant harm it would have on the tourism economy. This is in light of what is noted as 'at a time when Highland tourism is not as ‘booming’ as previously reported'.
An alarming omissions from the consultation, which we as an industry need to keep reiterating across the UK, is the consultation makes no mention of the fact that a tourist tax would be introduced in the context of the UK having one of the highest rates of VAT and even states that there are ‘no risks’, when in reality, the introduction of a tourist tax would have widespread, far reaching negative impacts. Also of interest according to the report’s data, is that of those who indicated that a Tourism Tax would influence their future behaviour, 52.3% indicated that a tourist tax would influence their decision to ‘go elsewhere’ which could mean that the Highlands loses 45,000 visitors and around £16 million in visitor spend a year which is significantly higher than the £5 – £10 million the Council would see a tourist tax generating.
Watch this space.
Of note a recent statement from WEFO -
'The Welsh Government continues to work with partners in Wales to develop a new regional investment framework to replace the EU Structural and Investment Funds should the UK leave the EU. A two-year OECD project has been underway since January to help ensure international best practice and effective regional governance are built into our future plans. As part of the project, the OECD visited Wales between 25 and 29 November to inform its work and broaden engagement.....The Regional Investment for Wales Steering Group, chaired by Huw Irranca-Davies AM, continues to meet to draw on knowledge and experience from its members. The Group has met several times this year and will next meet again on 17 December. Membership, papers and minutes from these meetings can be found: Regional Investment in Wales Steering Group. The four sub groups, established during the summer, continue to meet monthly to help take forward the detail specific work, including the drafting of the consultation document for launch early next year'.
Welsh Government’s response to the National Assembly for Wales’ Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee Report on Access to Banking
Welsh Government Response to the report on 'Access to Banking'
The Welsh Government has now responded to the inquiry which gathered information about the social and economic impact of bank closures in Wales. The inquiry examined the impact of bank branch closures in Wales on local businesses, consumers and the Welsh economy and explored what steps could be taken to address any issues identified.
The inquiry examined the current position regarding access to banking services in Wales, including financial inclusion and digital inclusion. It also looked into the ways in which branch closures and access to free ATMs can affect local communities including the impact on business in general and tourism. The WTA was called to give evidence.
The Welsh Government has accepted in part, full or in-principle 12 of the 14 recommendations.
The WG response can be found on the Committee's pages at: https://www.assembly.wales/en/bus-home/committees/Pages/Committee-Profile.aspx?cid=446
What we would What the Tourism Industry Needs to thrive and grow - There needs to be a reconsideration post-Election, Brexit or no Brexit, of all UK government support provided to the Tourism Industry in Wales. It is an opportunity for a fresh look at the needs of the tourism industry across the UK and the returns which will be obtained from a more realistic level of support. It is a time when the rules are being re-written. Let it be done in a way which realises the potential of the tourism industry in the UK and specifically Wales.
More generally, the WTA would like to see greater political recognition of the value of the Tourism Industry too Wales, all to often there is little direct mention in the Party manifestos.
Visitors contribute an annual spend of c£6.2 billion to the Welsh economy - The current level of UK and via Welsh Government support for investment in the industry from all its various support schemes, has probably been running at no more than £10 million annually. The Tourism Industry in Wales needs its fair share of UK Government support post the election of a new Government in Westminster. The industry should have a specific allocation of funding linked to the new Development Framework and Strategy to support capital investment and product development in tourism businesses. The scheme rules should reflect the fact that the industry is mainly composed of micro businesses and SMEs, mostly owner managed. An earmarked development tourism fund of £20 million annually would not be out of place bearing in mind the size of tourism contribution to GDP and its further growth potential.
A Meaningful Marketing Budget for Wales - The fall in the value of the pound makes us a more attractive destination to overseas visitors while the increase in the cost of overseas holidays may persuade more UK residents to holiday at home. But this will only happen if knowledge of what we offer is brought to the market place. The small scale nature of tourism businesses in Wales means that UK alongside Welsh Government support is vital for the effective marketing of the industry via Visit Britain. By comparison with competitor destinations, the current marketing budget available to Visit Wales is small by comparison. The WTA looks to the UK Government via Visit Britain to increase the scope and level of assistance given to Visit Wales to develop key markets for Wales overseas, including those markets now served by international airlines using airports in close proximity to Wales.
