In March 2021, the government announced an independent review to assess how destination management organisations (DMOs) across England are funded and structured, and how they perform their roles, in order to establish whether there may be a more efficient and effective model for supporting English tourism at the regional level, and if so what that model may be. Its report and consultation response analysis was published in September 2021.
The review was led by Nick de Bois, Chair of the VisitEngland Advisory Board, acting in an independent capacity.
The review examined the extent to which the current DMO landscape:
is economically efficient, effective and sustainable (with regard to funding, structure and performance)
best enables the government to meet its leisure and business tourism policy objectives at a national, regional and local level
engages within the wider local and regional economic landscape, and the current focus on English devolution and levelling up
With a view to making recommendations about:
whether DMOs might be structured or funded differently, and if so how any proposals might maximise post-COVID recovery and long-term success
what the role of DMOs should be, bearing in mind existing other local structures such as local enterprise partnerships, mayoral combined authorities, local authorities and other similar local/regional bodies; and where these might intersect
how DMOs should best engage with, and be engaged by, VisitEngland, VisitBritain and DCMS, as well as wider government/public bodies where relevant
Between March and July 2021, the review team spoke to as many English DMOs as possible in order to ensure consultation with a diverse and representative spread of these organisations in terms of geographical location, size and nature of funding streams.
Nick de Bois also engaged with a wide range of other local and regional bodies with an overlapping interest in the sector, including local enterprise partnerships, mayoral combined authorities and local authorities.
In order to establish the views of wider stakeholders in the tourism sector - both those who have worked closely with DMOs and those who have not worked with DMOs before - the review team also spoke to a broad and representative sample of tourism stakeholders, including commercial businesses and wider organisations with an interest like heritage organisations, the National Parks, and transport providers.
The review also considered the views of key stakeholder bodies in the sector, including VisitBritain, VisitEngland. It also consulted wider arm’s length bodies and executive agencies, like Arts Council England and Historic England, to understand local funding structures in place across government for other sectors.
The review team used a wide range of methods to carry out the engagement above. Across March and April, Nick de Bois carried out more than thirty one-on-one conversations with DMOs themselves, mayoral combined authorities, arm’s length bodies, sector associations, and even former tourism ministers.
At the same time, a comprehensive quantitative survey of English DMOs was carried out for the first time ever to gather vital financial and operating data, resulting in a valuable dataset.
And in mid-March, a written consultation was launched to enable everyone - from members of the public to tourism businesses to DMOs themselves - to share their thoughts.
Finally, in early June, Nick de Bois hosted nine regional roundtables across the country, attended by regional visitor economy representatives from the audiences listed above, to share emerging conclusions and reflections.
Nick was supported in his work by an expert challenge panel, who tested assumptions, reviewed the evidence gathered, and helped shape recommendations. The challenge panel met three times across the review process, and also attended regional roundtables.
The review team
Nick de Bois - lead reviewer
Prior to entering parliament in 2010 as MP for Enfield North, Nick was the founder of Rapiergroup, the international exhibition and events agency he established in 1989. During his time in Parliament, he chaired the first All Party Parliamentary Group for the Events Industry, and in 2016 he was appointed as the government’s first UK Events Industry Board Chairman, until his appointment in 2018 as Chief of Staff to Rt Hon Dominic Raab during his time as Secretary of State for Exiting the EU. Subsequently, Nick became Chair of the VisitEngland Advisory Board in June 2020.
He recently authored his second book, Fatal Ambition, and is the host of a weekend public affairs radio programme on talkRADIO.
David Curtis-Brignell MBE FTS
David started his career in local government working in British resorts. He then spent nine years at the English Tourist Board working alongside the Regional Tourist Board network and travel trade before moving into the commercial world, holding senior positions in global international hotel companies, travel and tour operators.
In 2015, he was invited by Visit Kent to set up the new DMO Visit Herts. He became Deputy CEO for the GoToPlaces group, working in Kent and Hertfordshire developing new projects, including “The Big Weekend”.
David served two terms as Chairman of The Tourism Society, co-founding British Tourism Week and then chairing VisitEngland’s English Tourism Week for ten years. In October 2020 he established Tourism Reimagined as a platform to support business recovery and is a frequent contributor to publications and an industry speaker. He was awarded an MBE for services to tourism in the 2020 Queen’s Birthday Honours.
Michael Hirst OBE
Michael is Chairman of the UK government’s Events Industry Board, established to grow the number of international business events held in the UK, and immediate past Chair and Executive Committee member of the Business Visits & Events Partnership, representing Britain’s business and cultural events’ industry. Michael serves on the Tourism Industry Council and is a director of the Tourism Alliance, the body that brings together all the major tourism organisations in the United Kingdom.
