Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60
THURSDAY 26 APRIL 2001
CBE, AND MR
60. I was in Wales last week and again the story
at Easter was not a bed to be had. It was so busy. They were more
than happy. They said they had a particularly bad time at the
end of last year and the beginning of this year, much due to the
weather. That is a problem we always have in this country. We
have to be thinking of more things to tell people to do when they
go and think that they are going to go walking in lovely weather.
There should be alternatives open all year round, not just at
set periods and not just at certain times of the day. What are
you going to do about that, especially in Wales?
(Mr Pride) Improving the seasonal spread of tourism
in Wales is a vital consideration. In marketing terms, you have
to promote that which you do well. As far as the weather is concerned,
it is not one of the strong points. You made a point about Wales
being busy over the Easter period but I must stress how patchy
the situation is. Easter has changed things in that prior to Easter
everybody was suffering uniformly. Since Easter, tourists have
started to come back in significant numbers to certain parts but
that masks the fact that in rural Wales, Anglesey, Powys and parts
of Monmouthshire businesses are virtually closed. We undertook
a survey over the Easter period. 47 per cent of businesses said
that whilst business was down they were optimistic about the future
this year. 17 per cent said that business was down but that they
were fearful for the rest of the year and 11 per cent of businesses
were very seriously affected to the point of considering closure.
The situation is very patchy and I would not want people to think
that because certain parts of the United Kingdom and Wales have
improved that is a uniform situation.
61. You cannot go through Wales without going
through rural Wales. I drove through and stopped along the road
and people said they had been quite busy. I saw one small burning
of sheep along the way and lots of sheep on the hills and close
to the road and tractors driving all over the place from farm
to farm which I was surprised about, especially as there were
loads of footpaths closed notices. In the pubs, being a fly on
the wall, the walkers were very resentful of the farmers and felt
that the farmers were controlling what was happening. Indeed,
this has been a criticism given to me by many people, that the
farmers are controlling the tourist industry. Do you not think
that when we review the whole situation that foot and mouth has
brought on us everybody has to have a say in it and the tourist
industry must have a much bigger say in the management of our
(Mr Pride) Absolutely. If there is a silver lining
to this, it is that people are recognising the significance and
importance of tourism to the economy generally and specifically
to the rural economy. I know that the tourist industry in Wales
and elsewhere now wants a much stronger voice for tourism. One
of the things that can help those areas which are still in difficulty
very quickly is the reopening of footpaths and rights of way and
so on. That will make a significant difference to those businesses
which are dependent upon walking and other outdoor activities.
62. The countryside obviously does not belong
to the farmers, but there are a lot of sheep in Wales, perhaps
far too many. Perhaps what we should be looking at is using the
countryside better. What plans have you for talking to government
departments, talking among yourselves, talking to people, about
how we are going to manage the countryside, rather than covering
it with sheep?
(Mr Pride) We already have close co-operation with
the various agencies in Wales that are responsible for managing
the countryside. One of the first things that we did in response
to the situation was draw up a charter with the various organisations
responsible for managing the countryside. There is a very good
relationship. Clearly, the situation can improve still further.
If this crisis throws that into focus, then we will play our part
in bringing everybody together.
63. Mr McKinlay, I was trying to add up the
number of boards or committees that seem to be involved in tourism.
Is there a single web site that links all those bodies together?
(Mr McKinlay) There is a single web site, "visitScotland.com",
which can take you through into most of the others. You can click
onto Historic Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage, the National
Trust, RSPB and so on. There are links in, through our own web
64. That acts as a portal?
(Mr McKinlay) Yes.
65. Since foot and mouth, have you for instance
given anything away to any of the airline companies? Have you
given them a brochure? Have you given them anything to tell people
that you are available?
(Mr McKinlay) We produced this thing called "The
Come Back Code". A group of organisations in Scotland got
together and produced this, hundreds of thousands of which were
circulated all over the place. It was produced fairly rapidly
in the name of Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Executive.
What it actually said was, "The place is open but be responsible.
Here is a list of things that you should not do" like do
not go and touch animals or go into enclosed fields with animals
and so on. We also had regular meetings of officials from all
the departments and public sector agencies involved, and some
voluntary ones as well, and they tried to co-ordinate the access
issue so that we had risk analyses carried out by land owners
of when they could open up. We tried to do that consistently and
coherently. That is still going on.