Taxation Policies which promote the Competitiveness of the Industry - We note the Liberal Democrats and others references to Local Tourism Taxation - the WTA does not see this as a way forward. In common with the rest of the UK, the industry in Wales is penalised in comparison with near European countries by the current rate of VAT. The WTA calls on any new UK Government to reduce the rate to a more competitive level for the industry. In addition we call for a review of the principles and practice underlying the present system of Business Rates. Within the responsibilities of the new UK Government, the WTA urges the avoidance of any further taxation measures which would affect the competitiveness of the industry.
Maintaining and Improving the Skills needed by the Industry - EU nationals play an important part in some sectors of the industry in Wales, as elsewhere in the UK they will continue to be needed. New policies and legislation needs to realistically reflect this.
Ensuring Key Tourism Infrastructure - Key tourism services and infrastructure provided by local authorities is undoubtedly disappearing because of financial pressures across Wales and the UK. The WTA proposes that the new UK Government works with the Welsh Government to seek ways in which the impact of public expenditure reductions might be ameliorated in Wales.
Wales Tourism Alliance - November 2019
Plaid Cymru makes direct reference to Tourism’s importance in Wales - ‘Plaid Cymru recognises the importance of the tourism industry across Wales as an employer and in attracting investment into the country. We want to promote Wales as a high quality, sustainable tourism destination with activities and experiences based on our natural resources, our produce, our unique coastline and landscape, and our language, culture and heritage. We will increase funding for tourism promotion for Wales to take its place amongst the best destinations world-wide. Currently, the tourism industry is held back by unfair taxes and a Government that is failing to promote Wales as a global tourist destination. Plaid Cymru want to see tourism VAT on hospitality cut to 9% to put Wales ahead in the international tourism market’.
Plaid also want to improve the tourist experience by ensuring that:
- There is joined-up services and knowledge so that tourists can stay close to events.
- Hotels have access to the latest tourism information.
- That Public transport is available when required.
- The development of locally-run municipal camping sites in our towns and cities.
They also propose the launch of a ‘Celebrate Wales year’ to stimulate tourism across the country.
Plaid Cymru references...
Fair Funding for Wales – They state the Barnett Formula for distributing funding to the devolved nations has been largely unchanged for forty years and is not fit for purpose. Plaid Cymru believes it should be replaced by an Office for Fair Funding, with a statutory obligation to deliver geographic wealth convergence across the UK.
Taxation - Plaid would reverse the British Government’s planned cut on corporation tax. Cancelling the planned cut from 19% to 17% due in 2020. They also propose an increase to the employee rate of National Insurance Contributions for higher rate and additional rate taxpayers from 2 per cent to 4 cent raising an estimated £2bn a year.
Economic Development - Economic powers currently reserved to Westminster that should be devolved to enable to Welsh Government to develop a more coherent economic development strategy to include: The Crown Estate Water Ports and harbours Maritime Coastguard Agency and full control of the Wales and Border rail franchise Network Rail operation in Wales.
A Welsh Migration System - They state ‘Plaid Cymru has consistently called for the rights of all EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU to be legally protected’.
Broadband - Creating a publicly-owned Welsh Broadband Infrastructure Company to guarantee access to full-fibre broadband to every home and business in Wales by 2025.
Rail - Electrification of all major rail lines by 2030 and they propose a wide range of rail improvement projects including the creation of a trans-Wales railway and a Cross-Rail for the Valleys.
Bus - Expanding the Traws Cymru bus network with high-quality coaches powered by renewable sources of energy.
Electric Vehicle Charging Network - They will invest in a national electric vehicle charging network across Wales, starting the transition towards a wholly electric fleet of public sector vehicles and increased use of private EVs.
The full manifesto can be found here:
The tourism-related policies
Lib Dem manifesto - a full version of which can be downloaded from: