Memorandum submitted by Devon County Council
1. Devon County Council is pleased to be
invited to submit evidence to this Committee. It will be represented
at the hearing by its Chief Executive, Philip Jenkinson. Although
Devon County Council no longer has administrative responsibility
for Torbay and Plymouth, both created unitary authorities in 1998,
the visitor makes no such distinction and therefore the content
of this memorandum applies across the whole of Devon, including
Torbay and Plymouth.
2. Devon is well known as a tourist destination
in the South West of England. The county provides a mix of coastal
resorts, historic cities and towns, quaint villages, a wide range
of attractions and warm hospitality. Its links with agriculture
are epitomised by its famous Devonshire Cream. Moreover agriculture
has helped shape the countryside which visitors find so attractive.
The impact of foot and mouth disease is therefore crippling not
just to agriculture, ancillary industries and rural communities,
but also to the tourist industry and the various businesses which
exist as a result of the tourist industry.
3. So concerned was the County Council about
the economic impact foot and mouth disease would have and the
need to quantify this, its Executive Committee on 6 March 2001
commissioned a report from the Agricultural Economics Unit of
the University of Exeter. This report, which assessed the position
as at 19 March 2001 estimated that over the next 12 months 1,200
jobs would be lost in agriculture and ancillary industries whilst
over Devon as a whole, 8,700 jobs could be lost in the tourism
sector and allied businesses. The reduction in income was estimated
at £84 million in the agricultural sector and £196 million
in the tourism sector. The loss in GDP represents 3.52 per cent
of the total.
4. It is estimated that tourism accounts
for approximately 10 per cent of GDP, but what has been evident
in recent weeks is the extent to which other businesses depend
on the holiday trade. Restaurants and pubs may be an obvious area
but less obvious are businesses such as dry cleaners, one of the
support businesses to the hotel trade. We need to remind ourselves
that tourism is everyone's business.
5. Yet the foot and mouth outbreak has led
not just to the loss of visitors coming to the county on holiday,
but also valuable conference business. For example, the Lord Haldon
Hotel near Exeter but which is outside the infected area reports
that nine large conference bookings were cancelled as a result
of the foot and mouth outbreak and the news of its spread. These
events were planned before the outbreak was known but would have
covered the weeks immediately following the first news of the
disease. In addition, few business enquiries were being received
and leisure bookings were also poor compared to previous years.
6. Farm tourism has been hit particularly
badly. Robin Head, Public Relations Officer for Devon Farmsa
private sector farm tourism sector marketing consortiumprovided
the following up-to-date report to the County Council's Executive
Committee Foot-and-Mouth Task Group on 19 April:
Northern DevonEaster: bed
and breakfast down 54 per cent, self-catering down 85 per cent.
Southern Devon and DartmoorEaster:
bed and breakfast down 77 per cent, self-catering down 85 per
Southernmost Devon (Moor to Shore
group)Easter: bed and breakfast down 31 per cent, self-catering
down 81 per cent.
Central DevonEaster: bed and
breakfast down 81 per cent, self-catering down 64 per cent.
East of the CountyEaster:
bed and breakfast and self-catering down 45 per cent.
West of Dartmoor (includes Bridestowe)Easter:
bed and breakfast down 92 per cent.
North of Dartmoor (includes Hatherleigh)Easter:
bed and breakfast and self-catering down 97 per cent.
Overall, Easter was down by 74 per
cent (equates to 705 bednights compared to 2,680).
Comparing March 2001 with March 2000,
on average, business was down by 83 per cent, varying from 39
per cent in the East of the County to 98 per cent in central Devon.
Of the 120 Devon Farm members, only
three were full over Easter this year.
In terms of overseas business, enquiries
are down from 209 to 38 (down 85 per cent) comparing the period
February-mid April 2000 with 2001.
Calls to the Devon Farms vacancy
helpline in March 2000 averaged 25 calls per day; this March the
average was two per day.
7. In 1999, Devon (including Plymouth and
Torbay) had just under 33 million tourist nights.
Promotion of the UK as a Destination for Overseas
8. The organisation which has the prime
responsibility for the promotion of the UK as a destination for
overseas visitors is the British Tourist Authority. Its remit
is to encourage overseas visitors to the UK as a whole.
9. Devon, and for that matter Cornwall,
has tended in the past to rely on visitors from within the UK
to whom the main attraction was a long stay holiday at a coastal
resort. With the decline in the long stay holiday market, both
counties have sought to compensate for this by diversification
into other markets. One of these markets is the overseas visitor
10. In 1995, Devon County Council, Cornwall
County Council (Tourist Board), together with the 16 district
authorities in the two counties, established the Devon and Cornwall
Overseas Marketing Consortium (DACOM). The objective of the partnership
was (and continues to be) to increase the number of visitors and
visitor spend from overseas markets to the sub-region, to create
sustainable employment opportunities through increased tourism
spend and to raise the quality of Devon and Cornwall's tourism
sector. This has been achieved through the development of an annual
programme of product development, business support, promotion
and marketing activity.
