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Policy and Intelligence Newsletter - 1 November 2021

Welcome to the Policy and Intelligence Newsletter, which explores a different theme each month, giving you data insights, policy analysis and signposts for further reading. There are also sections providing a news roundup and Parliamentary stories of interest. This month, we take a deep dive into sustainable tourism.

News roundup

  • Cornwall has been long listed as one of eight candidates for UK City of Culture 2025, chosen from a pool of 20. A government grant of £40,000 and support from the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport will help applicants produce a more detailed bid.
  • Initial analysis suggests that the substantial number of nationwide job cuts predicted to take place when the Furlough Scheme finished has not materialised, despite a million people receiving payments as the scheme closed at the end of September.
  • Cornwall is one of 17 areas chosen to pilot new projects to help people experiencing homelessness after leaving hospital, with funding to provide temporary accommodation, job support and drug treatment to break the cycle of discharge and readmission. A study of 3,000 homeless patients discharged after an emergency admission found 2,000 were readmitted within 12 months: a rate 50% higher than for patients with homes.
  • Cornwall Council has successfully bid for nearly £37,000 in grant funding as part of the Government’s Safer Streets Fund for innovative plans to improve the safety of public spaces, particularly for women and girls.
  • The Local Government Association (LGA) has warned that waiting lists for council housing could double next year, with 10% of people requesting housing from local authorities waiting more than five years. The LGA suggests that if sufficient investment and powers were given to councils for 100,000 units of social housing to be built each year, public finances would be improved by £24.5 billion over 30 years.
  • Cornwall Council has been awarded £2.45 million from the Government’s Brownfield Land Release Fund for the Pydar Regeneration project
  • Three cottages in Cawsand in East Cornwall have been refurbished by the Peninsula Trust and let to local people. The Trust, a community organisation, bought the properties from Cornwall Council, reportedly at a substantial discount - this meant that the properties were not put up for sale by auction, which may have priced them out of reach of people in the community.
  • A tree disease which causes shoot dieback and makes needles fall off a variety of species has been spotted in Cornwall, thought to be the first report of Phytophthora pluvialis fungus in Europe. The Forestry Commission is carrying out urgent surveillance and diagnosis, and encouraging woodland managers and tree nurseries to be vigilant.
  • The Environment Agency is to use a new thermal imaging camera to support night-time enforcement patrols looking out for illegal fishing in Devon and Cornwall, partially based on intelligence reports from local people.


View from Westminster

The Government has published its Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener, putting forward a vision for decarbonising every part of the economy to achieve the goal of the UK being net carbon zero by 2050. Emphasising how spearheading a “green industrial revolution” can unlock greater productivity and well-paying jobs, the strategy advocates for phasing out redundant technologies to be replaced by greener, more cost-effective alternatives. Standout policies include: complete decarbonisation of the UK’s power system by 2035; an eventual £1.75 billion investment in social housing decarbonisation schemes and home upgrade grants; and all new heating appliances to be low carbon from 2035 (such as electric heat pumps rather than gas boilers).

The Government’s new National Space Strategy describes the criticality of the space sector to the UK’s economy and national infrastructure, highlighting the many benefits to communications, data analysis and security. The strategy outlines opportunities for the UK to be at the forefront of the boom in global economic growth in the sector as it increases from £270 billion in 2019 to a possible £490 billion by 2030. Cornwall is at the heart of the Government’s future plans, with Spaceport Cornwall and Goonhilly Earth Station featuring prominently.

Two influential cross-party Parliamentary Select Committees have published a joint report on Coronavirus: Lessons Learnt to Date, which although critical of the Government’s handling of the initial response (noting that “in 2020 the UK did significantly worse in terms of Covid death than many other countries”) also highlights the success of the vaccine program, “one of the most successful in Europe”.

A £500 million expansion of the Government’s Plan for Jobs has been unveiled, aiming to support hundreds of thousands of people aged over 50 and those leaving the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme back into work. There will also be support for young people and workers on Universal Credit who want to progress their careers.

The Prime Minister’s keynote address to the Conservative Party Conference appeared to signal that some proposed planning system reforms will be abandoned, saying that the government will “build the homes that [are needed] not on green fields…but beautiful homes on brownfield sites in places where homes make sense”.

The new Office for Health Improvement and Disparities has launched its first campaign, the Every Mind Matters initiative, which aims to help adults improve their mental well-being. 50% of over-18s in England said their mental health had been negatively affected by the pandemic. A few simple questions will give users tailored suggestions for improving sleep; reducing stress and feeling more in control.

The Government has announced an incentive scheme for new maths, science and computing teachers, who will receive up to £3,000 tax-free to support recruitment and retention. The announcement cites evidence that a 10% pay increase leads to a 30% reduction of early leavers in subjects with shortages.

Government consultations have been launched relating to topics previously covered in these newsletters, including reforming working regulations to make flexible working the default (closes 1 December) and a stakeholder survey for the National Infrastructure Planning Reform Programme (closes 17 December).


