Back in 2003 the CLA published its first policy report on rural tourism entitled Rural Tourism: Opportunities for Growth. It was the first time the CLA had assessed the state of the rural tourism sector and the report made a number of recommendations for the Government and the industry.
It is pleasing to note that many of the recommendations put forward have been implemented and the main criticism of the industry – that of fragmentation – is being addressed on a continual basis and progress is being made.
However, there still remains a long way to go. Wish You Were Here? CLA policy on rural tourism sets out the key areas where the CLA believes action is needed to represent better its rural tourism members and to lobby government and external stakeholders so that policy changes can be made that make a clear difference.
The report examines the role and effect of the Government's Tourism Strategy published in 2011 and looks at the current state of progress. It assesses the progress towards integration in the sector and recommends the reformation of the National Rural Tourism Partnership.
As has been made clear in discussions with rural tourism operators, effective and affordable communications, including access to a suitable broadband infrastructure, are vital for business to perform. The CLA's main broadband message on universal coverage is set out. The role and importance of Destination Management Organisations (DMOs) and local tourism groups are considered with a call for the CLA to engage proactively in seeking wider representation.
Taxation and planning are crucial areas for rural tourism businesses to consider. This report calls for a reduction in VAT rates for people who provide accommodation, arguing against the imposition of a bed tax. The issue of helping rural tourism start-ups is also considered and again the CLA will be proactive in providing advice and information to its members.
Finally, the importance of local food and the many food and drink festivals is acknowledged with the recommendation that the CLA works to design local food trails as a means of encouraging greater cooperation.