Local hotel associations have hit out at the new common grading standards for British hotels and B&Bs, saying they will penalise smaller operators.
Details of the new harmonised star rating scheme were revealed exclusively in Caterer last week.
But fears have already surfaced that many smaller properties will suffer under the standards, which insist that all businesses that call themselves hotels must be judged by the new, more stringent hotel criteria.
Those falling short of the standards - for instance, if they lack a bar or do not open seven days a week in season - must drop the "hotel" title and be assessed under the revised guest accommodation scheme.
Albert Hampson, head of hotel services at the AA, said the rule will affect about 10% of the 23,000 properties currently in a grading scheme.
But Simon Lever, proprietor of the Daylesford hotel in Torquay and an executive member of the Torbay Hospitality Association, said the move would cause serious problems for small hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses. "Losing the hotel title will mean thousands of small proprietor-owned establishments will disappear from internet searches," he said.
Derek Ellershaw, company secretary of the Blackpool Hotel and Guest House Association, said his members were also hostile to the name change as they feared it would cost them money and business to remove the title from their marketing literature, properties and websites.
However, those backing the standards have assured businesses that a two-year phase-in period should cushion the changes.
Hampson said businesses would be allowed to use up existing stationery and brochures during the two-year grace period, while awnings and boards could remain until the end of their natural life. Website addresses (URLs) can keep the word hotel indefinitely, as long as it is removed from the text.
Proprietors also have the right to appeal against their classifications. "We need to be true to the standards, but flexibility is key," said Stephen Farrant, general manager at VisitBritain. "We will assess individual issues on a case-by-case basis."
The British Hospitality Association reported "almost universal approval" for the standards from its members, but said the name issue remained a major concern for 15 local hotel associations.
By Angela Frewin
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