By Denis Sheehan MIH, Publisher, H&C News: Hoteliers meet Nadhim Zahawi to share hospitality’s woes.
Leading hoteliers from across the UK shared the hospitality industry’s concerns and frustrations at a private meeting with Conservative Party Chairman Nadhim Zahawi. They were speaking at the first Luxury Boutique Hotels & Restaurants (LBHR) roundtable for senior hotel operators, which took place last Friday at the Macdonald Alveston Manor in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Chaired by LBHR founder and hotelier Gregor Ritchie, the hoteliers took the opportunity of a private audience with Mr Zahawi, Conservative MP for Stratford-upon-Avon, to highlight the issues that are stopping the industry from growth, development, and, in some cases, survival.
Covering a range of subjects, the hoteliers, who collectively employ 5,300 employees and share a predicted turnover of more than £231m for 2023, stressed how red tape, out-of-date business rates and high levels of VAT are physically stopping the industry from making an even greater contribution to the UK’s economy as it attempts to build back following the impact of the pandemic.
During the discussion, the hoteliers raised the desire for business rate reformation, a relaxation in the free movement of people, and emphasised that changes in employment law surrounding casual employees pay could cripple their businesses and the broader industry further.
Sharing a common goal to get the economy going, the hoteliers underlined the fact that protracted planning applications, caught up in “red tape”, were not only standing in the way of successful businesses and the chance to create more jobs in the community, but also the generation of opportunities for other industries such as building and design.
Danny Pecorelli, Managing Director of Exclusive Collection, which includes flagship property Pennyhill Park in Bagshot, Surrey, told the minister: “I’ve got planning going through in Horsham in West Sussex with zero objections and the whole community is on board. It’s quite a crucial project for our business, but it’s been deferred three times due to lack of resources at the planning office, and we’re just grinding to a halt.”
Meanwhile, in a discussion regarding energy prices, Gregor Ritchie said: “As we go forward, the cost escalation coming through is a massive issue because we’ve got 24/7 businesses, everything is on permanently – you can’t switch a light off in a corridor in case a guest walks down it – and we need help with that and the timeline of that help because the costs are going to keep going up and up and up.”
Julian Tomlin, Managing Director of Macdonald Hotels, agreed: “We don’t want to get to a tipping point with our businesses. You hear on the news about the leisure clubs that are closing their pools through the winter – it’s super serious and it’s super time-sensitive.”
Danny Pecorelli also took the opportunity to bring to light a recent Supreme Court ruling for causal workers, who will now be treated in the same way as full-time workers for the purposes of calculating holiday pay. “Fundamentally, they want to stop zero-hour contracts and give workers rights on parallel with other team members, but the perversities around it and unintended consequences, such as back dating pay for two years, could send thousands of businesses under.
“Everybody has been following ACAS’s guidelines – you pay holiday as it goes – but because the ruling has changed, the government is now going to target everybody and say you’ve been doing it wrong for two years. Every single business in hospitality or retail or the NHS, anyone bringing in casual workers or agency workers, is going to be in the same boat – it’s a really huge issue.”
The forums are part of a series of events held by LBHR, a membership platform for independent UK hotels and high-end restaurants, which was founded in 2020. Part of renowned management company Optimum, owned and managed by hoteliers Gregor and Claire Ritchie, it offers operational and marketing support to privately owned hotels and restaurants seeking access to UK domestic leisure and corporate markets. The next forum will take place in January.
Reflecting on the forum, Gregor Ritchie, Founder of LBHR, said: “I am delighted that LBHR has been able to create a unique opportunity for some of the country’s finest hoteliers to gain advice, support and insight from Nadhim Zahawi, a respected member of the UK government. We felt that Mr Zahawi really embraced the issues that we as hoteliers face and we look forward to his continued support as we try to press for resolution over some of these matters.”
Forum delegates were: Gregor Ritchie, Founder, Luxury Boutique Hotels & Restaurants and Director of Optimum Hotel Management; Danny Pecorelli, Managing Director, Exclusive Collection; Julian Tomlin, Managing Director, Macdonald Hotels; Andrew Grahame, Chief Executive, Farncombe Estate; Andre Elshout, Chief Executive, Barons Eden; Craig Winfield, Chief Financial Officer, Barons Eden; Paul Hackett, Managing Director, LBHR; Amanda Afiya, communications specialist and director, Sauce Intelligence Mystery Guest; Claire Ritchie, Co-Founder, Luxury Boutique Hotels & Restaurants and Co-Director, Optimum Hotel Management.