Agenda and draft minutes
Venue: Plowman Room - Oxford Town Hall. View directions
Contact: Stefan Robinson
Welcome and Introductions
To note the scope and purpose of the review agreed by the Scrutiny Committee. External guests have been invited to subsequent meetings as expressed in the original scoping document.
The Review Group noted the scope of the review, but agreed that matters concerning short term lets, particularly in relation to AirBnB and the tourist experience, should also be other key themes. It was also noted that key issues around homelessness and Public Space Protection Orders would affect the overall visitor experience.
To understand the Council’s role in tourism management, and receive background information from Council Officers in line with the requirements of the Scoping Document.
Key areas for discussion as set out in the Scoping Document include:
· Options for an Oxford Visitor Card
· Options for a Transient Visitor Levy or Tourism Tax
· Inappropriate coach parking
· The condition of the public realm
· Wayfinding signage and walking routes
Matt Peachey, Economic Development Manager, explained that tourism to Oxford and Oxfordshire has continued to grow with the value of visitor expenditure now exceeding £2 billion per year for the very first time. 27 million visitors a year came to Oxfordshire, with around 8m coming to Oxford, contributing £873 million of value in the City. The sector also supported nearly 35,000 jobs in Oxfordshire - one in every 10 jobs across the County. It was highlighted that Oxford was an ideal point from which to explore other wider attractions such as Blenheim, Bicester Village and the Cotswolds.
The three key surveys used to measure volume and expenditure in relation to tourism was the GB Tourism Survey (domestic overnight trips), the International Passenger Survey, and the GB Day Visitor Survey. The 2018 VisitEngland destination summary report was also discussed, for which the sample base was UK holiday makers.Matt highlighted that much of the data and measures used in these surveys should be considered indicative of trends, rather than clear-cut, and there was often a lag in the data. He also said that whilst footfall was a useful indicator in some circumstances, it did not necessarily correlate with spending in shops, and the number of tourists visiting.
Key findings from these various surveys included:
· Year on year increases in the total jobs supported through the tourism sector;
· Year on year increases in the total contribution to the economy;
· A minor decrease in staying nights of 1% in 2017, and a subsequent significant increase in day trips for 2016 and 2017;
· Visitor satisfaction for Oxford was 39% compared to the average of 48% for other cities. Likelihood to revisit and loyalty to the destination were also below the average;
· There were approximately 2614 overnight rooms available in Oxford, with an additional 601 given planning permission, taking the total to over 3200. This would be a significant increase on recent years.
The Group were informed that there had been previous partnership efforts to improve the coordination of the destination offer, and whilst there had been some successes, some other actions could have been better implemented. Particular challenges were highlighted I relation to funding public realm improvements, for example.
The West End of Oxford was also discussed, in that it was to undergo comprehensive redevelopment, expanding the city centre to the west, as a series of strategic developments take shape. The Group heard that the Council would continue to seek to attract public and private investment for vital infrastructure or tourism products as part of its aims to create a successful and sustainable economy. Experience Oxfordshire had also been successful in attracting funds from Government for Tourism promotion and from its tourism sector partners to promote the county-wide offer. Officers also explained that there had been limited interest from local businesses in developing a business improvement district (BID).
A key theme for the Group was the value that a tourism levy or tax might add. Officers said a number of places have started exploring ... view the full minutes text for item 3.
To receive a presentation from Councillor Wolff concerning the benefits that a cable car service may bring in alleviating coach congestion in the city. The Review Group has been provided with a 2018 prospectus on the issue, and a brief video will be shown.
Councillor Wolff gave a presentation on what a cable car system might look like if it were to be developed in Oxford, and the benefits it would have in alleviating coach congestion, for example. He showed a short video of the emirates cable car in London, and commented on its capacity to transport people on mass at a fair cost. He highlighted that cable cars were used around the world, were quiet, and welcomed by residents. They were particularly popular in Europe in recent years, and one had been developed in a UNESCO World Heritage Site, demonstrating that planning restrictions can be overcome. Cable Car systems had a low carbon impact, which was particularly salient in the context of Oxford’s future as a zero emission zone.
