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business rates
business rates for holiday cottage complexes

Business rates are a burden for many businesses across the country.  With the recent emergence of the ‘sharing economy’ and an explosion of listings onto platforms such as AirBnB in recent years (there are more than 60,000 in London alone), many holiday cottage complex owners have been left looking over the fence at those offering accommodation free from the taxation they face in running their own tourism businesses.

Professional Association of Self Caterers (PASC UK) lobbying on business rates

In January 2019, the Professional Association of Self Caterers (PASC UK), who are the only association dedicated to lobbying on behalf of the sector across the UK, secured a change to the way that rateable values are calculated for some self-catering businesses throughout England and Wales after more than a decade of urging for adjustments to be made.

The alteration effects the percentages the Valuation Office uses in order to arrive at the businesses’ rateable value, with the result meaning a potential reduction of approximately one-third for many holiday cottage complex owners with five holiday letting units or above. 

As the owners’ input into the business is now taken into consideration, it’s set to potentially benefit those small businesses that manage both the bookings and the guest welcome themselves, and where the self-catering business is a primary income stream for the owners.

Further information on ratable values

You can find further information on how rateable values have been reduced and the potential impact on your own business rates here:  https://www.pascuk.co.uk/business-rates

Businesses should be able to apply for the reduction directly, with those successful able to claim back any overcharge to April 2017, when the current revaluation became effective.

Alistair Handyside MBE, who leads PASC and has been in the self-catering industry for more than 15 years said “Although this is a major breakthrough, it still leaves business rates too high for those self-catering businesses that do not benefit from the £12,000 threshold.  PASC UK continues to get futher change from the Valuation Office and the organisation is part of a wide group lobbying for fundamental change to business rates.” PASC UK is also working on a number of other areas that directly effect holiday home and complex owners including the reinstatement of inheritance tax relief for genuine tourism businesses and ensuring the sector is safe and legal. For more information about them please visit: https://www.pascuk.co.uk/

Guidance on insurance for holiday cottage complexes and quotes are available from the Boshers friendly team on 01237 429444.

Equality Act 2010

Equality Act 2010As a self-catering business providing accommodation to paying guests you’ll need to know about the Equality Act 2010. You’ll also need to be complying with it.

The Act, which replaced the Disability Discrimination Act, aims to protect anyone that is:

  • disabled
  • thought to be disabled
  • or is associated with someone who is disabled.

What does this mean for your holiday cottage business? It means that you may need to undertake reasonable adjustments in order to make your holiday home easier for disabled guests to use.

Let’s take a closer look at the legal bits of the act, and the simple actions you can take to not only comply with it, but also potentially attract even more people to your cottage.

The Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 covers a wide range of disabilities, and it’s important that holiday let owners take this into consideration. In law, people with disabilities are defined as those whose physical and mental impairments have an adverse effect on their ability to carry out day-to-day activities.

There are many different types of discrimination, and being aware of them will allow you to avoid accidentally breaking The Equality Act 2010.

Direct discrimination

This includes actions such as refusing to serve someone, or offering a lower standard of service due to their disability.

Indirect discrimination

An example of this is if a B&B serves breakfast in a room that is down a set of stairs and therefore inaccessible for some people.

Discrimination arising from a disability

This discrimination can include situations such as banning a person with Tourette’s syndrome from a bar area because their outbursts may offend other customers.

Discrimination by association

An example here would be if a guest house were to make the carer of the disabled person sleep in the same room to ensure that they don’t disturb other guests.

What can you do?

There are plenty of things you can do to ensure that you are complying with the Equality Act. The law requires you to make reasonable adjustments to both your holiday let and your business practices, so here’re a few ways you can do just that…

Make booking easier

There are a few simple changes you can make to your website to help potential guests should they have a disability. This could include an option to change the size of the text, having a sufficient contrast between the foreground and background, or even having clear and consistent navigation options. The copy that you have should also advise of anything they may need to be aware of before making a booking.

Ask them what they need

It’s important that you do not assume whether a guest has a disability or not. During the booking process it is beneficial to ask if they have any special requirements. If you learn that a guest is disabled and you aren’t sure what they will need, then just ask! Alternatively, seek out an appropriate organisation for advice and guidance.