Partnerships have been essential and DACOM has
been supported by Prosper, the British Tourist Authority, South
West Tourism and appropriate carriers, eg P & O Stena Line.
DACOM has also benefited from European ERDF Objective 5b funding
and applications are currently being developed for Objective 1
funding in Cornwall and Objective 2 funding in Devon.
11. DACOM's annual marketing budget, including
European grant, amounted to in the region of £350,000. The
original project set a number of targets over the period 1995-1999,
To increase trips from 712,000 to
804,000 (13 per cent).
To increase visitor nights from 5.7
million to 6.4 million (12 per cent).
To increase spend from £192.6
million to £225.3 million (17 per cent).
Based on 1998 International Passenger Survey
figures the targets to that date were exceeded as follows:
Tripstarget 9.6 per cent;
actual 19.4 per cent.
Visitor nightstarget 8.8 per
cent; actual 15.8 per cent.
Spendtarget 12.5 per cent;
actual 36.5 per cent.
To put into context how valuable overseas tourism
is for Devon (and Cornwall), the 1999 campaign specifically achieved
the following results, based on a spend of £380,000:
22,335 holidays booked/intended.
1,121,935 visitor nights.
These results are for Devon and Cornwall and
it is not possible to split the economic benefits between the
two counties. However, overseas visitors to Cornwall account for
6 per cent of its tourist nights, compared with 11.8 per cent
12. The results for the calendar year 2000
have yet to be finalised but they are likely to see a decline,
due to the high value of sterling during the year. This accentuates
the impact on the tourism industry in two ways. First the overseas
visitor is dissuaded from coming due to the relatively high cost
and secondly the domestic visitor is attracted more to overseas
destinations as they are relatively cheaper.
13. In the context of overseas marketing
activity for the current year, much of this had already been committed
to prior to the outbreak of foot and mouth, in particular participation
in the appropriate British Tourist Authority (BTA) main market
campaigns, which are the basis of DACOM's marketing activity.
At the moment, responses to BTA's campaigns are down by in the
region of 50 per cent, which in turn is affecting the volume of
responses/requests for Devon and Cornwall information.
14. DACOM has reviewed other opportunities
and has put these on hold for the time being, including a major
proportion of its proactive public relations programme where,
instead of concentrating on generating press facility visits,
the emphasis will be on providing accurate consumer information
via the press. In the short term, DACOM is concentrating its efforts
on maintaining accurate and up-to-date information via its web
15. The BTA, world-wide, is developing a
recovery plan and DACOM is in close liaison with that organisation
to maximise opportunities when the time is right. In an information
update dated 2 April, 2001, BTA has stated that longer-term activity
will include image advertising campaigns, on-territory presentations
to trade and consumers, travel trade and press familiarisation
visits. Prominence will be given to rural Britain, especially
those areas most affected.
16. Overseas visitors to Devon account for
11.8 per cent of the total number of tourist nights and 13 per
cent of the total spend. The average spend per head for Devon
is £35 a night for a UK resident and £41 per night for
an overseas visitor. This higher average spend by the overseas
tourism visitor is particularly important in terms of its economic
Tourism Information to Domestic and Overseas Visitors
17. There is a distinction to be made between
tourism information given to those who are already in the county
and those who are thinking of visiting the county. For the former,
a network of some 40 local tourist information centres exists,
operated by District Councils and occasionally the private sector.
The County Council used to operate two "gateway" tourist
information centres but decided two years ago to replace these
with a computer based visitor information system. This provides
a networked system of tourist information delivered by self-help
touch screen kiosks. These are strategically located, one within
the main building of the Exeter M5 motorway services off junction
30 and the other within the restaurant facility at Junction 27
on the M5. The system allows automated booking of accommodation.
18. In order to maintain the provision of
a visitor information service on a county wide basisDevon
being a well identified destination in the mind of the consumerthe
County Council established, three years ago, a call centre facility.
This provides all the normal services of a tourist information
centre, save for ability to deal with "face to face"
enquiries. This facility is operated by a private sector company,
under contract to the County Council and with the exception of
Christmas Day and New Year's Day, is available 8 am to 10 pm Mondays
to Fridays and 8 am to 8 pm at weekends.
