Time to start fighting on new fronts

29 March 2007
Time to start fighting on new fronts

Readers will be fully aware of my opinion of both Sir Michael Lyons and his "bed tax" proposal.

The way the Government so clinically rejected his proposal for a local accommodation tax reflects the total lack of evidence he managed to find to support it.

By early afternoon on Budget day, Phil Woolas, the local government minister, had dismissed the idea with the disdain it deserved. Despite putting the industry through uncertainty and instability, Lyons has accidentally done the hospitality sector a big favour.

By threatening our ability to grow and invest, he has motivated this broad church of an industry to unite around a common goal. But before we get complacent, we've already been handed a reality check.

On the same day as our bed tax victory, Gordon Brown sneaked out another stealthy attack on our industry. The abolition of the Industrial Buildings Allowance (IBA) is likely to cost us all up to 5% more to run our business, as well as threatening future growth.

Where were the Department for Culture, Media and Sport or our tourism minister when this decision was taken? The potential ramifications of this new hit on tourism are extremely dangerous and show there's still much work to do if we're to secure the supportive, well-funded business climate tourism needs to flourish.

We need to work harder at making our needs clear and ensuring that the Government has a better understanding of our industry.

Over the next two years the industry must stand up and start fighting on the following fronts: challenge the abolition of the IBA increased marketing expenditure nationally and internationally an official Government review of tourism a new skills policy and greater political leadership for tourism within a more supportive government department.

The bed tax campaign should be just the start. With a campaigning Caterer magazine supported by the British Hospitality Association, and our Visit London and VisitBritain colleagues, we have a rallying group working together to secure the prominence that this industry deserves.

Has the bed tax experience got us in the mood for round two? I hope so.

Victory on the bed tax issue should fire the industry up to campaign for greater political leadership for tourism within a more supportive government department

by Grant Hearn

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