Examination of Witnesses (Questions 48
THURSDAY 26 APRIL 2001
CBE, AND MR
Chairman: Gentlemen, thank you very much
indeed for coming here this morning. We are very grateful to you.
48. I have visited all your boards over a period
of 14 years at various times and I have been to world travel fairs
here and abroad. How do you work together? You seem to work quite
separately, which is good in a way, but how do you get together?
(Mr McAuley) We meet regularly under
the aegis of the British Tourist Authority. There are regular
meetings where the chief executives meet together with Jeff Hamblin
and at subsidiary level marketing directors will meet together
even down to the local PR managers and human resource managers.
49. In those meetings, do you discuss how to
draw people out of London? They come to London, drift up to Edinburgh
or Glasgow; they very often call at the Lakesthe Japanese
do anywayand very rarely do they drift into Wales. How
do you pull them into Wales?
(Mr Pride) As you will be aware, the market share
we have for international tourism in Wales is very low and clearly
we want to improve that. We feel the best way to do that is working
in partnership with the other boards and working with the British
Tourist Authority to ensure that the profile of Wales within a
Britain context is improved.
50. I hope that is so because I go to Anglesey
quite often and I feel Wales, beautiful country though it is,
does not want tourists. Wales does not seem to get a share of
the people who come from abroad. I do not think that is the BTA
because I have seen their standards as well, but Wales themselves.
(Mr Pride) I can assure you that we do want them and
the people of Wales want them. We talked earlier about the importance
of tourism to the economy. In Wales, it represents seven per cent
of GDP. It represents one in ten jobs. Up until now, the bulk
of that revenue has come from the domestic market. In the region
of 80 per cent of revenues and 92 per cent of bed nights in Wales
come from the domestic market. We feel that over the years, for
various reasons, the profile of Wales internationally has not
been what it should be. There were significant improvements in
that up to 1997/98 but unfortunately the strength of the pound
and a number of other factors have hit Wales, as they have the
rest of the United Kingdom. We are more dependent upon long stay
international travellers rather than short stay travellers so
the impact has been greater than for some other parts of the United
Kingdom. In terms of the immediate situation with foot and mouth,
we believe that the recovery will generate from those markets
closest to Wales and radiate outwards. The vast majority of our
efforts are concentrated now on those markets closest to Wales,
both geographically and emotionally, and we believe that the activity
that we have undertaken prior to Easter and now prior to the May
Day Bank Holiday is meeting with some success. As far as the international
market is concerned, we believe it will take a lot longer to turn
back on and we will have to work alongside the BTA to achieve
51. You mentioned Bank Holidays. It is mooted
in Parliament as an Early Day Motion now which has been signed
by over 100 MPs at the moment that we should have another Bank
Holiday later in the year, in September or October. Would that
(Mr Pride) I am sure it would.
(Mr McAuley) We have a couple of extra days in July
for other reasons. Another Bank Holiday would certainly help to
(Mr McKinlay) No doubt it would help but any views
I express ought to be seen in the context that I am the interim
chief executive of the tourist board and only have been since
1 December. It has not stopped me forming views on tourism. On
your earlier question about how the board work together, the first
thing that struck me was that in the 21st century all of us are
trying to operate in a huge industry with a legislative framework
formed in 1969 and amended in 1985. That seems to be a pretty
profound reflection of how Parliament as was and Parliaments as
now are see the industry.
54. It is better now that you have your own
(Mr McKinlay) I think what has happened in the foot
and mouth crisis will be a measure of how much more effective
or ineffective a devolved administration has been in dealing with
a crisis. So far, I thinkand it is not just a matter of
scalewe have been able to manage affairs better because
of "yes, yes voters".
55. In Scotland, you do tend to have different
holidays rather than Bank Holidays in different parts of the country
and that spreads out in a way that is not true elsewhere. I holidayed
on the Isle of Arran over Easter. On Thursday and Friday before
Easter, you could not get your car on the boat because it was
fully booked. The biggest hotel in the area that I go to was fully
booked by Easter. This coming weekend, I am going back to Arran
and I cannot get on the golf course on the Saturday. The impression
therefore is that while the areas most affected by foot and mouth
have been damaged, the domestic market in the tourist industry
appears to be holding up.
(Mr McKinlay) Someone once remarked, "What crisis?".
The results have been terribly patchy. We believe there are some
businesses which are doing better this year than last year. There
is little doubt about that. They tend to be businesses that are
run best. They have databases of who their customers are; they
go back to them; they take initiatives; they are proactive; they
market their business. Some businesses undoubtedly, not just in
the affected area in Scotland, are being badly hit. In my view,
it is really a waste of time trying to be accurate in forecasting
what the loss is going to be nationally in Scotland or locally.
