Experience Oxfordshire hosts discussions with Labour Chair

Experience Oxfordshire has recently brought together representatives from across the county’s visitor economy with Anneliese Dodds MP to discuss the pressing issues impacting on the sector.

This annual event, held during English Tourism Week, has offered operators and decision makers the unique opportunity to come together as a sector and discuss potential policy solutions to local issues with key national figures and influencers. With a record number of businesses attending, from 17 sub-sectors of the visitor economy, representation was testament to the impact tourism has on the county and its individual residents.

From transport issues to the power of football as a catalyst for growth, the discussions revealed the symbiotic nature of the visitor economy and the need for coordinated, joined-up approaches to ensure continuing success. Anneliese Dodds MP commented that it was a privilege to have the opportunity to speak to so many sector representatives.

In setting out the current state of the visitor economy within Oxfordshire Hayley Beer-Gamage, Experience Oxfordshire’s CEO, said that although the county is recovering post pandemic, figures are still lagging behind 2019. Oxfordshire faces similar challenges to destinations across the UK, with workforce issues, amongst others, continuing to hinder business performance.

Anneliese Dodds MP spoke of the need to remove impediments hindering development. She spoke of the need for upskilling to assist with workforce shortages and of the continuing need for a re-evaluation of the visitor economy to change perceptions of the sector amongst potential employees and decision makers. She spoke of the success of recent infrastructure projects, praising the introduction of electric bus use within parts of Oxfordshire. She recognised the visitor economy as integral to local economies in many areas and of the changing nature of trip taking in the UK, caused by the pandemic and the rise in the cost of living, a situation which would benefit from greater economic stability.

A variety of issues and opinions were aired. A discussion on the place of AI within the sector highlighted the gap between the rise of AI’s use within business and the lack of IT skills within the older generations that comprise one of the UK’s most important visitor markets. A call was made for a change in the business paradigm with more resources being allocated by businesses for training and greater awareness of what constitutes good and bad practice in the use of AI.

Considering the impact of the government’s fiscal intervention, the policy decision to disband tax-free shopping was described as a retrograde step, giving market advantage to rival European destinations. Regarding infrastructure, the need for investment in rail rolling stock was raised as well as the need for improved and sustainable connectivity across the county.

Hayley Beer-Gamage, Experience Oxfordshire’s CEO, in thanking Anneliese Dodds MP for attending the event said, “It has been fantastic to have had Anneliese’s support during English Tourism Week. She has held individual meetings with visitor economy businesses and today we are grateful to her for sharing her valuable insights with so many Oxfordshire businesses and organisations, many of whom are dealing with difficult operational and management decisions.”

Click here to find out more about Experience Oxfordshire.