B&NES could be joining a new regional tourism company if plans to be presented to its Cabinet are adopted.
The report, to be discussed on Thursday 10 December, recommends the council join with other West of England authorities to create a new organisation called Visit West.
The report says that, following recommendations from Visit Britain and Visit England, Visit West would put the area in a stronger position to access new additional funding for the tourism sector, provide a much stronger industry and marketing presence for the region and a voice in government- whilst also helping to support the transition to more sustainable low carbon tourism. This has already delivered benefits. By working in partnership with other local Destination Management Organisations, Visit Bath has benefited through inclusion in national campaigns this summer.
Visit Bath, which has been owned by the council since 2017, has consistently struggled to balance its books and last year an experienced new management team was brought in to take over the running of the organisation. However, despite reducing costs, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, including the cancellation of this year’s Christmas market, means Visit Bath’s Board and the council believe it is no longer financially viable as a separate ongoing concern.
Councillor Dine Romero, leader of the council, said: “Tourism is a vital part of Bath and North East Somerset’s economy, employing around 9,000 people which is approximately 10% of the workforce. Given the devastating impacts of Covid-19 on the sector, supporting tourism businesses now and in the future is critical to securing these jobs and people’s livelihoods. I therefore welcome the report and cabinet will consider if carefully. I particularly welcome the proposal for us to co-operate closely with other partners across the area which builds on existing successful joint arrangements such as Invest Bristol and Bath which operates as a single service across the West of England to support inward investment”
Fiona Pollard, Board Member of the VisitEngland Advisory Board, said:“I am delighted to see the proposed creation of Visit West which will be a ground breaking organisation that will lead the way in effective collaboration and very much play to the agenda of co operation on a bigger scale across tourism businesses.”
The report details how Visit West would continue to promote tourism across Bath and North East Somerset and retain the Visit Bath consumer facing brand, but at a reduced cost to the council through economies of scale by combining the back-office and business-to-business functions of Visit Bath and Destination Bristol. The role of the Bath Box Office would be strengthened through a new partnership with the Bath Forum.
Membership of Visit West would cost £75k annually and, as the council currently pays Visit Bath for its services, this would save the authority £291k each year.
The report recommends cabinet agree to winding up Visit Bath, writing off the debt the council is owed by the organisation, and funding Visit Bath’s liabilities from the council’s transformation reserves. It says the council will be able to recoup the money through future savings made as a result of joining Visit West and save over £2m over the next ten years.