Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 48 - 59)



  Chairman: Gentlemen, thank you very much indeed for coming here this morning. We are very grateful to you.

Mr Fearn

  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 Lakes—the Japanese do anyway—and 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 that.

  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 help?
  (Mr Pride) I am sure it would.

  52. Ireland?
  (Mr McAuley) We have a couple of extra days in July for other reasons. Another Bank Holiday would certainly help to improve tourism.

  53. Scotland?
  (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 Parliament?
  (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 think—and it is not just a matter of scale—we have been able to manage affairs better because of "yes, yes voters".

Mr Maxton

  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 out—I am not offering any criticism of you, Mr McKinlay—frankly 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 the issue.

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