Brighton tourism bosses call for public private partnership

Tourism chiefs and council officers are at
loggerheads over the future of conference and event services in a seaside city.

A new review of
Brighton and Hove tourism services, conducted by research firm Nairne with Rubicon Regeneration,
revealed an “unhealthy dynamic” between the council
and tourism chiefs, where “the level of mutual trust seems low”.

The report found that VisitBrighton, the city’s
tourism arm, was “broadly effective” with “considerable success” in the
conference market, attracting high-profile events to the city.

But it warned: “Given the significance of tourism to
the city’s economy, the city council needs to think carefully about its future
funding decisions in relation to tourism services.

“The scale of savings that need to be made means it
seems unlikely that the city council will be able to sustain the current level
of investment over the next five years.”

The report concluded there was a “lack of business
influence in tourism services”, decision-making was “slow” and tourism
marketing struggled to be “innovative and commercial”.

Members of the city’s Tourism Advisory Board (TAB)
have called for a Community Interest Company to run the business tourism offer
on the city.

Howard Barden, the council’s head of tourism
and venues, said reductions in local authority funding across the board means
the council must look at where resources may be drawn from in future.

He said: “Buyers of conference services can
be assured that the excellent service level will continue while the options are
looked into and evaluated.

“Tourism is central to Brighton and Hove’s
economy, generating income of around £800m a year as well as supporting up to
20,000 local jobs.

“There is no doubt the city’s official
marketing tourism arm, VisitBrighton, is getting impressive results and its
partnership scheme is not only a great example of collaboration between the
public and private sectors but offers many benefits to its 480-plus members.

“There is also significant evidence to
suggest the city’s tourism sector is in good health and this is something we
can take heart in and build on going forward. The purpose of this report
is to identify options that will allow us to maintain a high level of service
for the city’s tourism sector and this is what will now be considered.”

But Olivia
Reid, vice-chairwoman of the Brighton Tourism Advisory Board said that the
future of tourism in the city was uncertain.

She
said: “The report was instigated by us to look at a sustainable future for
tourism. It’s not viable at the moment. We need a public private structure with
a much more commercial overview.”

Paul Colston

Author

Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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