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In this week's issue...Service with a smile Tom Kemble of the Pass at South Lodge cooks up a pumpkin masterclass and shares why it’s important for chefs to meet their customers
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The Caterer

Lie down and be counted

13 April 2006
Lie down and be counted

In a recent edition of Caterer (23 March, page 22) I called for the hotel industry to unite on the issue of proposed tourism-related taxes, aka the "bed tax".

I won't feel in the least bit guilty for repeating the accusation that the industry has been woefully inert in its response to this stealth tax on the hotel sector.

My peers in the private sector remain disdainfully uninterested in engaging in the debate to oppose a bed tax, leaving it to the British Hospitality Association (BHA) to voice one opinion on behalf of the industry.

While they sit idly by, we are busy communicating the results of research into consumer opinion towards this levy and have started a petition on our website, www.travelodge.co.uk.

It has received about 50,000 e-mails from members of the public voicing their opposition to the idea of local authorities levying a nightly tax on accommodation.

People care because they want to exercise their right to better value and fairer prices. Some 85% of Brits already believe they pay too much for hotels, which explains why two out of three people in the UK didn't use one last year. I want everyone to feel that staying away in a hotel is as affordable and easy to do as going out for a meal in a local restaurant.

I won't just stand back and let the chancellor, John Prescott or Sir Michael Lyons give powers to local councils to hike up prices. It represents a real danger to the tourism industry as a whole.

The implications of such a tax reach far beyond accommodation to affect the trade of thousands of small tourism-related businesses. Visitors do not spend money just on hotels, but shops, restaurants, bars and attractions, and we know from research that they will spend less on these items if accommodation prices are increased. A bed tax would make the UK the most heavily taxed destination in Europe.

Caterer, the BHA, VisitBritain and the Tourism Alliance are all playing their role. However, it is ultimately up to hospitality businesses at the coalface to show leadership on this issue.

We need every chief executive to voice their opposition and galvanise their staff and guests to speak out against this tax and leave the Lyons Inquiry in no doubt about how the industry feels about taxing guests.

Why not join our campaign to Say No To Bed Tax? Sign our petition here >>

Have your say, comment on bed tax in our forum here >>

Are you worried about bed tax?

Avril Owton, owner, the Cloud hotel, Brockenhurst Yes. It's hard enough [to run a hotel in the UK] at the moment. Another tax would just cripple the industry. Let's face it: there's nothing much left in this country apart from tourism. Bed tax would make us uncompetitive. There's only so much we can put prices up by before customers won't be prepared to pay.

Andrew Silver, commercial director, Golden Tulip UK Absolutely. We are very good value for what we offer, and if a bed tax is added to each room we wouldn't be competitive. It would be even more of a problem for us than for Travelodge, because they're an established brand with strong brand identity, whereas we're still in our infancy and in an embryonic stage of brand development.

Justin Pinchbeck, general manager, the Zetter, London It is a worry. Any increase in local authority tax should be shared around - not targeted at one industry. We already pay 17.5% tax; why should it be pushed up to 25%? It's an additional cost for tourists, and it's not a positive statement to make to people planning to holiday in London or the UK.

David Webster, owner, Castleton House and Raemoir House hotels I think it's a bad idea. The tax will just make us - at the luxury end of the market and with utility costs rising - even more expensive when compared with Europe. Instead of planning an extra tax, the Government should reduce VAT payable on hotel accommodation so we can become as competitive as our European partners.

Have your say, comment on bed tax in our forum here >>

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