July 2017: Bristol hoteliers are warning the council not to throw the baby out with the bath water as it looks to plug its £220 million budget deficit by 2020.
The call follows news that the iconic Balloon Fiesta might have to move because it wouldn’t be able to afford potential fees the council is looking to ask it to pay to use Ashton Court – the home of the event for the last 37 years.
With the organisers of VegFest citing fees as the reason it will not be returning to Bristol and the proposed powerboating on the floating harbour also quoting the same reason is raising alarm bells across the city’s hotels, B&Bs and guest houses.
It’s not just the hotels that are getting a little nervous over the potential loss of these iconic events, but all the bars, restaurants, shops and other attractions which benefit from the visit of some 250,000 people over the duration of the fiesta – all of whom spend millions of pounds across the city’s economy.
Mark Payne, chairman of the Bristol Hoteliers Association is now calling for a sensible debate on what, if any, fee structure should be and also how it could be phased in.
Mark said: “Many businesses rely on these fantastic events to say afloat. If they go under then the council will then start to lose revenue through loss of business rates, so although it seems like a good idea to charge a fee, the overall impact could be much greater.
“As hoteliers, the various festivals attract thousands of visitors to our great city, many of whom stay a night or two in our venues. To potentially lose that footfall would have a big impact on our overall occupancy levels and business performance. The news is also compounded by the fact that the proposed Arena still seems years off so the city should be doing all it can to ensure we have events and festivals that keep visitors coming to Bristol.
“We appreciate that some costs have to be covered but there’s no point cutting off your nose to spite your face in an attempt to grow revenue to facilitate a deficit. For the balloon fiesta to move away from Bristol would not be good and we hope a sensible compromise can be reached.”