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Destination Management Organisations

Volume 812: debated on Tuesday 8 June 2021


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the role destination management organisations can have in support the recovery of the (1) national, and (2) international, visitor economy from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic; and what support they are providing to such organisations.

I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper and, in so doing, note that I am co-chair of the Midlands Engine APPG.

My Lords, in March the Government commissioned an independent review of the destination management organisations in England to look at these issues. The review is ongoing and will report later in the summer. It will make recommendations on how DMOs might best be structured and funded to support the post-Covid recovery of the tourism sector. Last year, the Government provided £2.3 million in financial support to England’s DMOs so that they could continue to carry out vital business support roles during the pandemic.

I thank the Minister for that response. Local connections and knowledge of place are key for DMOs. Does the Minister agree on the importance of community-based action for DMOs and that freedom from hierarchical structures is key in helping them undertake their role effectively—for example, freedom from the constraints inherent in local government structures and strengthening connections with LEPs, town funds and future levelling-up opportunities?

The noble Lord will be aware that there are several different models of DMO, but the Government recognise the point that he makes about the important role that DMOs currently play in supporting local communities, sharing their expertise and building connections across destinations. The review will consider the points he raises, taking into account current examples of best practice, and will make recommendations based on that.

My Lords, what support for the recovery of these organisations are the Government giving regarding the resulting instability of endless changing of the red, amber and green countries?

The Government recognise and regret the disruption to travellers, particularly those who had been planning trips to Portugal recently. We have provided £2.3 million in the last year specifically to support the destination management organisations in recognition of their crucial role.

My Lords, in this country we are very lucky to have so many museums and art galleries that are free to the public. And yet, on occasion, DMOs have included in the list of things they can do for visitors “entry into the British Museum”, et cetera. Will the Government undertake not to support any organisations that market themselves in this way?

My Lords, local authorities deserve praise for their work during the pandemic to promote staycations: getting people to fall back in love with the great British holiday either by exploring new places in our rich and varied country or revisiting childhood destinations. Are the Government considering giving these hard-pressed councils and destination management organisations additional financial and other support, at a time when the UK desperately needs to grow domestic tourism and the hospitality industry is suffering?

The noble Baroness will be aware that the Government have given huge support—over £25 billion—to the tourism, hospitality and leisure sectors. We made an additional grant of £425 million specifically to local authorities, making clear that tourism and events were eligible for that funding, at the discretion of local authorities.

My Lords, a recent survey of tourism businesses by the Tourism Alliance highlighted some severe staffing problems: only 18% of businesses in the tourism and hospitality sector say that they have enough staff, and almost one-third have had to reduce their capacity, services or hours because they simply cannot get the staff. What action are the Government taking with DMOs to rectify this situation, which is wrecking the recovery not just of the tourism industry but of local economies?

The noble Baroness makes a good point, but the picture is slightly more complicated than the one that she paints. She is right that there are areas of shortage, but in significant portions of the industry staff are still on furlough. There are great geographic variations on that, and we are working closely with the sector to assess how we can respond to the challenges it faces.

My Lords, can the Minister tell the House how the stronger towns funding, the future high streets fund, the levelling-up fund, the UK shared prosperity fund, the welcome back fund and the coastal community fund are being co-ordinated to provide a coherent strategy for tourism and, specifically, for seaside towns?

I thank my noble friend for highlighting the varied and sustained support that the Government have been offering in the range of funds that he cited, some of which have been available since 2019 and others which are yet to be launched. We are working across Whitehall and with local and regional stakeholders, including DMOs, to make sure that ongoing investment in places reflects their local priorities and needs.

My Lords, following on from the question of the noble Baroness, Lady Merron, there is a question about how much the Government appreciate the important role local authorities should be playing in the visitor economy. The news of further job losses for visitor and museum staff, such as the 50% losses currently threatened in Harrogate Borough Council, is hugely worrying. Local authorities need to be given the resources to do the job intended for them.

The Government absolutely recognise the role that local authorities play, and, as the noble Earl is aware, they are important funders of DMOs. The review will look at the right funding structure for these organisations going forward.

My Lords, does my noble friend accept that regional transport authorities have an important role to play in welcoming and facilitating both national and international tourism? I am thinking, for example, of the sorts of visitor welcome centres that Transport for London has habitually maintained at major London rail termini. Will she take steps to ensure that funding is directed at keeping these in operation?

The Government recognise the role that regional transport authorities can play in providing information and assistance to visitors, as my noble friend has outlined, particularly when they co-ordinate that work with the DMOs. I have already mentioned the £25 billion provided to support the sector, which has been one of the worst hit; we have supported over 87% of businesses in this area.

The Government’s support in that respect is very welcome. One of the themes of these questions is greater co-ordination between DMOs and greater co-ordination of funds. Are the Government planning a big domestic marketing campaign, given that Matt Hancock has turned us into a captive audience for domestic tourism?

We are currently working with VisitBritain, VisitEngland and local partners, including DMOs, to champion the diverse tourism offer we have in this country through the Enjoy Summer Safely campaign. We spent £19 million on domestic marketing activity last year, and much more is planned for this year.

My Lords, given that many visitors wish to see international artists, how much does the noble Baroness think this question is bound up with post-Brexit rules on touring, and the difficulty of getting artists to this country and getting our artists to other countries?

The two issues obviously have a link. Particularly for international tourism into this country, the range of events we have traditionally offered has been very important. We are obviously trying to balance that with the safety of citizens.

My Lords, in its recent submission to the Independent Review of Destination Management Organisations, the Local Government Association proposed that local councils should be given the power to reinvest the money generated by tourism into their local areas. Can the Minister comment on whether this recommendation will be supported by the Government, since local councils need to pay for the facilities to support such tourism?

I really would not want to prejudge the review’s findings. When we get those later this summer, we will respond on a way forward.