66. I commend you on that. Can I ask the three
of you to explain in devolution terms where tourism sits within
your particular assemblies or Parliaments, which minister, so
that we can better understand the process locally.
(Mr Pride) In Wales within the National Assembly,
tourism is within economic development which is headed by Mike
German the Deputy First Minister.
(Mr McAuley) We are an NDPB of the Department of Enterprise,
Trade and Investment. It is worth mentioning that the Department
of Culture, Arts and Leisure, through the Sports Council or the
Arts Council, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development
through natural resource tourism, and the DoE through the Environment
and Heritage Service which operate a number of tourist attractions.
They all have an interest in tourism and they all have an interest
in economic development. We do co-ordinate our activities.
67. You think that is satisfactory?
(Mr McAuley) I think we are correctly located within
the range of departments within the executive, yes.
(Mr McKinlay) We sit in the Department of Enterprise
and Lifelong Learning. The Cabinet Minister is Wendy Alexander
but we have a tourism minister, a junior minister, Alasdair Morrison.
68. Mr McAuley, how does this current foot and
mouth problem compare with perceived terrorism problems that Northern
Ireland has, as it affects the tourism industry?
(Mr McAuley) At this stage it would be impossible
to tell. We suffer currently from the same perception overseas
that it is dangerous to come here for reasons of public health
risk. We have not been able yet to benefit from some potential
marketing as the disease-free island of Ireland. We have been
coming out of the problem of Northern Ireland being perceived
as a dangerous place to come to, not helped by the continuing
difficulties of July and the marching season. We do not have a
great deal of hard evidence yet of the effects of foot and mouth.
Anecdotal evidence suggests perhaps 20/30 per cent of an effect
on accommodation providers, which seems to be the position nationally.
We must now try and recover that through particular action-intra-Northern
Ireland and across the Channel and, more widely, in particular
through the travel press and the travel trade to get across the
message that Northern Ireland is a safe place to come to. I could
not yet give an assessment of the effect of foot and mouth as
against the perception of how Northern Ireland is viewed as a
place of terrorism.
69. To all three of you: how do you differentiate
the products that you are promoting at this point? Is there not
an argument that Britain is what we should be selling; otherwise,
it confuses the message abroad? How do you chip into that and
how do you benefit?
(Mr McAuley) We sell whatever sells best in Northern
Ireland, for good, commercial reasons. In America, where there
is no real perception of the border, we sell as part of an Irish
destination. Further afield, when you get to South America, we
have to be part of Great Britain or rather a British Isles destination.
Within these isles, it is possible to see Northern Ireland as
a destination on its own. That is based entirely on the consumers'
perception. In the end, we want to do the best we can for Northern
(Mr Pride) It is true that Britain needs to be successful
before Wales can be successful. In the current situation, Wales
will be working very closely with the British Tourist Authority
in terms of international marketing. It is important however to
ensure that Wales has the profile that we think is appropriate
within a Britain context and we are responsible for using our
resources to ensure that Wales is successful. Very often, that
can be best achieved by working in partnership with the British
Tourist Authority, working with all of their offices overseas
and ensuring that Britain is promoted as a rich tapestry of three/four
countries in one.
(Mr McKinlay) There is always going to be a tension
between marketing Britain and one of the constituent parts of
it. The analogy that strikes me is the Invest in Britain Bureau
in Scotland, for example. I think a lot more could be done better
to knit together the efforts the BTA make overseas and some of
the efforts we currently make overseas because we have our own
international marketing budget. We liaise closely with them, but
I think a lot more could be done to more effectively operate overseas,
getting the big return that being a member of the United Kingdom
gives you, whilst still enabling the individual countries within
the United Kingdom to promote themselves in healthy competition.
70. You have just demonstrated the enormous
overlap that there is. I talk to a lot of foreign visitors and
foreign friends abroad. There is a confusion not just on the issue
but on what we are trying to promote, as I see it. Is there not
also therefore, because of this overlap and the need to gel together
and have a promotion of Great Britain, the need at this point
to review the funding formulae each of the tourist boards get,
because there is an argument that England does not get enough
money for the number of population that Scotland, Wales and Northern
Ireland do. Do you think as a group and individually that you
get fair funding and do you think it compares favourably with
your other colleagues?