Deep dive: Sustainable Tourism

Cornwall’s beautiful natural environment is rich in distinctive habitats and wildlife, shaped by our history. Nature is the foundation of Cornwall’s community, heritage and proud sense of place. It makes Cornwall a special and unique place to live, work and visit. Our Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty cover around a third of Cornwall, including most of our 400 miles of stunning coastline. And our seas are an ecological hotspot, with our ancient maerl beds the Cornish equivalent of a coral reef.

 

From Golitha Falls to St Nectarn’s Glen, Tehidy Country Park to Eden; Cornwall hosts an incredible network of spectacular natural attractions for visitors. Research from the University of Exeter’s Environmental Sustainability Institute has found 24% of visitors to Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly and 13% of residents take part in paid-for nature-based activities, but 62% of visitors and 38% of residents said they would be interested in taking part in paid activities to support nature, so there may be opportunities to develop appropriate marketing and development strategies. Expanding nature-based opportunities could attract more visitors during the off-peak season, bring people to inland locations, and support the wider rural economy by farm income diversification, for example. 

 

Any expansion of these opportunities must also address existing access inequalities: a Natural England survey in August this year found that the probability someone would visit a green space was correlated with household income. 68% of adults in England across all economic backgrounds had visited a green space within 14 days of the survey question. However, only 50% of people from households earning under £15,000 had visited a natural space within the last 14 days, compared to 70% of those with household incomes between £15,000-£49,999, and 75% of people from households earning £50,000 or above. 

 

If we are to safeguard our environment for the wellbeing of future generations and support it on the road to recovery from the ongoing ecological crisis of declining biodiversity, we need to make space for nature. It is critical that our recreational activity does not disturb, pollute or degrade it further – meaning a modal shift to car-less or active forms of travel. The hospitality industry can benefit from programmes like WiSe, a voluntary scheme providing training and accreditation for tourism and recreational providers to minimise disturbance to marine wildlife.

 

Cornwall’s tourism sector: facts and figures.

Visit Cornwall, Cornwall’s Tourist Board, have provided some facts and figures about our tourism sector, from the Cornwall Business Survey 2021, the Community Attitude Study 2021 and the Volume of Value of Tourism Report 2019, all conducted by the South West Research Company:

  • 83% of residents think tourism is good overall for Cornwall, down from 89% in 2012. 
  • Pre-pandemic, 30% of households in Cornwall gained income from the visitor economy. 
  • Pre-pandemic, 53,000 jobs in Cornwall were in tourism or hospitality. 94% of people employed were Cornish residents.
  • 36% of people employed in tourism and hospitality were paid less than £20,000 a year, not on the National Minimum Wage or Real Living Wage.
  • Tourism and hospitality businesses typically spend 35% of their turnover on wages and 42% indirectly on goods and services. 73% of the indirect goods and services spend went to businesses in Cornwall.
  • 57% of tourism and hospitality businesses are open all year round. 25% of businesses close for some of the year but would stay open for longer if it was economically viable to do so.
  • Visitors to Cornwall spent an approximate total of £2 billion per year, pre-pandemic.


Effect of the pandemic on Cornwall’s tourism and hospitality sectors.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a particularly significant impact on Cornwall’s tourism and hospitality sector, in common with other peripheral regions where tourism is a key component of the economy. Early assessments of the sectorial impact of Covid-19 by the Centre for Towns identified the most at-risk part of the economy as accommodation; art and leisure; non-food retail; and pubs and restaurants. Newquay, with its thriving tourist industry pre-pandemic, had the highest combined proportion of employees working across multiple at-risk sectors (56.2%), making it the most economically exposed town in England and Wales. Four other Cornish towns (St Ives, Penzance, Falmouth and St Blazey) featured in the top 20 towns with the highest sectorial impact from Covid-19, assessed in 2020. 

Recent analysis by KPMG has found that the economic recovery from the pandemic will almost certainly be sectorially imbalanced: manufacturing and construction are likely to make a swift recovery – they were exempt from the second and third national lockdowns, with just 10% of jobs furloughed. Many retail sales have moved online – internet sales now make up over 33% of purchases and sales volumes are above pre-pandemic levels, with KPMG forecasting retail output to grow through 2021 and 2022.  By contrast, activity in the hospitality sector came to an almost complete stop over the last year, although food and drink businesses are likely to see a return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2021.

Preliminary analysis by Cornwall Council’s Economic Growth team suggests that Cornwall's hospitality and tourism related businesses will bounce back much quicker than our other sectors. Food businesses supplying companies in these sectors will probably see rapid post-pandemic growth: by contrast, food businesses supplying supermarkets have seen little impact from the pandemic, but are now experiencing squeezed profit margins.