Create an accessibility guide

Providing disabled guests with honest and accurate information is vital. An accessibility guide can be provided to guests prior to their stay. It’s helpful to make this readily available on your website.

These helpful guides enable visitors to make an informed decision as to whether your holiday cottage is right for them. The document should be clear and honest, and highlight any areas that could cause access issues for some visitors. Visit Britain provide indepth guidance on writing an accessibilty guide.

Do you employ staff?

Education is the key to understanding therefore providing staff with appropriate training is important. Training can make a huge difference to a disabled guest’s stay. As you welcome guests into your holiday cottages, you should be putting any training into practice. Ensure that your guests know how, where and when they can ask for help or assistance.

Go the extra mile

One of the best things you can do for a disabled guest is to go the extra mile. Providing them with any help or support that they need can ensure that their stay is a positive one. Little touches like a large print welcome pack for visually impaired guests can make their visit easier and more enjoyable.

Please note this article is only an initial guide to the Equality Act 2010, for matters specific to your own holiday cottage business seek legal advice.

For more information on the Equality Act 2010 visit the link below: 

Need an insurance quote for your holiday let or cottage complex? Give us a call us on 01237 429444.

UK visitor numbers show increasing trend

UK visitor numbers show increasing trendThere has been much conjecture over the potential impact of Brexit on the UK tourism sector since the EU referendum. One thing is for certain, all of the statistics now being released on last year’s visitor numbers are incredibly encouraging.

Recent reports have largely focussed on the perceived renaissance in domestic travel and the ‘staycation’. Whilst now a rise in overseas travel that is also being celebrated. The latest industry statistics from Visit England, with a 3% increase on 2015 meaning more than 37.3 million tourists flocked to our shores in 2016.

Let’s take a more in-depth look at where these visitors are coming from, and the potential reasons underpinning this upturn…

Visitor numbers up

Although the UK continues to be a popular holiday destination for many around the world, it’s those travelling from across the Atlantic that have seen the largest increase.  A whopping 4.3 million US citizens visited the UK in 2016, a 7% increase on the previous year.

The reason for this may have been the competitive exchange rates between the two countries during this period. Thus allowing Americans seeking a slice of Britain competitive rates on accommodation and other expenditure during their time here.

EU Visits break previous records

Despite the United Kingdom opting to leave the European Union in June, visits from the other 27 member states broke the record books for a second consecutive year. 25.3 million visits were made from our European counterparts, an increase of 4% on the figures enjoyed in 2015.

VisitBritain Chief Executive Sally Balcombe said: “The strong growth in inbound visits demonstrates British tourism’s continued ability to compete for international visitors and deliver economic growth across our nations and regions.

“We must seize the opportunity to build on this, boosting visitor spending by driving home the message of welcome and value particularly in our high spending markets such as China and the US and the valuable European market.”

Winter trips increased

Holiday visits to the UK saw a boost towards the end of the year, resulting in an 11% increase between October and December. That’s 3.2 million visits during the winter season and a large area of growth for many accommodation providers.

It also looks like Brits have been inviting their nearest and dearest to join them on holiday. Inbound visits to friends and relatives rose a huge 10% to 11.5 million visits. The vast majority of these visits were made outside of the Greater London area, which commands a large proportion of international visits and is a great indicator of the growing strength of the UK’s tourism market.

Looking ahead

2016’s end of year surge gives a positive outlook for 2017, despite uncertainties surrounding Britain’s exit from the European Union. January 2017 saw an 11% rise on visitors from the previous year. This adds further indication that Britain’s tourism industry is set to have yet another fruitful year. Let’s hope for plenty of sunshine to help it along the way!

For more information on what this year could hold, read our previous post on UK inbound tourism in 2017.

Boshers offer specialist holiday home insurance to owners across the UK. Require a quote for your holiday apartment, cottage or complex? Please give us a call on 01237 429444.

VisitEngland Awards for Excellence

VisitEngland Awards for ExcellenceMany holiday homeowners and accommodation providers across the UK will use awards as a recognition of the quality of the product and service they’re providing their guests with. One of the biggest tourism awards for excellence reaches its climax for another year in the coming weeks. We take a look at the VisitEngland Awards for Excellence and the businesses they acknowledge each year.

