Britain’s tourism industry certainly hasn’t enjoyed a lucrative year. From the Icelandic volcano and its cancellation fallout to the recent stream of bankruptcies in the private travel sector, some of the nation’s leading companies are no longer the powerhouses that they once were. Some have blamed the poor tourism sector on a weak economy, although others believe there’s significantly more to it.
Some, for example, have pointed to the rising role of the internet in travel as a reason for the poor performance of many travel resellers. Others claim that the industry is suffering due to a change in consumer spending habits, one that’s likely to have been encouraged by the limited budgets many families are now forced to contend with.
Whatever the cause, the outcome has been fairly bleak. Prime Minister David Cameron has claimed that the industry is of paramount importance to Britain, citing its £115 billion value as one of many reasons to work with tourism operators. But a proposed flight tax – one that’s likely to hit private tourism operators the hardest – appears to be working against his rhetoric.
Britain’s tourism industry is worth as much as the government claims, through their course of action for ensuring it survives has been met with criticism by insiders. Long haul flight taxes are projected to rise £30 – should the proposed taxes come into effect, the cost of flying to New York will include an estimated £85 in Air Passenger Duties alone.
It’s a prospect that’s leaving travel operators, and travellers themselves, feeling rather cheated. With tourism at an all-time low point and businesses continually closing doors, the flight taxes are likely to draw further criticism within the industry. For frequent travellers, we can only hope that they’re nothing more than speculation.
While the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has come to an end, the large amount of environmental damage is likely to affect the region for decades, local environmentalists have claimed. BP has pledged to assist local communities and regional cities in cleaning up from the disaster, with a series of funds and private grants issued to cities that have seen their environment and economy hurt by the spill.
Mississippi, one of the states most heavily affected by the spill, has been given a $3 million grant from BP to encourage tourism-based advertising and promotion within the state. While the state’s coastline has been largely cleaned, the spill has caused a public relations nightmare for coastline tour companies, accommodation providers, and regional transportation businesses.
BP’s donation seems in many ways to be a symbolic gesture – the company has spent billions of dollars cleaning the gulf itself and ensuring that the well no longer leaks into the ocean. With the tourism industry slowly recovering – most visibly in Florida – it seems unusual that such a small grant is likely to have any effect on a national level.
For Mississippi’s struggling tourism industry, however, the grant is certainly a welcome gesture from the oil major. Visitors to the state have been surprisingly high, albeit still below targets that were set preceding the disaster. Local governments are aiming to use the funds efficiently, setting the bar relatively high and looking towards projected figures as a potential target.
The grant comes alongside a $15 million donation made to state authorities earlier in the year, one of several paid out within the United States. Fighting a public relations disaster, the oil company is looking to the affected states as a recovery opportunity, vowing to help move their tourism sectors back to profitability, stable occupancy, and environmental health.
There certainly hasn’t been a shortage of news coverage for the Obamas’ first major vacation. As the family relaxes in Martha’s Vineyard – a high-profile resort and recreational area in Massachusetts – some of the state’s biggest tourism-based companies are hoping that the visit is a public one. Struck down by the economic crisis and reeling from slow recovery, the state’s tourism industry is hurting.
It’s a problem that is surprisingly common throughout the United States. While the country is fairly well known for its vacation-domestically manifesto, tourism earnings appear to be down throughout the entire country. While there are pockets of surprising resistance to the downturn – Florida is now reporting stable hotel occupancy rates – many of the United States’ biggest tourism spots are down.
The reason is fairly obvious: consumer spending is low due to limited budgets and an even greater level of pressure to find a stable income. With unemployment at record high levels across many of the country’s largest metropolitan areas, the thought of vacationing just isn’t entering anyone’s mind.
However, some of Massachusetts’ largest businesses plan to turn that around. While the President has been slightly reserved around the cameras over the past week, the state plans to turn his visit into a rallying point for its tourism industry. Massachusetts typically experiences steady tourism figures throughout the winter, with its picturesque scenery attracting families from the Northeast.
Some of those involved in the state’s tourism industry are sceptical that the President’s visit will set off a surge of like-minded travellers. With secret service agents and other security personnel based in Martha’s Vineyard, the state’s relaxing image may not fare too well. For employment’s sake, we hope that the promotional efforts result in success for the state’s many troubled businesses.