Nearly half of the UK's major hotel chains could be flouting regulations by not including VAT in their headline prices online, according to a report compiled by Which? Travel magazine.
Out of 24 hotel chains, 11 were found to include hotels that quoted room prices without VAT. Several properties did not add the 20% VAT rate to the cost of a room until their payment page. Hilton and Doubletree by Hilton included VAT at stage four of a five-stage online booking process.
The brands highlighted in the report include Crowne Plaza, Doubletree by Hilton, Guoman, Hilton, Holiday Inn, Malmaison, Marriott, Mercure, Radisson Blu, Sofitel and Thistle.
Which? Travel undertook its research after the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld a complaint that VAT-exclusive prices on InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) websites - and websites for its subsidiary, Crowne Plaza - were misleading and breached the ASA code. The ASA ordered IHG to change its practices and has taken steps to get the whole UK hotel sector to respect the ASA code.
The magazine said that Martin Couchman, deputy chief executive of the British Hospitality Association (BHA), had stated that many establishments were planning to change their practices in the light of the ASA judgment.
Thomas Dubaere, managing director, Accor UK & Ireland, which operates the Mercure brand, told Caterer and Hotelkeeper: "We are committed to offering transparent pricing. The majority of our 185 hotels, including all our Mercure hotels, display VAT-inclusive prices throughout the booking process. There are currently four hotels that show VAT on the second page and by 17 September VAT-inclusive prices will be displayed throughout the entire booking process."
Which? Travel said chains that did include VAT in the headline prices included Barceló (now Puma), Britannia, Best Western, Days Inn, De Vere, Holiday Inn Express, Ibis, Jury's Inn, Macdonald and Novotel.
By Matilde Casaglia
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