(Mr McKinlay) I do not think fairness has much to
do with it. What struck me in terms of arguing for more public
investment in tourism was that the performance measures for what
you get in tourism at the moment do not seem to me to be very
good. We ought to be able to measure the impact of tourism as
we measure the impact of most other businesses. What do you get
in terms of skills improvement, productivity, entrepreneurship,
digital connection, job safeguarding, jobs created, turnover,
increased profitability increaseinstead, we tend to measure
tourism in terms of visitor numbers and visitor spend. I do not
think that is good enough. I do think, if you do apply those sorts
of measures, you have a much better chance of persuading the government
of the day to invest more money in your industry. That is the
way I would go about it. Then I would encourage some healthy competition
among the constituent countries to see who is getting me the best
return for my money.
(Mr McAuley) It is important for us to compare on
a like for like basis. Our funding includes a substantial sum
from capital grants to the industry. Our promotional budget is
5.3 million which we would say is modest. However, we will benefit
greatly from the further allocation of seven million Irish which
is five-odd million sterling as our contribution to the work of
tourism and promoting the whole of the island internationally
from next season onwards. It makes a total sterling contribution
to tourism and marketing of in excess of ten million, which we
think is adequate.
(Mr Pride) I think it is vital to overcome any confusion
in the market place but we need to remember that in many markets
there is often confusion between the terms Britain and England.
For many people, they are interchangeable. It is vital that people
understand what Britain is. We have to take decisions in Wales
about the resources that are appropriate for tourism based on
the needs of the Welsh economy. Clearly, in parts of Wales as
I mentioned earlier, tourism is already a vital contributor. It
is one of the few industries in which that contribution can grow.
The comparisons we need to make are not necessarily comparisons
with the rest of the United Kingdom but are benchmarks externally,
where tourism has been recognised as an important contributor.
Finally, it is not just about resources; it is also about roles.
There are many skills and abilities both within the British Tourist
Authority and the national boards. In terms of avoiding confusion,
it is important that people are clear as to the roles of the BTA
and the Welsh Tourist Board and the other national tourist boards
in international marketing.
71. When we went to the British Museum, we talked
to one of the senior curators. He was telling us of a longhouse
in Pennal that was falling into disrepair. He could not get anybody
interested in preserving it. He said there were difficulties but
nobody seemed to be concentrating on it. Given the importance
of the Pennal Papers, the importance of tourism around that area,
what influence do you have in preserving these buildings that
could be very important in the tourist industry? Are you told
about them? Is there a committee that discusses what should be
(Mr Pride) We have a development role. We also have
capital grants available to invest in tourism businesses, but
the main determinant of whether grants are given is viability
in terms of commercial output as a tourism operation. Clearly,
there needs to be wider consideration of the importance of buildings
as part of the cultural heritage of the country. I am not aware
of the committees that actually deal with that on a cross-departmental
basis, but the decisions that we have to take are on the basis
of the commercial viability of those attractions.
Mrs Golding: Short sighted.
72. What we are concerned about is that there
are quite substantial grants available for people in the tourist
industry to develop industries, particularly in the Highlands
and Islands regions. Is that not correct?
(Mr McKinlay) Yes. In 1996, the money to make those
kinds of grants to businesses was removed from the tourist board
and passed to local enterprise companies. I personally think that
was a mistake because I believe in focus and clear responsibility.
For example, the wheel that the Chairman mentioned at Falkirk,
the £12 million investment in the new visitor facility at
Loch Lomond, all that investment came from enterprise agencies,
not from the tourist body. I think that is unfortunate because
it creates confusion. If you are running a small hotel and you
want to put in an en-suite bathroom, you have to go the local
enterprise company. The recent PricewaterhouseCoopers review of
the tourist board, published last November, recommended that this
overlap be examined and reviewed and decisions taken about making
the distinction clearer. Talks are continuing.
73. Do you think Henry McLeish and Wendy Alexander
are aware of this?
(Mr McKinlay) They are aware of it. The minister,
Wendy Alexander, has said the Scottish Tourist Board, Visit Scotland,
is the economic development agency for tourism but, as I am sure
you appreciate, with a minister making that statement, you then
have to have the vested interests communicate and agree who is
going to give up some bits of power to somebody else. That is
what is being discussed at the moment.
Chairman: Thank you very much, gentlemen.
It has been very helpful to get your perspective.