The Caterer

Who else will join the fight against bed tax?

23 March 2006
Who else will join the fight against bed tax?

Where have all the leaders in the UK hotel industry gone? In an absolutely disgraceful display of apathy and complacency, only Travelodge, the British Hospitality Association and the Tourism Alliance have entered serious and robust submissions to the Lyons Commision on the outrageous proposal for a tourism "bed tax".

When Travelodge tried to whip up press interest, journalists came back to us to say that other than the BHA, nobody else in the trade had anything to say about the proposal. Notwithstanding this alarming apathy, we still managed to generate some awareness via pieces in the Mail on Sunday and Daily Express.

This typifies the complacency and parochialism of UK hotel industry chiefs. None of them is prepared or able to show real industry leadership. None of them is interested in growing the overall market, and therefore the industry. None of them seems able to understand that this "bed tax" is a real and present danger to the health of our industry. The concept is an unfair and ill-thought-out industry-specific tax. If it had been a direct tax on chocolate bars or power drills, I'm sure the relevant industries led by their chief executives would begin lobbying immediately to kill the proposal.

We could end up with a 10% tax on all our room sales. With VAT on top, that means tax of just under 30%. This is not an industry that makes windfall profits or is a danger to the environment.

In a survey commissioned by Travelodge, 77% of respondents said they would reduce their expenditure on holidays in the UK as a result of any "bed tax".

So why is the Lyons Commission considering such a move? Because it thinks hotel companies will be a pushover on the implementation of this levy.

This industry has lost many of its leading companies over the past couple of decades. Nobody has filled the leadership gap left by Forte or Grand Met. Some, such as Whitbread, Hilton and InterContinental have that duty, but their leadership has gone AWOL. It's been left to Travelodge to fight on behalf of the industry - and it's time somebody else turned up.

Grant Hearn
Chief executive, Travelodge

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