The British Hospitality Association Tourism Hustings held at the Tregenna Castle Hotel in St Ives on Thursday 1 June. The event was chaired by Darryl Reburn, General Manager of the Headland Hotel in Newquay and a BHA South Western committee member. The three parties were represented by Derek Thomas, Conservative and the incumbent MP, Councillor Sue James for the Liberal Democrats, and Councillor Tim Dwelly for Labour.
The hustings was a lively affair, and an opportunity for local tourism businesses to put their concerns directly to the candidates from the main parties.
Brexit and EU migrants
An audience member who was a European migrant who has lived in the UK for thirty years asked about the rights of EU migrants in the UK. She asked what assurances would be offered to those who did not have residency rights and what the impact would be on those who work seasonally. Derek Thomas stated that there was no intention for those EU citizens in the UK to be forced to leave, and that the government was committed to ensuring their rights. Thomas continued that those who come seasonally would be on a visa system.
Cut Tourism VAT
A hotelier asked the candidates whether they supported a reduction in VAT on Tourism. Thomas said that he supports a VAT reduction to 5%, but as the Treasury does not agree with reducing Tourism VAT, he has also begun campaigning for the raising of the VAT threshold to £120,000.
A representative of the BHA asked about business rates and the problems that ‘bricks and mortar’ business suffer, particularly hospitality businesses that cannot move out of town. Thomas openly disagreed with the government and stated that he could not defend the system of business rates. He continued that he expected the system to be overhauled and replaced with a form of transaction tax which would catch big businesses, including online retailers.
Reputation of hospitality industry
The party representatives were also asked why politicians nationally held the hospitality industry in low esteem. Derek Thomas disagreed that this was the case, but argued that the industry was viewed unfairly as a ‘cash cow’ by government, due to the large amount of tax that it raised. Tim Dwelly stated that in his opinion the perception was due to an abiding idea that hospitality was a low paid industry.
Malcom Bell, Chief Executive of Visit Cornwall, asked about what the parties plans were for regulating Airbnb. Derek Thomas stated that removing the £7,000 tax free rent a room allowance from Airbnb was in the budget and would remain party policy.
Rural and Coastal Connectivity
The final question was regarding the issue of rural and coastal digital connectivity. Derek Thomas noted that significant progress had been made in broadband connectivity but that a larger issue was mobile signal which remains poor across West Cornwall.
Reaching over two and a half thousand people online after being streamed on the BHA and The Caterer’s social media channels, the event was a great opportunity for local tourism businesses to quiz their candidates on their plans for the region, and for tourism businesses more widely to understand each parties’ prospectus for the sector.
The BHA plans further sessions across the country post-election as its grassroots campaign encourages member businesses to reach out and host their Members of Parliament for public discussions about important local and national issues. If you would like to meet with your MP please contact Vernon.Hunte@bha.org.uk.