There is going to be a loss. There is no doubt about that. The
serious thing we need to do is to take urgent action, I believe
from the bottom up, listening to what local people are telling
us are the problems getting in their way and how they would like
to see us manage them. There is a real danger in talking about
this industry as a whole because I do not think that is how you
can arrive at sensible solutions.
56. Is there a silver lining to all of this
which is that this is going to give a kick up wherever to the
tourist industry at ground level to say to them, "Look, you
have to get your act together and sell yourself a lot better"?
(Mr McKinlay) I think the biggest single silver lining
is the effect it will have on government. This in Scotland is
a £2.5 billion spend industry employing 178,000 people, five
per cent of the Scottish GDP, between 10 and 15 per cent of the
GDP in rural areas. It involves 16,000 to 20,000 small companies.
We happen to be in the Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Department.
I do not think it matters where you are so long as people are
taking you seriously. We get £25.9 million in total from
the Scottish Executive. I have been saying that is silly. When
is this industry going to start punching its weight in the corridors
of power? It has not for a very long time. Now it has the opportunity
to establish itself through this agency as the major economic
enterprise activity which it has been for a long time, but nobody
has ever taken it seriously. One of the difficulties is that it
is an endemic industry. It has huge multinational corporations
at one end of the scale and "granny's hielan hame bistro
in the glen" at the other. Getting all that together is not
easy. Somebody needs to start doing it.
57. I have had complaints from colleagues here
and elsewhere that some of the major land owners in Scotland who
do not like giving access to their land anyway are using foot
and mouth as an excuse to keep their land closed even when they
could open it up.
(Mr McKinlay) The same issue has been raised by some
interested parties with us. It is terribly difficult to prove.
The assertion is that some land owners who resented the legislation
passed recently about access to the countryside have seized this
as an opportunity to keep their places closed. The Scottish Land
Owners Federation in Scotland have been hugely co-operative and
helpful. For example, recently, the West Highland Way was reopened.
We provoked an initiative being taken to contact all the public
and private land owners along the whole length of it, to get them
to do their risk analyses in a co-ordinated fashion and a fortnight
ago we managed to have it reopened. I do not think in reality
there is much of a problem of private land owners deliberately
keeping their place closed, but there might be some.
58. In your response to Mr Maxton, you talked
about responsibilities of government. This Committee will not
absolve the Government of its responsibilities. What about the
tourist promotion authorities in Scotland? I was in Falkirk on
Monday looking at the site of construction of the wheel there
and the millennium attraction which is going to be one of the
most remarkable attractions in these islands when it is completed,
an extraordinary achievement technologically but also as a visitor
attraction. Looking at what there is in that area, it seems to
me what needs to be manufactured for an area like that is a daily
package for a visitor who can visit the wheel, go on the canal
ride, go to the Antonine Wall, go to look at Callender House and
perhaps go to Stirling Castle. Stirling Castle does not need promoting
in a way that this very new attraction will need promoting but
who is responsible for putting together daily packages and marketing
this? The technological achievement there is going to be extraordinary
and the potential for visitors is going to be extraordinary. Who
is going to market it?
(Mr McKinlay) I am sorry if this sounds bureaucratic
but at the moment there is confusion and overlap. Everybody and
his brother will be trying to market it. There are 32 councils
in Scotland. There are 14 area tourist boards. There are 13 local
enterprise companies in the Scottish enterprise area, seven in
the Highlands and Islands enterprise area and there is us. That
is not to mention the private sector. As a life long bureaucrat,
I like things that are a bit focused, where people know who is
responsible for what and you can get some joined up action. At
the moment, it is extremely difficult to do because you cannot
freeze the world, but I am optimistic. The present First Minister
clearly started taking tourism seriously in February 2000 when
he was the tourism minister. Now that he is the First Minister,
there is every sign that he still believes tourism is to be exploited
and that the potential is there. Our current enterprise minister,
Wendy Alexander, clearly believes in it as well. I do think there
are moves afoot to start reorganising and refocusing the industry.
I believe in the next couple of years the results of that will
start to be seen.
59. I cannot say I am encouraged by that answer.
When we, in our series of inquiries into millennium celebrations,
including the Dome, went on and on about the need for marketing
and packaging, no great attention was paid to us. The story that
comes out of all of these things and comes out of this particular
attraction, which cannot be allowed to fail because of the huge
investment, is that the act has to be got together. Saying that
in a couple of years it may sort itself outI am not offering
any criticism of you, Mr McKinlayfrankly is not good enough.
(Mr McKinlay) With respect, that is not what I said.
I said the results of action started now will start showing in
the next couple of years. One of the results of devolution is
that committees such as this which used to consider Scottish matters
in a back room in the Palace of Westminster are now doing it in
Edinburgh in the full glare of publicity with the media all around
them. If folk do not see action happening, there will be a media
reaction which ministers will not like. That is really why I am
optimistic that things are beginning to happen.
Chairman: Ministers scarcely like any
media reaction unless it is totally adulatory, but that is not