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 and the Chair set out the purpose of the review.
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:
a) Minutes of the previous two meetings of the Review Group
b) A background report concerning tourism in Oxford
c) A scoping document which sets out the purpose of the Review.
Confirmed external guests include:
· Joanna Simons, Chair of Experience Oxfordshire Board
· Hayley Beer-Gamage, Experience Oxfordshire Chief Executive
· Leslie Redwood, Visit Bath Head of Business Development and Partnerships
· Tim Jenkins, VisitBritain Policy and Public Affairs Manager
· Rachael Farrington, VisitBritain Senior Policy and Public Affairs Executive
The meeting will be structured around key themes including, but not limited to:
a) Coach parking and access management
b) Improving wayfinding, pedestrian flows and tour group management
c) Opportunities for a tourism tax and increasing day visitor revenue
d) Opportunities for digital innovation to improve the visitor experience
This will also be an opportunity for members of the Review Group to discuss any early ideas for draft recommendations with our external guests.
The Chair asked Tim Jenkins, VisitBritain Policy and Public Affairs Manager, and Rachael Farrington, VisitBritain Senior Policy and Public Affairs Executive, to set out the position of VisitBritain and Central Government on the notion of introducing an overnight tourism levy.
Rachael explained that the Government were not currently looking to introduce such a levy. VisitBritain would be visiting a number of locations over the coming months to gather feedback on the issue, before it formed its official position and advice to Government. Tim said he understood the principle two reasons the Government were not currently pursuing a levy were:
1. The UK is perceived to be an expensive destination already. This is in part due to high air passenger duty and VAT costs. When coupled with an overnight levy, the cumulative costs may dissuade a small number of visitors, in an international market where the UK is already struggling to compete. In recent years, the UK’s market share in international visitors has either been static or declining. Any currency fluctuations associated with Brexit were unlikely to have a significant bearing of visitor numbers because this was not a common consideration for international visitors.
2. The UK has a difficult task in demonstrating that it is a welcoming and visitor friendly destination, in light of the Brexit vote and ongoing political narrative. The introduction of an overnight levy may have the potential to damage international perceptions of the UK’s welcome; perhaps more so than the actual price of an overnight fee.
For these reasons, the notion of introducing an overnight levy was considered a closed issue to government at this time. Some members questioned whether these issues would have a measurable effect on the local visitor economy. Councillor Fry added that he was concerned that local hotels would indirectly end up bearing the bill of an additional levy, rather than visitors.
Rachael explained that VisitBritain has previously visited Cumbria to discuss sustainable tourism. Rachael went on to explain that tourist taxes had the potential to discourage overnight visitors, who spend more in the city (£45 day domestic visitor average, vs £151 overnight domestic visitor average). The city should be encouraging the conversion from day to overnight visits, rather than penalising high spending visitors.
She said that the Discover England £40m fund from Central Government (managed by VisitEngland) had been used to drive innovation in partner led product development, which can in turn support visitor dispersal and tackled seasonality; these were issues that residents were often concerned about, and tackling them may negate the need to some extent for a tax. Good examples included itinerary driven rail travel products for international visitors, which streamlines their experience. The heritage cities itinerary by rail for example, which takes visitors to London, Lincoln, York, Durham and Edinburgh.
In response to questions, it was explained that the introduction of an overnight levy in Scotland was a devolved matter, and a yearlong consultation is due to begin this summer on whether to introduce the ... view the full minutes text for item 3.
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. Visit to Bath may also be possible, but more work was needed to finalise arrangements.