Agenda and draft minutes
Venue: Plowman Room - Oxford Town Hall. View directions
Contact: Stefan Robinson
WELCOME AND INTRODUCTIONS
Welcome from the Chair and brief round table introductions.
Brief round table introductions were undertaken. The Chair set out the purpose of the review. He explained that he had visited York and met with the City Council’s Deputy Leader, as mentioned at the previous meeting, and that he would provide an update in due course to the Review Group.
APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
To receive any apologies for absence.
There were no apologies for absence.
As background information, the meeting has also been provided with the following papers:
a) A scoping document which sets out the purpose of the Review.
b) An optional hyperlinked background reading list
c) A background report concerning tourism in Oxford.
d) A report concerning hotels and short stay accommodation in Oxford.
e) A public submission to the Review Group, first considered on 14 March
Guests will be invited to make any opening statements if they wish, and the meeting will then move to questions and open discussion. Confirmed external guests include:
· Tony Hart, Smart Oxford Programme Manager
· Phil Southall, Oxford Bus Company
· Helen Camuñas-Lopez, Christ Church College Visitor Manager
· Tony Joyce, Oxford Civic Society
· Juliet Blackburn, Chair of the Oxford Civic Society Transport Group
· Tim Wiseman, Oxford City Council Waterways Coordinator
· Dr Rebecca Hawkins, MD of the Responsible Hospitality Partnership
· Dr Kate Mingjie Ji, Oxford School of Hospitality Management
Examples of questions and themes that may be discussed include:
a) How could the City better harness the benefits of tourism?
b) How could coach access, parking and drop-off locations be better managed?
c) What actions could be taken to support long term sustainable tourism?
d) What digital innovations could improve the visitor and resident experience?
e) What could be done to improve wayfinding and pedestrian flows in the City?
f) Would there be value in introducing a tourist levy on hotel rooms or coaches?
g) What future tourism challenges will local businesses and operators face?
Tony Joyce, Oxford Civic Society, said that more needed to be done to manage issues such as coach congestion and overcrowding. There had been a lot of criticism in recent years about the bureaucracy surrounding the matter. One such example of challenges included the lack of coach drop off spaces near Christchurch College’s new visitor centre. In the short term, a permanent traffic warden was needed in St Giles to manage coaches, and significant improvements were needed to city centre toilets. This view was echoed by other guests.
Phil Southall, Managing Director of Oxford Bus Company, said the value brought to the City by coaches was significant, and that he was disappointed with the Council’s decision to phase out funding to Experience Oxfordshire over three years. This view was also expressed by Mike Naworynsky OBE, Chair of Conference Oxford. There was a question of how their funding would be picked up by other organisations, and the impact the reduction would have. Phil said that there was little revenue funding available for reinvestment back into tourism management. He also commented that comments made at the previous meeting concerning reviewing the use of the Gloucester Green site did not involve the views of experts in the industry.
Tourism Tax and Capturing Value
The Chair invited the meeting to put forward their views on the use of a tourism tax on bed spaces or coaches for example. A straw poll on the issue presented mixed views on its introduction. Mike Naworynsky explained that during the summer, the university colleges had approximately 7,000 rooms which were used mostly for academic purposes. He said that it would not be appropriate to introduce a tourism tax for those visiting for academic reasons, and gave the example of a travelling academic having to pay taxes every night at various destinations, if it were to be introduced nationally. He said the income generated helped to bridge the funding gap that the university was experiencing due to stagnant student fees. This income also helped the university to meets its academic and facility aspirations.
He said however that it was important to keep the pound in Oxford, and that generating revenue from visitors was important for tourism to be sustainable. There were strong cases for a levy, but this would need to be weighed against the possibility of it dissuading people from coming to the City. Responding to comments, he said that approximately 30 colleges were open to the public at certain times, 20 of which were free, and the others asking a nominal charge, with the exception of Christchurch.
Dr Rebecca Hawkins, Managing Director of the Responsible Hospitality Partnership, said it was important to look at the visitor economy as a whole, and identify where the greatest net benefit for the City was. For example, overnight visitors, which principally return much higher value than day visitors for local businesses. The Chair noted that visitor satisfaction and loyalty to Oxford were much lower than should be expected.
Juliet Blackburn, Chair ... view the full minutes text for item 16.
To clarify the actions agreed and next steps of the review.
The Scrutiny Officer explained that a visit to meet with Cambridge Council and VisitCambridge would likely take place on 9 or 10 April, and members were encouraged to keep dates available is possible. More information would follow when final arrangements were agreed.