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This week, the UK Government published its Industrial Strategy setting out a long-term plan to boost the productivity and earning power of people throughout the UK.

One could be forgiven for questioning how much direct relevance or impact this may have on Scilly. Well, you might be surprised to hear that the answer to this is, quite a lot. In fact, Scilly – and our Smart Islands initiative – is highlighted in the Strategy as a direct case study of investment in the UK’s energy infrastructure and innovation towards a low carbon economy.

Of direct relevance too is the fact that Tourism – so often overlooked, or disregarded as a low wage, low value industry – is recognised and listed as one of the UK’s eight main industry sectors, giving hope that the tourism industry’s collective efforts to put forward a proposal for more support and investment – a so called, ‘Sector Deal’, could be successful.

This bid for a Tourism Sector Deal is being led by the Tourism Industry Council, a group set up to collaborate between Government and the tourism industry and facilitated by VisitBritain/VisitEngland. In September, it signed off on the following priorities: 
  • A 10-year tourism and hospitality skills campaign to boost recruitment, skills and long-term careers; 
  • Boosting productivity by extending the tourism season year-round, and encouraging more business and event tourism;
  • Improving connections to increase international visitor numbers, and make it easier for them (and domestic tourists) to travel not only to the UK but also explore more of it; 
  • Creating ‘tourism zones’ to improve the visitor experience through better quality tourism products, a longer tourism season and improved localised transport.

These priorities draw many parallels with Scilly and our own work in producing a Destination Management Plan (DMP) for the islands which, when published in early 2018, will set out a new strategic vision and direction for Scilly’s visitor economy and a roadmap for our industry.

Scilly is heavily reliant on the tourism sector yet, alongside Cornwall, has one of the lowest productivity levels anywhere in the UK. Connectivity, as we all know, is challenging too, given our location as the last outpost of England. And our lack of digital capability on the islands, in particular with respect to online bookability and distribution is now having an adverse effect on our ability to compete on a level playing field.

The DMP will seek to address many of these issues: a digital transformation programme and a cultural programme for Scilly are both in the pipeline for 2018, whilst we’ll also continue to work in partnership with organisations across the islands and beyond on vital programmes including the Smart Islands Partnership, improvements in our transport system and support and skills development for our business community.