19. The call centre is able to deal with
individual enquiries and respond to requests for brochures. The
County Council no longer produces an accommodation guide itself
but signposts the brochures and guides prepared by District Councils.
The Devon Holiday Line service, as it is known, is also able to
effect accommodation bookings.
20. On 22 March 2001, the English Tourism
Council set up the national holiday line in response to the foot
and mouth crisis to provide advice and information to visitors.
Devon County Council supported this initiative by identifying
the Devon Holiday Line as part of a satellite network to facilitate
easy access to appropriate local information. This meant that
callers to the national line seeking information and advice about
Devon were re-routed automatically to the Devon Holiday Line call
centre. An analysis of usage of the Devon Holiday Line during
March this year shows:
Enquiries: 2,422, an increase of
777 over March last year. Of these enquiries 197 were derived
from the English Tourism Council national helpline. In the first
two weeks of April, there were 1,582 enquiries, an increase of
614 over the same period last year. Of these 66 were derived from
the national helpline.
Specific accommodation enquiries:
265, compared to 299 in March last year. In the first two weeks
of April, the figures were 292 compared to 252 in the same period
21. Running parallel to the Devon Holiday
Line is the increasing use of the County Council's own web site.
Information on tourism is available through the County Council's
own web site (www.devon.gov.uk) but also through a dedicated web
site (www.devon4allseasons.co.uk) to which there is direct access.
This has enabled the County Council to give up-to-date advice
to the potential visitor in a positive way, in the context of
the public rights of way and attractions that are open. There
are also suggested ideas as to how to spend a holiday, all without
prejudicing the actions being taken to contain and eradicate foot
and mouth disease. Information is collated from the District Councils
and the web site updated each weekday.
22. Information about, and promotion of,
the web site and the Devon Holiday Line is achieved, in the main,
through distribution of press releases, regionally and nationally.
When press features are generated as a result of journalists'
visits, the web site address and Holiday Line telephone number
are promoted within a "fact box". During the foot and
mouth crisis, every opportunity has been taken to maximise opportunities
to further signpost the web site address and Holiday Line telephone
number, when commentary on the foot and mouth crisis and its impact
has been requested by the media, including radio.
23. In the normal course of events the web
site is linked to that of South West Tourism and to each of the
District Council/destination sites within the county. Over the
past seven weeks, more specific links have been put in place to
provide immediate access to foot and mouth visitor information.
Statistics for March from the North Devon Marketing Bureau show
that since the link from the Devon web site to the North Devon
foot and mouth information web site was set up, 686 user sessions
resulted in the first 14 daysa three-fold increase.
24. At this time of year, and particularly
in the context of the impact of foot and mouth on visits from
outside of the area, local, day visitors are vitally important,
especially to visitor attractions that are reliant on year round
business. Devon County Council has been working closely with South
West Tourism and has co-ordinated comprehensive information on
what is open and what activities are available; this is being
published in the form of a series of supplements distributed with
the regional newspaperthe first has already been produced
and circulated. The County Council has also contributed to the
first phase of the South West Tourism Recovery Plan which is concentrating
on ensuring that accurate "visitor information" is disseminated.
25. In an attempt to redress the negative
impact of foot and mouth on Devon's tourism industry, the County
Council placed a full page advertisement in the Sunday Mercury
(Birmingham) on Sunday 8 April 2001. Under the headline "Rediscover
the delights of Devon" the advertisement promoted the Easter
period, the fact that 90 per cent of attractions would be open
for business and provided specific examples of places to visit.
The "call to action" was to the Devon Holiday Line telephone
number and to the County Council's tourism web site. Disappointingly,
there were no calls to the Holiday Line as a result of this advertisement.
Partners in a South West Tourism initiative at the same time experienced
a similar negative response.
26. The foot and mouth crisis has had a
negative impact on Devon County Council's tourism public relations
programme. This activity includes the generation of journalists'
visits and consequently achieves editorial features with an average
per annum advertising value equivalent of £600,000. The last
journalist visit was on 1 March; subsequently three trips that
had been fully planned and booked have been cancelled for the
time being and it is estimated that the lost editorial value from
these is in the region of £54,000. In addition to its discrete
tourism public relations activity on behalf of the County Council,
the authority also supports the Exeter and the Heart of Devon
special interest short break initiative by promoting that product
through public relations. A scheduled group golf press trip has
been postponed and the estimated editorial value lost equates
to some £107,600.
27. Whereas Devon will ultimately recover
its tourism trade, this will take time, money and effort. Meanwhile,
there are businesses at risk and people being laid off. Devon
County Council is working on a recovery plan which, in conjunction
with partners, will help to limit the damage to existing tourism
businesses and those who provide the support services to the industry
within the county. However, it will need help from other sources.