What are The VisitEngland Awards for Excellence?

The VisitEngland Awards for Excellence is now in its 28th year. The awards give recognition to some of the very best tourism businesses across England. This year saw a record number of applicants (more than 600), which have now been whittled down to 68 finalists which were announced last month. The competition for these awards is always fierce, with only the very best making it through to the final stages.

VisitEngland Chief Executive Sally Balcombe said: “The awards shine a spotlight on an industry driven by the highest-calibre people and organisations who deliver unforgettable experiences for visitors, raising the profile of England as a world-class destination and driving the economic benefits of tourism across the regions.”

Who enters the awards?

The highly-acclaimed awards cover a range of areas across the industry. From boutique accommodation to guided tours, inclusive tourism to afternoon tea. Each category has three finalists from across England, only one of whom will take home the title for their area.

The main categories will also be joined by the ‘Tourism Superstar’ and ‘Outstanding Contribution to English Tourism’ awards; previous winners include HM The Queen, Sir Paul McCartney, and The National Trust.

When will we know who’s won?

Those still in the running for a gong will be holding their breath with anticipation on 24th April when they head to The Hilton Waldorf Hotel in London for a glitzy awards evening celebrating their efforts within the industry.

As well as a trophy, the Tourism Superstar award provides destination management organisations with the opportunity to participate in a national campaign. The campaign, which aims to champion careers in tourism for people of all ages. It also promotes quality, customer service and excellence within England’s tourism industry.

You can view a full list of the finalists here: http://www.visitenglandawards.org/finalists

Boshers wish all of those involved in the awards the very best of luck for the big night!

 

Deafgard - holiday home fire safety for deaf guests

Deafgard - holiday home fire safety for deaf guestsBeing awoken in the middle of the night by the loud blast of a fire alarm can be both terrifying and disorientating. There may well be a multitude of things rushing through your mind; is there really a fire or is it a false alarm? Where are the children? Which is the safest route from the building?

For those staying in your holiday letting property this situation can be all the more complex. Remember, they won’t be familiar with the layout of your holiday home, nor the sound of the fire alarm that potentially fills it.

But think for a moment; what would they do without that sound?

In an environment in which your hearing is the ultimate first warning, what would you do if deprived of this most vital of senses?

Holiday Home Fire Safety for deaf guests and people with hearing loss

For guests to your holiday home that are deaf or hard of hearing (which accounts for 1 in 7 people in the UK) this is a very real problem. Fire safety is so often focused around the preventative sound of the alarm that many holiday homes may be unable to cater for visitors with diminished levels of hearing.

What do you need to do as a holiday homeowner?

Fire Safety Law (known as Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005) was introduced in 2006 and makes holiday homeowners responsible for taking measures to protect their guests from the risks of fire and applies to all tourism accommodation providers.

There are three core areas to fire safety law:

  1. Conduct a fire risk assessment.
  2. Improve your fire safety measures as a result of issues highlighted in the assessment.
  3. Keep the risks and measures under review.

When combined with the Equality Act 2010 (which requires you to provide, where reasonable, equal access to those with disabilities), this means it’s vital your fire risk assessment takes into consideration potential visitors that are hard of hearing or deaf, and then puts in place procedures to allow them to enjoy a safe stay in your holiday accommodation.

As a provider of guest accommodation, what is reasonable?

Accommodation and service providers have a duty to take reasonable steps to remove, alter or avoid any physical barriers that make it impossible or reasonably difficult for people with disabilities to use their facilities. Factors to consider include, whether the proposed adjustments meets the needs of the disabled person, is affordable and whether it would have a serious effect on other people. What might be looked upon as reasonable for a large hotel chain may not be so for an individual furnished holiday letting property or small bed and breakfast.

With the above in mind, there is an opportunity for small self-catering accommodation providers to differentiate themselves by going the extra mile.

What are your fire safety options for deaf guests?

There are a range of options and equipment on the market that will allow you to keep hard of hearing guests safer in the event of a fire.

Here’s an overview of one of these:

The Deafgard by Fireco

The Deafgard by Fireco is a battery powered unit a deaf or hard of hearing person can take to their room.

