Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Tourism Society

  Thank you for your letter of 6 April inviting The Tourism Society to submit written evidence to the Committee as part of its enquiry into the above, prompted by the foot and mouth epidemic. The Society welcomes this opportunity to comment on what has become a burning issue for tourism, both metaphorically and in reality.

  As the intervention of the Easter break would have hampered a comprehensive survey of its members on this subject, the members of the Society's Executive Committee have asked me to respond instead.

Organisational Background

  The Society, founded in 1977, provides a forum for the professional needs of those pursuing a career in or associated with the tourism industry. It is managed by a Council, elected by the members, and is funded by subscriptions, advertising revenue, meetings fees and other contributions and sponsorship.

  President: The Rt Hon Viscount Thurso FTS.

  President Emeritus: Lord Montagu of Beaulieu FTS.

  Chairman: Graham Wason FTS.

  Administrative Director: Adrian Clark FTS.

Mission Statement

  To provide a forum for professionals working in, studying or otherwise interested in tourism across all its sectors worldwide.


  Promote and advance professionalism in tourism.

  Support training and academic development.

  Uphold, explore and enhance best practice.

  Encourage sustainable development.

  Address local, national and international issues.

  Recognise individual achievement in the field of tourism.


Current position

  Member of The Tourism Society since 1979 and its Administrative Director since 1996.

Previous employment

  1967-71:  British Travel Association/British Tourist Authority. Graduate Management Trainee; Youth Travel Manager, USA; N American desk, London.

  1971-74:  London Tourist Board. Manager, Ground (Accommodation and Information) Services.

  1974-93:  English Tourist Board. Manager: Commercial Development/Travel Trade Liaison Unit. Head: TIC Networking and Visitor Services Unit.



  With the experience gained from over 30 years' involvement in tourism, the majority of which were spent in working with the managers and staff of England's Tourist Information Centres and their regional tourist board colleagues, the following remarks may be helpful to the Committee in its deliberations.

  As a prelude, it may be worth recalling the Hegelian premise that "We learn from history that we do not learn from history" when comparing the way in which MAFF has handled the current crisis compared with its 1967 predecessor.


  1.  Given the current strength of sterling, the slowing down of the US economy, the Hatfield rail crash and the floods in many parts of rural Britain, it was always going to be difficult to turn round the recent decline in the number of inbound tourists to the UK in 2001.

  2.  With the exception of the US element, a growth in the volume and value of UK domestic tourism was always going to be difficult to achieve in 2001, especially at Easter, on account of the same factors plus the annual increase in fuel prices shortly before.

  3.  When the outbreak in NE England of foot and mouth developed into a national epidemic, the confused and conflicting information—disseminated by, and the reactions to the situation from, MAFF, DETR, the NFU and individual local authorities—had the effect of persuading the British public to steer clear of the countryside as a whole, irrespective of whether or not the infection had broken out.

  4.  The economic ramifications of the repeated world-wide broadcasting of pictures of piles of burning carcasses were not appreciated by the media—especially as they deterred overseas visitors from making or confirming their plans to visit the UK.

  5.  Fire-fighting PR visits to the US and campaigns mounted immediately the outbreak became an epidemic, though necessary, were thus rendered more or less fruitless.

  6.  Painful as it may be to accept, efforts and public money were wasted at this initial stage in trying to combat the mixed messages from "the authorities" and adverse media coverage and to encourage back to the countryside, first, the British public and, subsequently, potential overseas visitors.

  7.  This task was made—and continues to be—all the more difficult though the lack of a comprehensive national electronic communications system and associated hardware to permit the public—and tourism intermediaries—to access information about and make reservations in businesses remaining open and seeking bookings

  8.  The progressive decentralisation of (English) tourist board information collection and management systems after 1994 and the cessation of the ETB responsibility for marketing, including advertising, handicapped the English Tourism Council in mounting an early public advertising reassurance campaign.

  9.  The interim solution of a Government Notice in the third week of March merely had the effect of reinforcing the public's disinclination to venture into the countryside.

Some lessons learnt

    —  (a)  encourage circumspect reporting by the media;

    —  (b)  provide a single source of genuinely authoritative information to avoid mixed and disjointed messages;

    —  (c)  be aware of wider ramifications and impact.

April 2001

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