First published Thursday, February 6, 2014
In the last few days, Carwyn Jones, the First Minister for Wales, has announced that the Small Business Rate Relief scheme is to be extended to March 2015. This comes as great news for many in the tourism sector who have been in receipt of the rate relief, resulting in lower or complete exemption from paying Business Rates. A further 12 months ‘breathing space’ will be welcome as the economy continues to recover. Many of our members contributed to earlier calls for evidence in relation to the Small Business Rates Relief Scheme, and it’s good to see that that voice, through the work of Pembrokeshire Tourism was heard.
Meanwhile, in Westminster, the first ever Parliamentary Debate on VAT in Tourism will be taking place on Tuesday 11th February. The ‘Cut Tourism VAT’ campaign has undertaken research that indicates reducing the rate of VAT on tourism services and products will boost the Gross Domestic Product of the UK by £4bn a year, create 80,000 jobs and deliver £2.6bn to the Treasury. These are not small figures, and the potential for a positive impact in terms of overall economic development is clearly significant. There is still much to be done in support of this campaign, however it is encouraging to hear that the Treasury are not opposed to reducing tourism VAT, but there are still concerns in some quarters around the impact on the current UK deficit in the short term if a reduction in VAT was applied.
So there’s two fairly big political news stories to get you started. There is however a third, that for many in the industry needs to be considered, but isn’t really making the headlines at present. In Wales currently, and up until February 27th 2014, there is a consultation open on ‘Regional Engagement and Partnership Structures in the Tourism Sector’. For many this will quite possibly not mean much at all – after all why should it? Tourism operators throughout Wales are busy getting on with the day job, working hard in their business and doing all they can to maintain that business.
But what does ‘Regional Engagement and Partnership Structures’ actually refer to? Here in Pembrokeshire, along side our sister associations in Carmarthenshire and Swansea, Pembrokeshire Tourism sits under the South West Wales Regional Tourism Partnership (SWWTP). Each association receives partial funding from the SWWTP to support membership activities and trade engagement, delivery of skills training through Gallu, long term project support for programmes such as Ffres, and other ad hoc projects that are of relevance to each county. The current consultation is asking whether or not the current structure is appropriate, or whether there should be changes made to it both in terms of delivery and funding.
Here at Pembrokeshire Tourism, along with a number of our colleagues in other organisations locally and regionally, we favour the first option of the five presented in the consultation document, which is to “Do nothing”. The structure here in the South West Wales region works, and is effective, and has been held up as an exemplar on numerous occasions on how partnership working and support can be effectively delivered. Additionally in light of the recently published Williams Commission report, which is recommending a number of fairly major changes to local authority boundaries and other related structures, we believe it to be important to maintain stability at this time, and not add further confusion to an already confusing landscape.
It is important that on this particular matter the voice of the industry is heard. Copies of the consultation document, response form, and an explanatory guide compiled by the three tourism associations in the region will be made available to our members on this week’s newsletter. However if you would like to take part in the consultation and wish to have a copy of the relevant documents, please do email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send them to you.
The tourism industry in Pembrokeshire, and the broader visitor economy surrounding it, are vitally important to the county, from an economic perspective, from a jobs perspective, and for providing opportunities for growth, development and improvements in quality and offering. There is a wealth of experience and knowledge in the industry which without effective regional support will not be able to reach the full potential in delivering the desired growth outlined in the Welsh Government Partnership for Growth Tourism Strategy. Please make your voice heard on this subject – if you have any questions, or would like to know more, please call us on 01646 622228.