Michael was appointed an OBE in the 2004 for his services to tourism in Britain and was awarded the 2013 Joint Meetings Industry Council Unity Award, recognising individuals who have made a significant contribution to the advancement of the international Meetings Industry. He was awarded the 2008 IHIF Lifetime Achievement Award for his distinguished career in hospitality, leisure and tourism.
John Hoy FRICS
John spent 13 years as the Agent & General Manager for the Knebworth Estate before leaving to join The Tussaud’s Group – initially at Warwick Castle as Head of Operations and then General Manager of Madame Tussaud’s London.
In 2003, he was appointed the first Chief Executive of Blenheim Palace, where he drove significant change until he left at the end of 2016. John now advises a number of heritage and leisure clients, including spending two years at Castle Howard as Chief Executive.
John sat on the VisitEngland Advisory Board from 2011 to 2019, and is currently the chair of Silverstone Heritage Limited and of the Culture and Visitor Economy Sub-Group of the Oxfordshire LEP.
Kate joined Cornwall Council in January 2016 after a decade as Chief Executive at Barnet Council. With a background in people services, she is passionate about improving the life chances of the people of Cornwall through economic growth and through empowering communities to get involved in the delivery of public services.
Kate has accelerated the transformation and improvement of Cornwall’s Council services, with an emphasis on adult social care and delivering the conditions for inclusive growth beyond Brexit. This has resulted in a reconfiguration of roles and responsibilities within Cornwall, with public amenities devolved to local communities and the Council gaining new ‘strategic’ powers from the Government to deliver the infrastructure, homes, skills and jobs to create a more prosperous and sustainable Cornwall.
Frank was appointed Chief Executive of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority in November 2018, having previously taken up the position of Interim Head of Paid Service in 2017.
Frank oversees the Combined Authority’s work across a range of key policy areas including transport, strategic investment, housing and employment and skills.
In 2015, Frank was appointed as Merseytravel’s Interim Chief Executive being confirmed in the permanent dual role of Chief Executive and Director General two years later, before taking up his current dual role leading the Combined Authority and Merseytravel. He joined Merseytravel in 2006, as General Manager.
Sarah Stewart OBE DL
Recently retired following a wide-ranging career in marketing and business development, Sarah was Chief Executive of NewcastleGateshead Initiative 2010-2019, a successful public/private partnership operating as a DMO for leisure tourism and business events and as an inward investment agency. During this time, NGI bid for and delivered major sporting and cultural events, including the Great Exhibition of the North (2018).
Her early career was with Procter & Gamble, Price Waterhouse and Sage Group plc and was followed by a successful freelance career. Former non-executive roles include Deputy Chair of Port of Tyne and International Centre for Life. Member of the VisitEngland Advisory Board (2011-2019).
Sarah was awarded an OBE for services to the North East economy in 2016 and is now Chair of Gateshead College.
Nigel has been Managing Director of Windermere Lake Cruises Limited since 2004. He is also Managing Director of Winander Leisure Limited, and Director of Winander Group Holdings Limited, Lakeland Motor Museum Limited and Rushbond plc.
Windermere Lake Cruises Limited carried over 1.6 million passengers in 2019, making it one of the most popular paid visitor attractions in England, according to the most recently published Visit England Visitor Attractions Survey.
Nigel joined the Board of Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership (CLEP) in 2017 and chairs its Visitor Economy Sector Panel and its Finance, Audit and Resources Committee. From 2007 to 2017, he was a director of Cumbria Tourism (CT), the Destination Management Organisation for the county.
Kate Willard OBE
Kate is the Thames Estuary Envoy and chairs the Thames Estuary Growth Board. In addition, she is senior advisor to Esken and an independent consultant working on a diverse portfolio of infrastructure and growth projects. With a background in culture and creativity, Kate has lived and worked in Hungary, France and Belgium, working as an independent regeneration expert with the European Commission on major transnational projects in employment, social cohesion and regional development.
Whilst living and working in Hungary, Kate also established the first UK-Hungarian cultural partnership trust, Brouhaha Magyarország and was CEO of the UK’s first rural regeneration company (Rural Regeneration Cumbria).
Kate is a Churchill Fellow and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA).
Laura Wyld’s career has spanned business, public life and the voluntary sector.
Appointed as a non-executive board member of DCMS in 2020, she is also currently a non-executive board member at Ofsted and a freelance communications and strategy consultant.
She is a Member of the House of Lords and sits on the Public Services Committee, and was also a member of the Regenerating Seaside Towns Select Committee.