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Challenges Don't Go Away - They Just Change

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In the last 12 months, BHA has recruited hotels with 20,000 new rooms and 1,800 restaurants - not a bad outcome for its centenary year. What have we achieved in the last 100 years?

Of course, we don’t win every time, but two recent achievements would have to include the abandonment of the dreaded bed tax, which was one of the misguided proposals of the Lyons report into local authority funding. We also successfully persuaded HM Revenue and Customs to revise its proposals for taxing tips and service charges, which saved many restaurants thousands of pounds and a number millions of pounds.

However, the decision in the Spring Budget to scrap the Hotel Buildings Allowance and to increase small company tax was compounded by the later decision to increase capital gains tax by 80 per cent and to abandon taper relief. And, of course, the most recent blow - cutting back the annual grant to VisitBritain by 20 per cent - is a damaging move for a government that claims to support the tourism industry. Does the government really care about tourism?

There are more challenges ahead. We are currently discussing with the Treasury its decision to increase capital gains tax, bearing in mind that the proposed £100,000 concession will have little beneficial impact on the hotel industry. We have argued long and hard about the loss of the Hotel Buildings Allowance and other fiscal measures, but the Treasury - to our intense frustration - remains adamant.

There is much to be done in other areas. We are discussing with the Home Office the new immigration regulations, which will cause ethnic restaurants much trouble if we cannot get their chefs registered as skilled workers - which they so obviously are. And on food labelling, we have a problem if caterers and restaurateurs are required to state the origin of all their meat.

The growing incidence of local authorities to publish ratings for food hygiene inspections - the so called ‘scores on the doors’ - is also a cause for much concern. We are working with the Food Standards Authority to create a nationwide scheme.

Yet, despite these and other concerns, over 140 new hotels opened last year and similar numbers opened in each of the four preceding years. Similar numbers, too, are planned for the future. We estimate that the industry is currently investing over £3bn a year in new facilities, extensions and refurbishments.

Only our resorts are missing out in this investment, which may be why more and more British people are going abroad for their holidays. The imbalance of tourism payments - currently £19.4bn - is estimated to become £24bn by 2012.

So, looking to the future, perhaps our biggest challenge is to encourage more British people to holiday at home. All this in a world where energy costs will keep rising and, in the long-term, where sources of energy will get scarcer and where issues of sustainability will impose costs and taxes of their own, not yet foreseen.

Challenges don’t go away - they just change.

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In the last 12 months, BHA has recruited hotels with 20,000 new rooms and 1,800 restaurants - not a bad outcome for its centenary year. What have we achieved in the last 100 years?

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The Leisure Media Company Ltd
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