Culture & Tourism / 12 April 2019

A sector deal for tourism is essential for pubs and hospitality

A version of this blog originally appeared in Propel Hospitality.

Last week was English Tourism Week. As a sector that directly and indirectly contributes £106bn in GDP and supports 2.6 million jobs, it was a fitting occasion to recognise the vital contribution tourism makes to the UK, both economically and culturally.
The Tourism Alliance, which represents more than 50 trade associations crucial to England’s tourism offer, including the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), kicked off English Tourism Week with an annual conference I was privileged to attend.
The highlight of the conference was hearing minister for tourism Michael Ellis speak so highly of the sector and the importance of investment in businesses that drive visitors to popular tourist destinations, whether staycationers or from overseas. Michael noted how the Discover England Fund has an important role to play in this, as do the Coastal Communities Fund and Future High Streets Fund, all showing the UK is open for business and a great place for tourists.
On the day of yet another Brexit vote, it was fitting Michael emphasised how important our reputation for hospitality excellence is when attracting visitors from around the world.
More significantly, Michael suggested we are close to getting a sector deal for tourism over the line. In a week that also saw a House of Lords Select Committee report recommend the government should press ahead with this deal, English Tourism Week was a good time to announce this.
The perennial elephant in the room when it comes to tourism and hospitality businesses is, of course, business rates so it was fitting we held a panel session during the conference to discuss its impact. From pubs, restaurants and hotels to historic houses and leisure attractions – the businesses key to English tourism’s success story all require physical properties to operate and face an unfair business rate burden.
Numbers surrounding the business rates that tourism and hospitality businesses face make uncomfortable reading. Following the 2017 rates revaluation, South West Tourism Alliance saw a rates increase of between 43% and 71% for professional self-caterers with more than 13 beds. BBPA research reveals pubs pay 2.7% of the entire business rates bill despite accounting for only 0.5% of business turnover.
The current business rates system is clearly obsolete and needs a complete overhaul. The damage it is doing to our pubs and the wider hospitality sector – particularly when combined with other major tax burdens such as beer duty – is a huge concern for what is a crucial part of England’s tourism offer.
At the end of English Tourism Week I settled down for a pub lunch with Mims Davies, minister for sport with responsibilities for gambling and tackling loneliness. At the Good Companions in Eastleigh, a wonderful example of an English pub, the struggle against the tax burden hospitality businesses such as pubs face felt real indeed. Dan and Claire, who lease the pub from Star Pubs & Bars, offer exceptional food and drink. Dan was recently elected to the board of the local Business Improvement District to ensure a vibrant but safe nightlife in Eastleigh – something that’s crucial for all tourist hot spots. Beyond this, Dan and Claire take part in various initiatives to help tackle loneliness in the community.
Hospitality businesses including pubs such as the Good Companions are vital in driving economic growth through job creation and attracting visitors to an area to spend their money. Beyond this they also have a clear role in tackling loneliness, which is so important to our mental health and community cohesion.
Cuts to business rates and beer duty would go a long way in helping pubs specifically but also supporting the hospitality sector as a whole and the vital role it plays in England’s tourism offer. A sector deal for tourism remains essential. Let’s hope the minister for tourism is right in saying it’s almost in our grasp.

Written by

Brigid Simmonds

Chief Executive

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