David Weston of the Bed & Breakfast Association 'fights the corner' for this £2 billion 'cottage industry'

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Its Official: We're The Best for our Members....

I hope I can be forgiven for the trumpet-blowing - I am so proud of what we as a relatively new (5 years old) trade association with a very small part-time team have achieved for our members. It is wonderful to have it publicly recognised in such a prestigious fashion.

Last Thursday night at a black-tie dinner at the Hotel Russell in London, I collected an award for the Bed and Breakfast Association from Nick Hewer (Alan Sugar's quizzical and acerbic sidekick from 'The Apprentice'): the "Sector Representation Award" from the CBI's Trade Association Forum.

What does this mean? Simply that the Bed and Breakfast Association has been judged the best trade association in Britain (out of 313 associations across all sectors of business) and representing its members and its sector. Quite an accolade!

We were given the Award in recognition of what we achieved for members in helping lighten the burden of compliance for small B&Bs of the 2006 fire regulations - after our campaign involving two ministers and their shadows, a Downing Street Petition and the support of organisations representing nearly half a million small businesses, both the Westminster and Edinburgh governments introduced new and much less onerous guidelines for small B&Bs (see my earlier blog).

So the small guys can sometimes win a battle or two with the authorities! Worth celebrating, don't you think?

Sunday, 2 May 2010

B&Bs Bore an "Unnecessary" Burden of £428 Million

One of the Association's biggest and longest campaigning issues has of course been against the disproportionate cost burden placed on B&Bs by the way the 2006 fire regulations were enforced. We lobbied ministers, set up the Fire Safety SENSE Campaign (www.firesafetysense.com), which gained the support of organisations representing 460,000 small businesses - and last year, started to see some success.

The UK Government's new Guidance, published in the closing weeks of 2008 after input from the Association and other supporters of the Campaign, started to result in 2009 in fire authorities in England and Wales withdrawing Enforcement Notices and revising their procedures.

In Scotland, the previous guidance was scrapped at around the same time, and last November new guidance went out to consultation. The truly amazing thing, though, was the figures the Scottish Government themselves quoted: their "independent analysis" compared the average cost of compliance under the new guidance at £1,090 per B&B, compared with £15,376 under the previous guidance - a reduction of over £14,000 per B&B in the estimated cost of compliance.

That is a total reduction in the cost burden on small accommodation businesses in Scotland of £100 million, on the Scottish Government's own figures.

If the Scottish Government's figures - the only ones yet released by a national Government - were applied across the UK, the unnecessary additional burden the mistaken and disproportionate enforcement of the regulations placed on B&Bs before the guidances were revised (following our Campaign) would have been £428 million.

A truly jaw-dropping figure, which should serve as a lesson to lawmakers and enforcers in future.

Monday, 5 April 2010

On the 'Today' programme

As a long-time listener to 'Today' on Radio 4, it was novel to be introduced by Jim Naughtie this morning. I was there to give a very brief note of 'balance' in relation to the "gay couple turned away by B&B" story that has been running on the front pages over the weekend. I tried to get over two messages: (1) first and foremost, that B&Bs are in the hospitality business - we are in the business of welcoming people, not turning them away, and (2) that B&Bs are usually the owners' own family homes too, so this needs taking into account by policymakers.
So far, the only negative message I have had about my contribution was a (to put it mildly) less than complimentary one which (it turns out) was from the ex-press secretary of the BNP. I am relaxed about upsetting the gentleman concerned or his colleagues.
As B&Bs we live by our personal service and welcome, and I am determined to keep getting that message across.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Letwin outlines Tory plans

London again today - a Trade Association Forum "CEOs event", with Guest Oliver Letwin, the Conservatives' head of policy development. He started by saying "the best-kept secret in British politics is that we have a plan" - then outlined many of those plans. Interesting to hear, as they may (who knows?) be elected on May 6th. Some new and fairly radical ideas about the burden of regulation. We will keep Association members informed...
Mr Letwin is my own MP and I have bent his ear many times before about tourism and small business policy, regulations & enforcement, etc. Perhaps some of the message has got through..?

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Breakfast with the Shadow Tourism Minister

Up (very) early today to get the 05:21 to Waterloo, for an 08:30 Tourism Alliance breakfast meeting with Tobias Ellwood, shadow tourism minister.
A very useful and positive meeting, I thought. The Tories have promised a dedicated tourism minister if they win on May 6th, and Tobias reiterated their commitments to support tourism - including reforming Air passenger Duty, seeking cross-party consensus on Daylight Saving, and funding marketing to counteract the potential negative effects of the Olympics.
I outlined a couple of the "regulatory burden" points on the agenda (copyright licensing and fire regulations), and there was a useful discussion about the shortfalls of the "impact assessments" carried out before new regulations are brought in.
When listing the various examples of "regulatory burdens" on B&Bs in advance of the meeting, even I was amazed (again) at what we have to struggle with. The biggest message to the prospective minister was: "no more!".

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

End of Term at the House of Commons

To the House of Commons last night for a reception for the start of British Tourism Week. In her speech the Minister, Margaret Hodge, said how much she values tourism, vowed to keep fighting the Treasury on visa charges and APD and hailed Labour’s “free museums” policy as a success achieved. Her Tory shadow, Tobias Ellwood, promised that the Tories would create a ‘real’ tourism minister dedicated only to tourism (rather than following the ‘and’ in Mrs Hodge’s title), repeated George Osborne's objective to raise the proportion UK residents spend on domestic tourism from 38% to 50%, and promised to take action on ‘daylight saving’ (double Summer time) and other key issues the industry have been pressing on. I spoke to both individually afterwards. Both seemed especially eager to listen – possibly with May 6th in mind? A very “end of term” atmosphere at Westminster – another MP, about to retire, told me of his sadness at some of the “changes”. Quite a few useful and interesting conversations, not just with MPs but with other tourism industry colleagues - and I made the most of the canapés as I had missed lunch. I didn’t need dinner afterwards either – very economical!

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Radio 4 'You and Yours': PRS

I was interviewed today on Radio 4's 'You and Yours' about PRS (Performing Rights Society) and their aggressive call centre tactics and double charging of music licences for both B&B rooms & corridors, AND breakfast rooms & lounges. The interview has already let to a flurry of emails from members and other owners - all so far supportive of our stance. The word "aggressive" comes up time and again - as well as "why?" - why do we need to pay at all? This subject gets people fired up! Posted lots of detail on our member-only pages. Watch this space!

Here Goes...!

My first "B&B Blog" - I have been reluctant so far because there hasn't seemed to be time for blogging as well as everything else. But it is a good way of communicating, so let's try. Anything that helps inform B&B and Guest House owners, and helps them with their businesses, has to be worth it. This £2 billion+ cottage industry has to fight constant new burdens of red tape, the "budget hotels" dumping rooms (and dump is the word) at £19 a night, and of course an economy in severe recession. Luckily, as the editor of the Good Hotel Guide said, B&Bs offer the "best value" - and of course the "best breakfasts". Let's shout that from the rooftops...