Bristol hoteliers are hoping for a Christmas miracle

Hoteliers in Bristol are looking for a Christmas miracle as their concerns were left not addressed in the recent Autumn Statement.

The Bristol Hoteliers Association (BHA) members were particualarly troubled by the Chancellor’s announcement of nearly a 10 per cent increase in the National Living Wage from next April.

This is expected to exert additional financial strain on their businesses.

BHA Chair Raphael Herzog expressed dissatisfaction, noting that while the extension of the business rates relief scheme provides some relief, it doesn’t adequately offset the rising wage costs and ongoing high prices for energy, food, and beverages.

He said: “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, they don’t go anywhere near far enough to give 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, some price rises are likely 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.

“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 were to be introduced again, even if for a temporary period, it would be a significant show of support and a vote of confidence in our sector.”