Lobbying for Support for Accommodation Providers

by Alexander Jenks

In the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, the impact on the travel and tourism industry around the world has been enormous. News articles have covered airlines and major package holiday operators going bust or clamouring for state support. At Contours Holidays, we feel strongly that the smaller businesses have been overlooked – and in particular, we think that there is a gap in the government’s support for many of the independent bed and breakfast accommodations that are the mainstay of countryside travel in the UK.

Of particular concern, the tourism and leisure grants available for small UK businesses are only offered to those paying business rates. Unfortunately, the Bed and Breakfast Association informs us that 51% of their paying members pay council tax rather than business rates; indeed, our own research has revealed that an even greater proportion of the accommodation providers we book with fall into this category. In many cases, this is because they have been advised to do so by their local authorities.

While we aren’t the sort of company that commands government attention alone, we feel that there is great value in collective action. Since the start of April, I have been coordinating with other adventure travel operators in the UK, encouraging them to join us in speaking up for these micro-businesses.

Over the last few weeks, we have contacted every competitor we can think of, and asked them to get on board, signing a collective letter to the Chancellor and contacting their own local MP. We have ourselves reached out to Sarah Dines, Member of Parliament for the Derbyshire Dales, and we are awaiting her response.

It is our sincere hope that these struggling B&Bs get the support that they need to weather this storm. We strongly believe the face of British tourism would be irreparably scarred by losing a significant chunk of its traditional B&Bs, not to mention the potentially huge financial and emotional challenges faced by the good people who operate them.

You can read our collective letter below, and we would encourage you to share this page where you can in order to spread awareness of the issue. You can also follow the cause over at the Bed and Breakfast Association’s Twitter, where many B&Bs are sharing their individual stories.

Special thanks to Mark Sandamas at Coast to Coast Packhorse, who has been a great help throughout these efforts, as well as the directors and founders of the businesses who have all offered their support for the cause. See the letter below for the full list.

Letter to the Chancellor

Dear Chancellor,

I am writing to you on behalf of a group of UK outdoor adventure tour operators put into a challenging position by the Coronavirus pandemic, and we want to extend our thanks for the support provided by the government in this difficult time. We believe that we will be able to weather the storm and bounce back once travel restrictions lift – whether that is later this year or in 2021.

Unfortunately, the financial tools provided to us and our hard work to stay afloat will be utterly wasted if a significant number of the small accommodation suppliers we work with do not make it through the year. Our business models depend on them entirely, and we have reason to believe that many are in trouble.

Obviously, they are unable to provide any rooms at all right now, and there is evidence that the existing package of support misses the mark for a very substantial number of accommodation providers.

According to the Bed and Breakfast Association, roughly 51% of their members pay council tax (often on the advice of their local authorities) rather than business rates, making them ineligible for tourism grants. Those on council tax employ no staff, meaning furlough support is not applicable. Their profits are typically not large enough to sustain them through a prolonged and unexpected period of enforced closure. Lastly, many have business mortgages, meaning that mortgage holidays are not always available.

We have conducted our own research into this situation, and out of 283 accommodation providers we have been able to survey on very short notice, 61.5% inform us that they pay council tax, rather than business rates. 92.5% of those paying council tax do not believe they have received adequate support to keep their business operating. This is of enormous concern to us.

If this situation continues, many of these accommodation providers will go bust, and we believe that the tourism sector of the United Kingdom will suffer significantly from the loss of its traditional bed and breakfast accommodations. We know for a fact that businesses like ours will struggle to continue trading without them.

We ask therefore that you extend current provisions to B&Bs paying council tax, and carry out further investigation into this industry to offer further support where needed.

Yours sincerely,

Karen Simons, Director of Contours Holidays Ltd

Peter Corson, Director of Trailbrakes Ltd

Neil Lapping, Founder & CEO of Macs Adventure Ltd

William Ainslie, Director of Discovery Travel Holidays Ltd

Dean & Corrinna Halsall, Directors of Northwestwalks Walking Holidays

Mark Sandamas, Director of Coast to Coast Packhorse Ltd

Damon Willcox, Director of Encounter Walking Holidays Ltd

Andy Gabe, Director of Absolute Escapes

Rick Cooper, Founder of Mickledore Travel Ltd

Tali Emdin, Manager at Sherpa Expeditions

Originally published 01/05/20

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