Viewpoint: Restore balance to the accommodation market

03 May 2023 by
Viewpoint: Restore balance to the accommodation market

Short-term lets are running rampant and undercutting hospitality venues, with need for intervention says UKHospitality's Kate Nicholls

For far too many years, there has been an enormous imbalance within hospitality that has gone completely unchecked and, finally, it appears something is being done about it. That imbalance lies between the short-term let market and the serviced accommodation sector.

It's become commonplace to hear family, friends and co-workers talk about the amazing apartment they've found for a city break or a picturesque little cottage they've unearthed out in the Welsh countryside, and the amazing deal they got for it.

But what the vast majority of people don't understand is that the properties they're renting and the businesses they're supporting are hugely undercutting the hotels, B&Bs and guest houses that are doing things properly and by the book.

How? Well, these short-term lets represent the wild west of the accommodation market.

I say that because these properties barely have to abide by any regulation. Unlike when you visit a hotel, that country cottage – quaint as it may be – likely won't be up to scratch when it comes to health and safety, fire safety, accessibility and many other areas. It also won't be paying the same level of tax as the hotel down the road.

Over generations, hospitality has built up a fantastic reputation of offering and delivering high standards for our guests and that is now, rightly, what every venue is expected to deliver. This gulf in standards between short-term lets and everyone else puts all that at risk.

UKHospitality has been making this argument for years and with the astronomical rise we've seen in short-term let sites it's never been more important that action is taken.

Luckily, the UK government has now heeded our advice and committed to introducing a new ‘Tourist Accommodation Scheme' that will ensure short-term lets have to register with local authorities. This is really good news for the entire sector and will no doubt deliver positive change for both businesses and guests.

We're still waiting for the consultation from the government and the devil is always in the detail, so there are particular watch-outs for us to make sure the scheme delivers on bringing short-term lets up to the high standards of everyone else.

One major area we'll be keeping an eye on is whether the proposed scheme adds unnecessary red tape to businesses already over-burdened with regulation. For example, we believe there shouldn't be additional inspections for businesses that already comply with plenty of checks through local authorities and councils.

We also believe that businesses that are already registered with local authorities through business rates, shouldn't be expected to register once again. A licensing scheme is further along in its introduction in Wales and these are points we have made firmly to the Welsh government.

The central aim of introducing such a scheme should be to bring short-term lets up to the high standards of our hotels, full stop.

It was also interesting to see the government specifically mention short-term lets ‘importing anti-social behaviour into communities' recently and referencing the new registration scheme as a way to tackle that.

What is clear is that if the government is serious about backing hospitality and giving it the support it needs to drive economic growth and create even more jobs, bringing short-term lets up to our high standards needs to be a priority. At the end of the day, doing so will be good for businesses, good for consumers and good for communities.

Kate Nicholls OBE is the chief executive of UKHospitality

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