Proposed by Councillor Wade, seconded by Councillor Harris
Liberal Democrat member motion
This Council has cut its £173K annual contribution (part grant/ part use of property) to Experience Oxfordshire (EO) by £20K from April 2019; by £25K from April 2020; and, from April 2021, EO will receive no grant. It may also lose its City owned base in Broad Street in 2021, which houses the Visitor Information Centre and EO’s offices. Oxford had nearly nine million tourists last year, half a million of whom used the Centre. 15,000 Oxfordshire residents work in the tourist trade.
In February EO won Destination Marketing Company of the Year award, in face of competition from cities with multi-million-pound budgets, and has consistently been praised for punching above its weight despite limited budgets. At the same time as the City Council grant is being slashed to zero, EO will be working flat out to ensure that Oxford is chosen as part of one of the five ‘tourist zones’ in the new Govt Tourism Sector Deal of 28 June. There could be a boost from Government funding, a tourist data hub, and thousands of new apprenticeships.
The City expects EO to take on this new challenge, as well as its existing workload.
Experience Oxfordshire has transformed into a much more commercial business model to help deliver on the promotional aspects, whilst still working to not for profit principles and has attracted significant private sector support. However, EO will need continued Local Authority support to continue to provide destination management and marketing services.
This Council recognised the importance of tourism to Oxford’s economy by establishing a Tourist Management Review Group. Its recommendations were responded to by the Cabinet Member on 29 May, and the proposals below reference these responses.
Council therefore asks the Cabinet to work with officers to explore funding to:
1. Support EO’s bid to make Oxford one of the UK’s 5 ‘tourist zones.
2. Develop a shared vision for tourism in Oxford with EO, the Universities and businesses, working to EO’s ambition statement priorities (Recc.1 Response)
3. Discuss commissioning services from EO as a possible way of providing continued funding to EO and ensure that the Council continues to provide business support in this area. (Recc.3 Response).
4. Provide an appropriate officer leading on tourism for the Council to work closely with EO to avoid an ‘unsustainable workload’ on the officers (Recc.5 Response)
5. Discuss with EO and Oxfordshire CC what information they have and need to research on tourist coaches e.g. number and movements (Recc.10 Response)
6. Partner with EO in identifying the digital provision of apps and tourism products (Recc.12 Response)
7. Partner with EO and Oxfordshire CC to make the case for the Discover England Fund to continue beyond 2019 (Recc.13. Response)
8. Explore, primarily through the Events Team, closer working with EO and Oxfordshire CC on developing an events strategy (Recc.14 Response)
9. Support Experience Oxfordshire through a continued finance arrangement for at least an additional 5-year period to enable the organisation to continue delivery of services and become more sustainable.
This motion was not taken as the time allowed for debate had finished.