Nigel Huddleston – 2022 Statement on the Independent Review of Destination Management Organisations

The statement made by Nigel Huddleston, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, in the House of Commons on 20 July 2022.

The Government are today publishing their formal response to the independent review of Destination Management Organisations (DMO) which was undertaken by Nick de Bois (Chair of the VisitEngland Advisory Board) and published in September 2021. The DMO review was commissioned in March 2021 by the then Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, my right hon. Friend the Member for Hertsmere (Oliver Dowden), and myself as the current Minister for Sport, Tourism, Heritage and Civil Society.

The DMO review is an important component of the UK Government’s post-covid tourism recovery plan, which can be summarised as securing a swift recovery to pre-pandemic tourism volumes and visitor expenditure before building back better towards a more productive, innovative, resilient, sustainable and inclusive visitor economy, with the benefits of tourism spread across every nation and region of the UK.

England’s DMOs have an important role to play both in the recovery of the sector from covid-19 and achieving the Government’s Levelling Up objectives. Their role is not only to market and promote England’s unique, amazing and varied visitor offer, but also to work with local businesses as they recover, to attract new investment, and to help England deliver a more sustainable, data-driven, resilient and accessible industry. For this to happen, DMOs need to be at their best, and we need to address long-running concerns about the structure, funding models and fragmentation of England’s DMO landscape.

Mr de Bois was given the task of surveying the DMO landscape in England—tourism being a devolved responsibility within the UK. He was asked to evaluate the current system, with a view to making recommendations on whether there may be a more efficient and effective model for supporting English tourism at a local and regional level and delivering the government’s policy agenda.

Mr de Bois submitted his report last summer, and we published it in September 2021. This response addresses Mr de Bois’ recommendations and outlines the actions that are going to be taken forward in the current spending review. The DMO review made 12 recommendations in total, six of which are directed at the Government, four at DMOs themselves, and one each for local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) and local authorities. I am pleased to say that we will be accepting the majority of his recommendations.

A new accreditation system will be introduced over the 2022-23 financial year, with VisitEngland receiving new funding for implementation. By creating a new ‘national portfolio’ of accredited, high-performing Local Visitor Economy Partnerships we will reduce fragmentation and bring coherence to the current DMO landscape. It will make it clearer to public and private actors who to engage with in order to support the regional visitor economy—as well as to prospective visitors looking for information about English destinations. We are proposing to change the name of DMOs to Local Visitor Economy Partnerships (LVEPs), to capture the wider strategic focus on the visitor economy and the breadth of activity and relationships they will establish to support the local visitor economy.

The Government also commit to a pilot of Mr de Bois’ recommendation of a tiering model including multi-year core funding in a region of England. That will give one top tier LVEP, or collection of LVEPs—known as a Destination Development Partnership— a firm foundation to engage in a wide range of destination management type activities as well as prompt increased private sector investment. The response sets out the criteria upon which the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and VisitEngland will decide where the pilot is run.

A targeted pilot will ensure we support those areas with most potential to develop their visitor economies, help achieve the Government’s Levelling Up objectives and align with the devolution commitments set out in the Levelling Up White Paper. A pilot will allow the Government to collect evidence to understand how effective the proposed model can be, and to support any future funding considerations.

Up to £4.05 million—£1.35 million per year—has been allocated towards the DMO review implementation. The ambition is for a successful pilot to enable roll out of the multi-year funding nationally, however this is subject to future spending rounds and therefore, not guaranteed.

I will place a copy of the Government response in the Libraries of both Houses.