Chaired by Alan Parker, a BHA board member and the former chief executive of Whitbread, the task force will prioritise rules, regulations, inspections and forms that are the most damaging to the sector.
“The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has promised to work with the task force to cut, modify, or abolish as much of this red tape as possible, in collaboration with other government departments,” said BHA in its annual report, released today.
BHA will be working with industry regulation experts within the task force to identify the most burdensome regulations to the sector, particularly to small and medium-sized businesses.
Visas and immigration
Amongst the issues to be addressed will be the increasing difficulty in obtaining visas for non-EU nationals, thereby discouraging tourism from the valuable markets of India, China and South America.
Immigration is also on the agenda, said BHA. “On immigration, the industry suffered a serious setback when the government’s new immigration policy restricted the entry of skilled chefs and even hotel general managers to enter the UK for work by insisting on graduate level qualifications.
“Our ethnic restaurant sector, which is so important to the UK as a tourism destination, will undoubtedly suffer.”
BHA’s annual report also re-iterated the association’s concerns on the high levels of VAT in the country, which is a deterrent to tourism growth.
“The present level of VAT in the UK is one of the most pressing issues facing the industry today, making UK tourism uncompetitive with most European competitor countries, many of which impose a lower level on accommodation (France, for example, is 5.5 per cent).
“The government’s tourism strategy does not appear to acknowledge this”.
BHA said it will use research by Bourne Leisure and Merlin Entertainments to lobby government for a reduction in the VAT rate on hotel accommodation, with a special task force chaired by tax expert, Graham Wason.
BHA also plans to produce a study on the potential impact of a reduced rate of VAT on the restaurant sector.
BHA’s annual report is available on the BHA website.