Do we want to lose our independents?

07 June 2006
Do we want to lose our independents?

After 25 years of running a small hotel, we feel that there must be others like us who feel that they are constantly swimming against the tide.

If the red tape continues to come our way, we believe that this industry could lose one of its vital components - the small, independent operator. It seems that not a day goes by without some new rule or change being foisted upon us.

A classic example is the new licensing law. At great cost we complied with the new regulations fully, drew up plans and submitted our application on time. Others in this area were not so organised but continued to trade after the deadline, with the full agreement of the local authority. We have just received our first-year renewal and the cost will be £180 - a huge increase on the previous fee of about £10 per year.

We have only a small lounge bar offering our guests refreshment with their meal. Some nights our bar takings amount to £0. Surely small residential hotels could get some dispensation from this monstrous increase in fees.

Another tax which we can't escape is the chancellor's Climate Change Levy. Larger organisations can offset this against national insurance, but the small establishment has to bear the full brunt.

A further problem is agency commission. Our prices are realistic - we do not post a price and then negotiate down. The price you see is the price you pay. However, because we choose not to lose up to 10% (or more) to agencies, it is becoming impossible to compete. Regular business is being lost because companies and government agencies are swayed by offers of huge reductions in rack rates. And with the lodges offering their rooms at unrealistic rates, what chance have we got?

In addition to the problems listed above, can we, through your pages, ask the Common Standards organisations just what is going on? They sent out letters detailing the new standards and the changes involved. Since 1 January 2006, when they were introduced, what have we heard NOTHING. I visited Hotelympia, found the VisitBritain stand and was surprised to discover nothing there promoting the new schemes.

It just adds to the daily frustration - as does still seeing signs for the defunct schemes outside establishments. Go to VisitBritain's website and listen to the toe-curling trailer about their inspectors: whoever is responsible should be brought to book for bringing the industry into disrepute.

Steve Boorman & Andrea Londors
Proprietors Boswell House Hotel, Chelmsford

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