The Importance of Small Businesses
Report Segment: Tourism SMEs
One consequence of low barriers to entry in the tourism industry is the prevalence of life style businesses. This term has been used to describe people (usually couples) who set up B&Bs as part of a lifestyle change – often in association with retirement. Lifestyle businesses are frequently “growth resistant” and therefore public agencies have sometimes been reluctant to invest time in their development. Needless to say, these businesses don’t tend to employ people, other than part time cleaners. But it is a serious mistake to think of these lifestylers as insignificant to the tourism economy – and much more should be done to raise their standards of customer service. As we saw earlier, the tourism economy is measured by its constituent parts. There is therefore a danger that poor accommodation operators can provide the lowest common denominator, from which the overall tourism experience will be judged.
If Norfolk and Suffolk are to maintain and grow their competitive edge, investment in lifestyle business skills is essential. This could involve the kind of partnership schemes discussed later in the Apprenticeship section.
Too often in the past, the tourism economy, which is dominated by micros, has been neglected by development initiatives because it fails to grab the headlines in terms of generating high numbers of employment. But this doesn’t recognise the contribution micro businesses make to the tourism economy. The tourism sector, which is dominated by micro businesses actually contributes 8% of UK employment (ahead of construction, and only just behind education).
Investing in lifestyle businesses then, will have a positive impact on the New Anglia economy and help generate more domestic tourism, towards the Prime Minister’s hallowed 50:50 (an aspiration to bring UK resident visitor spend up to 50% by 2015. Although the recession encouraged the British to holiday at home (the staycation), figures for UK : overseas visitor spend for UK residents was 36:64 just prior to the Crash. Persuading British tourists to give up (at least) a portion of their overseas visits means raising the quality of UK tourism so that, despite the varied weather, it can compete with the best destinations abroad.