Relais & Châteaux, which introduced the non dual membership rule in 1998, bans its member from belonging to competing organisations.
Peter Hancock, chief executive of Pride of Britain, which represents 36 hotels in the UK, said that hoteliers should be allowed to belong to more than one consortium if they choose in order to maximise their business.
"The fact is that we do not all offer exactly the same range of services and we are effectively in different markets," he said. "For example, Relais & Châteaux has a fine reputation internationally and is actively engaged with the travel trade globally, whereas Price of Britain has a strong presence here in Britain and is almost exclusively engaged in marketing directly to consumers."
Hancock added that while he respected the rules of other organisations, he is puzzled at how a rule preventing co-operation between Relais & Châteaux and Pride of Britain appears not to apply to all competing organisations based in the UK and Ireland, such as Johansens, Von Essen, Welsh Rarebits, Luxury Scotland and Ireland's Blue Book.
Relais & Châteaux regards an organisation to be a competitor if it meets five out of the following ten criteria: display of its logo at the entrance of a member's property, display of its logo on the website or any printed document, operates a central reservations system, makes special offers, publishes a paper guide, has website, runs promotional events, publishes a magazine, has a customer database, and operates a fee-based membership.
"The key reasons for not allowing dual membership are the risk of dilution of the Relais & Châteaux association and its brand, as well as the confusion for guests when the activities proposed by the competing organisation are quite similar to the ones offered by Relais & Châteaux," said Jaume Tapies, international president of Relais & Châteaux.
"Several factors are taken into account before declaring a competing hotel organisation incompatible with our association. As well as the ten listed criteria, the size and the strategic importance for Relais & Châteaux of the geographical region in which the competitor is established, is considered, as well as the number of its members.
"For example, Pride of Britain is promoted in the United States, which is not the case for other national hotel organisations which have been allowed."
Tapies said that Johansens is regarded as compatible because it is purely a published guide rather than a competing organisation. Von Essen, like Orient-Express and Baglioni Hotels, is also regarded as compatible, as they are considered to be small hotel groups and not a marketing organisation.
Relais & Châteaux represents 475 hotels worldwide, including 30 in the UK.
By Janet Harmer
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