What Have the Tourist Boards Ever Done For Us?
It’s a facetious question of course. They are there to provide us with information and suggestions of where we might holiday. They are a support group who, when we are stranded for ideas or accommodation, ride to the rescue. But they are undergoing change and what we have now may be different in the future. The main regional tourist authorities such as South West Tourism and Welcome To Yorkshire are funded by the regional development agencies. But this are being wound up by the government. Funding will come from elsewhere but it has led to cutbacks already. South West Tourism will cease to exist as from next April and Cumbria Tourism has faced large cutbacks already.
Some organisations will be hit in other ways of the own making particularly Visit Scotland. The new chief executive, Malcolm Roughead has just been appointed some months after his predecessor, Philip Riddle, left. Why so long? Because Riddle has been negotiating what amounts to an 18 month severance deal totalling £240,000. Roughead will “only” get £140,000 pa and to pay for the severance, two posts at director level have gone.
As publically funded bodies it looks as though some of the senior staff have been paid more than many would believe reasonable. The £161,000 Riddle was getting is less than Sandie Dawe as head of Visit Britain gets (her pay jumped by £35,000 when she took over the top job there) and both get more than the Prime Minister takes (£142,500) which seems the benchmark for salaries these days. Riddle had also received bonuses of £75,000 over the last 6 years. Are we getting value for money from what we pay senior people in tourism? Are we getting value for money from the boards themselves? Talking to smaller tourism associations in Scotland and councils (who provide money) some are scathing about the help from Visit Scotland. In England one county council has wondered what benefits it gets from its regional tourist board for the money it provides. In Wales, money spent on tourism has dropped in real terms and since the Welsh Tourist Board was abolished in 2006, there has been criticism that its successor, Visit Wales, has a civil service mentality.
Yesterday, the BBC published a leaked document from the government about which quangos might be abolished. Visit Britain and Visit England are on the list but with no decision made yet. Other bodies connected to tourism or consumer support like Passenger Focus, English Heritage and Historic Royal Palaces are also under a cloud. This might be the time to have a good look at these quangos operate.
Over the next six months as budgets are discussed local tourist boards and councils really will ask, what the national tourist boards have done for them. And we as holidaymakers, visitors and taxpayers can wonder the same.