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STAFFORDSHIRE: Fivefold increase in council membership fee for tourism partnership

STAFFORDSHIRE: Fivefold increase in council membership fee for tourism partnership

Photo by Staffordshire LDR Kerry Ashdown.

Membership costs are going up from £3,000 to £15,000 a year for councils wishing to remain part of a Staffordshire-wide tourism promotion scheme.

Destination Staffordshire, which is hosted and part funded by the county council, has been working to attract more visitors to the area for the past 15 years.

Efforts are being stepped up to promote Staffordshire attractions and businesses after the coronavirus pandemic and restrictions took their toll on the hospitality and leisure sectors during the past 18 months.

And public sector members of Destination Staffordshire are being asked to pay more for their annual membership to assist private sector members, such as local businesses, dealing with the financial impact of the pandemic.

A letter to the council from County Councillor Philip White, who is chair of the Destination Staffordshire Board, said: “It has been a year of great uncertainty and resilience from our private sector partners who have had to deal with lockdowns and uncertainty over when they can trade again. What is clear is that the sectors of leisure, tourism and hospitality have been hit hardest by the pandemic.

“Now is the time that the destination management partnership (DMP) is asking that we can, together, refocus and double our efforts to support these sectors who employ so many people from our communities.

“To support the private sector membership of the DMP and complement the activity of the county council around place branding, we are mindful of the pressures that you face but would be most grateful if you could review your current contribution of £3,000. When the DMP launched there was consensus that each partner funded the DMP to the tune of £15,000 per annum and we are therefore asking you to support the partnership at a time when it is most needed with a return to this level of investment.

“This increased investment will enable the DMP to continue whilst the private sector is not able to meet its funding obligations (£90,000) in the short term. It will enhance our capacity to support the sector, build on the activities of the partnership and increase the marketing or our destination.”

On Thursday Cannock Chase Council’s cabinet agreed to continue its membership of the scheme for the next two financial years, despite the five-fold increase in the annual cost.

Councillor Justin Johnson, cabinet member for environment and climate change, asked if other district and borough councils in Staffordshire had agreed to pay the increased membership cost.

Councillor Mike Sutherland, district development portfolio leader, responded: “Anecdotally they are in support of it but for me that’s secondary. It’s important for me this proposal is right for Cannock Chase.”

He told fellow cabinet members that the hospitality and leisure sectors contributed £1.8bn to Staffordshire’s economy each year.

“Cannock Chase is a significant contributor to the Staffordshire offer and offers a variety of visitor attractions, including Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and linked attractions such as the new Designer Outlet West Midlands”, he added.

“In 2022 we have the Commonwealth Games mountain bike event and there is a huge opportunity to build a profile of this district in the run up to and during the games and to continue a lasting legacy.

“Staffordshire County Council have recently carried out a review of the destination management partnership and determined there needed to be a refreshed focus for the partnership on targeted marketing, as well as signposting to help tourism businesses recover from the pandemic.”

Deputy leader Bryan Jones said: “When we are committing taxpayers’ money we really have to be careful we are getting bang for our buck.

“When we were having the discussion with Philip White we were challenging in the questions we asked and were pleased with some of the things coming out.

“I think yes, we are taking a degree of risk if we push this through today but we need to get the best outcome for Cannock Chase.”

Council leader Olivia Lyons said: “I have been involved in a number of meetings about Destination Staffordshire and it is very encouraging. There have been a number of changes made recently to Destination Staffordshire, they have relaunched the brand.

“We have got a real prime opportunity post-pandemic. People are staying in the UK.”

Words: Kerry Ashdown, Local Democracy Reporter

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