In the event of a fire alarm sounding the unit is triggered and vibrates a pad that fits beneath the guest’s pillow, flashes an LED light and displays the word ‘fire’ to ensure your guest is fully awoken and aware of the alarm being sounded.

Here’s a quick look at how it works:

This is an efficient way to ensure hard of hearing and deaf visitors are made aware of an alarm seconds after it sounds. You may find that guests with hearing difficulties may bring their own Deafgard or similar device for use at your holiday home. However if it’s affordable to your holiday letting business, making one available is a great way to differentiate your holiday home and fulfill your responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010.

These devices are available on the open market, for more information click here – Deafguard | Fireco.

Boshers offer specialist holiday home insurance to owners across the UK. For more information on how a specialist insurer can help and support your holiday home business, please give us a call on 01237 429444.

Please note that this article gives only an overview of Fire Safety for deaf guests and the hard of hearing and we suggest you take advice from a qualified professional before making any decisions in this area if you are not confident of using the above guidance. 

Fire Safety Assessment

holiday home fire risk assessment This article offers guidance on fire safety law for sleeping accommodation providers. Almost six years have passed since the law known as the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, was introduced in October 2006. Despite the passing of time, Fire Safety Risk Assessments for holiday home owners remains, if you will excuse the pun, ‘a hot topic’.

As specialist providers of holiday home insurance for UK lets, this topic is raised frequently during discussions that we have with both holiday cottage owners and holiday home letting agents alike. There has been much confusion and speculation banded around the self-catering accommodation industry about the required frequency and content of a suitable assessment.

Complying with Fire Safety Law for Sleeping Accommodation Providers in England & Wales

Thankfully `The Chief Fire Officers Association’ have produced a leaflet containing information on complying with fire safety law for people who provide sleeping accommodation in England and Wales.

The document is entitled: Do You Have Paying Guests? If so, fire safety law applies to you, and you must take action

It also contains an Example Fire Risk Assessment Form for recording significant findings for small accommodation providers.

This leaflet is concise, written in plain language and aimed at the smaller end of the sleeping accommodation market, such as Bed and Breakfast’s, holiday homes, holiday cottages and holiday let apartments.

These documents will assist you as a holiday home owner to comply with your obligations under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. Click the links below to find out more:

For Self-Catering holiday cottage owners in Scotland, the Scottish Government has produced the following:

You may also find the following posts for holiday home owners of interest:

Follow this link for other useful resources for holiday home owners

More Britons opted for “staycations” in the UK in first half of the year, providing a much needed boost for domestic tourism.

The number of holidays taken in England by UK residents rose by 14% compared to the same period last year.

That amounted to 2.6 million more trips and more than 9.1 million extra nights holiday, according to VisitEngland.

The recession and the falling value of the pound against sterling all appeared to persuade people to stay at home rather than head abroad.
But it wasn’t all good news.
With firms cutting costs, business travel fell, so the amount spent on trips of all kinds fell 1% in the first half of the year.
VisitEngland chief executive James Berresford said: ‘England is back in fashion as Brits are rediscovering the diversity and appeal of the English holiday.

“Clearly there are businesses out there still suffering, particularly those in the conference and events market so we are certainly not out of the woods.”

Predictions from weathermen of a “barbecue summer” may boost figures further for the second half of the year, although the fact that the good weather never actually arrived may dent the gains.

The “staycation” phenomenon looks likely to continue into next year – UK self-catering operator Hoseasons said advanced bookings for 2010 were already up by 61%.

Hoseasons chief executive Richard Carrick said: “The last 10 years it has been a challenge for companies to adapt to a weak euro, low-cost flights and last minute booking trends. 2009 has given us the chance to turn the tide in favour of British breaks.”

Meanwhile, Bournemouth has been voted the most popular resort for staycationers.

The Dorset town came out top of 66 popular UK getaways in a survey from Virgin Money Travel Insurance aimed at finding the best family holiday destinations at home.

Loch Ness, home of the Loch Ness monster, was voted the worst, partly because of the terrible Scottish weather.

Other south coast towns that scored highly included Brighton and Portsmouth in second and third, Scarborough fourth and London fifth.

Car parts and bicycle chain Halfords also said it had benefited from the staycation with a big rise in tent and bike sales.