Hoteliers hoping for a Christmas miracle
Hoteliers in Bristol are hoping for a Christmas miracle after their businesses were left out in the cold in the recent Autumn Statement.
Members of the Bristol Hoteliers Association (BHA) are particularly concerned about the Chancellor’s announcement that the National Living Wage is to be increased by almost 10% from next April, putting further financial pressure on their businesses.
BHA Chair Raphael Herzog said the extension of the business rates relief scheme is cold comfort in the face of the increased wage costs and the continuing high prices for energy, food and drink.
He said: “The fact that the Chancellor chose to freeze alcohol duty is one less cost for us to take on but it’s only a temporary reprieve, until August next year.
“We need longer-term support if our businesses are to be sustainable.
“Industry bodies have, for some time, been calling for reductions in VAT and employer contributions to National Insurance.
“While the measures around business rates and alcohol duty announced in the Autumn Statement are very welcome, there don’t go anywhere near far enough to giving hospitality businesses the support they need.
“While we will just have to try to absorb the cost of the living wage increase as much as we can, as we are reluctant to increase what we charge our customers, but some price rises are likely in order for us to be able to make ends meet.
“The rise in living wage is higher than was forecast in March, and effectively blows out of the water any ‘benefit’ to our businesses through the extension of business rates relief.
“People are still generally being cautious with their money, so if you look at Christmas party bookings, for example, they are currently at a similar level to last year, but nowhere near where they were in 2019.
“We want people to come to us for their festive events, but we’ve had to raise prices for a party at a restaurant or a hotel because the costs to the venues have gone up again, it’s a vicious circle that, without further Government support, is going to take miracle to break out of.
“While any reprieve from increasing costs is going to help, we need long-term support and solutions, not quick-fixes.
“A reduction in VAT is the most effective way the Government can ease the tax burden for the hospitality sector and give businesses which are struggling the most a better chance of being able to keep going.
“The reduced rates of VAT that were introduced during the pandemic were a huge help and if something like that was to be introduced again, even if for a temporary period, it would be a significant show of support and vote of confidence in our sector.”