Councillor Wolff was clear that he was not suggesting that the Council fund such a scheme, but that a feasibility study should be undertaken to assess the relative merits of such a system. A desktop exercise would help understand more about possible planning restraints on the proposal, and projections of future visitor numbers and possible sources of capital would also be useful to know. He said broad support had been given from various officials in the City, and a seminar held last year had significant interest.
The Chair thanked Councillor Wolff for his presentation, and said the issue would be picked up in a subsequent meeting about coach matters.
Discussion with Experience Oxfordshire
Starting at 6:30pm, experience Oxfordshire has asked to meet with Councillors early in the Review Group process to explain what information is available, how the industry operates and how people arrive in the City.
The Group welcomed Hayley Beer-Gamage and Joanna Simons from Experience Oxfordshire, and received a presentation from them.
Experience Oxfordshire, as the official destination management organisation for the County, was still in receipt of a funding contribution from the Council, which would be graduated down over three years to zero in 2022. In 2011 Experience Oxfordshire were given a ten year lease for City Council owned premises on Broad Street. The rent was £85,000 per year and increased to £95,000 following a rent review in 2016. The Council paid the rent by awarding a second annual grant to Experience Oxfordshire. The total grant contribution budgeted for 2018/19 is £173,000, made up of the £95,000 rent reimbursement plus a £78,000 service grant. However, the City Council had just announced a reduction in grant by £20k in 19/20 and a further £25k in 20/21 then taking it to zero from 21/22.
The presentation highlighted a number of improvements that had been made to the visitor economy and experience since the establishment of Experience Oxfordshire in 2011. This was when the DMO was established and the City Council’s tourism delivery was outsourced, noting particular improvements since 2015 when Experience Oxfordshire undertook a change of leadership. The presentation also showed extensive trend data on various matters relating to tourism in Oxford. Key matters highlighted as part of the presentation included:
· There were no successfuldestination management organisations in the UK which did not receive some level of public sector funding.
· Experience Oxfordshire host the only official walking tours in Oxford, with professional walking guides and limited group sizes, avoiding pedestrian pinch points. Users of this service had increased from 30,000 to 50,000 in recent years.
· Only one in six people transact at the visitor centre, but 500,000 people were supported by the centre each year. This required a lot of resource to manage and its main function is service provision.
· Prior to the establishment of Experience Oxfordshire, there were a number of challenges for the city, with a declining visitor economy, demand exceeding supply for overnight stay, perceptions of being expensive and unaffordable and a lack of access to key academic institutions.
· There is now a focus on boosting overnight stays, as they bring more value to the local economy and better impact.
· 11% of visitors are from overseas, but they contribute 40% of the overall visitor spend. Overseas visits had increased 25% since 2012.
· Increasing tourism numbers could be managed if more efforts were made to counteract seasonality, and disperse people more widely throughout the year, and throughout the City regions.
· The main overseas visitor markets were from the USA, France and Germany. China and Poland are the fastest growing markets for Oxford.
· No two models of destination management operate the same. Each area has its own unique approach, and there is not a ‘one size fits all’ model.
· Experience Oxfordshire field in the region on 1000 media enquiries each year.
The Chair asked how Experience Oxfordshire would deal with the reduction in Council ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
To clarify the actions agreed and next steps of the review
The Group agreed to contact Robert Tanner, who may have links with local language schools, and to invite a representative to attend a meeting.
Further, invites should be sent to the conference of colleges, and Oxfordshire County Council, who had not yet responded to invitations. Councillors suggested contacting the relevant Cabinet Member.
Future meeting dates
The following dates are scheduled for the Review Group:
· 14 March
· 20 March
· 27 March
· 11 April
· 9 May
The following dates were noted for the next Review Group meetings:
· 14 March
· 20 March
· 27 March
· 11 April
· 9 May