Sustainable tourism

The UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) defines sustainable tourism as "Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities". UNWTO identifies three key principles of sustainable tourism:

  • Natural heritage, biodiversity and the environment are critical parts of tourism, and must be protected, maintained and used to best effect.
  • The culture, heritage and values of societies which host tourists must be respected and conserved. Mutual understanding and tolerance should be promoted.
  • Economic and social benefits of tourism should be long-term and shared equitably between all stakeholders – this includes reliable jobs, giving back to host communities and remediating poverty in the local area. 


Visit Cornwall suggest eight ways tourism could be made more sustainable, and even regenerative - where we are not only avoiding harm, but actively repairing and doing good:

  • Develop and approve an assessment procedure for evaluating and appraising existing and proposed tourism developments.
  • Select and implement a minimum sustainability accreditation scheme.
  • Provide advice and support to minimise the use of resource and waste. This could include restaurants promoting smaller menus with more locally sourced produce, or aiming for lower amounts of food waste alongside composting.
  • Enhance the low carbon/net zero carbon tourism offer, with schemes such as cycling and electric bike routes. Businesses could be encouraged to think of where their customers come from and how long they stay, targeting advertising to local visitors for day trips.
  • Promote effective working with local communities, councils and other appropriate organisations.
  • Create a Research and Development Centre of Expertise for developing sustainable, regenerative tourism - with high-quality market research and intelligence to drive product improvement.
  • Focus on market research and product development for high-value sustainable, regenerative visitor experiences.
  • Support nature recovery, particularly at visitor sites – most of which have some unused land that could be used for rewilding or planting pollinators.


Case Study: EXPERIENCE Project

The EXPERIENCE Project is an EU-funded, cross-channel initiative which promotes off-season experience-led tourism to create a more sustainable, year-round visitor economy. Running until 2023, it is a collaboration between the channel regions of Cornwall, Kent, Norfolk, Brittany, Pas-de-Calais and Compiègne. Cornwall Council has received €1.9 million in funding from the European Regional Development Fund, and invested an additional €0.9 million.

The project champions connecting visitors with the historic, cultural and natural capital of regions so tourists can experience places as locals do - via experiences such as sea swimming, foraging and hidden history tours. EXPERIENCE is keen to attract day visitors and those coming from outside the region in the off-season of October-March, with the Cornwall branch focusing on Penzance and Marazion as a pilot area. The project provides:

  • Underpinning research based on business, visitor and residents’ surveys, to understand the effects of pandemic on businesses; the carbon footprint of typical visitors; and the impact of peak-season tourism on residents. If you would like to take part in the residents’ survey, it is currently running here.
  • Capital projects such as the Mount’s Bay Coast Path (from Marazion to Penzance) redevelopment and Mount’s Bay arts trail with a submerged ancient forest as its centrepiece. 
  • Business development and training sessions, to develop new out of season offers with a sustainable, local focus. Research into business skills gaps helps drive the training offer. If you run a business in Marazion or Penzance and would like to take advantage of the training and development on offer, please contact experiencepenzance@cornwall.gov.uk


Opportunities

A range of opportunities, some more controversial than others, could make tourism in Cornwall more sustainable. 

  • A tourism tax is a hotly-debated way of local authorities generating income, typically based on an extra charge for each night spent in accommodation. Opponents say that UK providers pay very high VAT and property taxes already, compared to European competitors, and that an extra tax would hinder recovery of the hospitality sector. Those in favour, such as councillors in Edinburgh who approved proposals for a Transient Visitor Levy in 2019, argue that a tax would help reduce the impact of tourism on residents, provide a sustainable way of managing tourism and allow for reinvestment in the local area. 
  • Voluntary contribution programmessuch as additional optional payments when booking holidays or Cornwall Council’s ‘Back the Future’ crowdfunding. These sorts of revenue streams could help offset carbon and biodiversity impacts, and enable the visitor economy to support Cornwall’s carbon neutral and nature recovery ambitions. Successful schemes already exist locally, such as an opt-out booking scheme at Mother Ivey’s Bay Holiday Park and Martha’s Orchard which supports Cornwall Wildlife Trust, with around 70% of bookings resulting in a contribution. The Scarlet and Bedruthan hotels similarly support multiple initiatives like Surfers Against Sewage.
  • Development of Astro Tourism. Light pollution makes it increasingly difficult to adequately see the night sky, with a third of the world’s population no longer able to see the Milky Way. Places with comparatively low light pollution, such as Cornwall, can promote stargazing as a year-round, environmentally-friendly tourist activity. Indeed, the Isles of Scilly have recently held their first Astro Tourism Week. 
  • Tourist Accommodation registration. The Government is due to launch a consultation on the introduction of a Tourist Accommodation registration scheme in England as part of its wider plans for tourism recovery. This will focus on the impacts of the rise of short-term holiday rentals in destinations across the country and its effect on local economies and communities, with opportunity to consider measures of re-balance.

 

Information in the newsletter is correct at time of writing, 9am on Wednesday 27 October.

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