Skip to main content

Accommodation Grading

Volume 406: debated on Wednesday 4 June 2003

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (1) if she will make it her policy to cancel the review of accommodation grading if consumer research does not support it; [115653](2) what assessment she has made of the success of the current harmonised scheme for accommodation grading; [115644](3) if she will place in the Library copies of the consumer research she has assessed in relation to her revised policy on accommodation grading systems; [115651](4) what plans she has to research consumer attitudes to accommodation grading schemes in the UK; and what amount, broken down by project, is budgeted for such research. [115650]

Quality is the foundation of a successful and competitive tourism industry and must include a variety of good quality accommodation that meets visitor expectations, both in terms of facilities and service. We want to ensure that the National Quality Assurance Standards (NQAS) schemes: meet the needs of and are easily understood by visitors; attract a very high proportion of accommodation providers; and encourage continuous improvement in standards. There has been no change of tourism policy in this respect from what was published in Tomorrow's Tourism (1999).We have not conducted a formal assessment of the accommodation schemes but are determined to increase both industry take up and consumer recognition of the schemes. However, recent research by the (former) ETC has shown that membership of a quality grading scheme brings benefits to participants in terms of higher occupancy levels: 13 per cent. difference in higher occupancy levels between those who are members of the national, harmonised grading scheme and those who do not participate.We receive regular informal updates on consumer (and industry) views in correspondence and during visits in this country and abroad. We are confident that any research by VisitBritain into consumer attitudes towards accommodation schemes or views about the nature and detail of the current or proposed schemes will be adequately funded. VisitBritain will be assessing the requirements relating to consumer research and industry consultation over the coming months once confirmation has been made regarding the direction of the proposed changes. A final budget relating to this work is expected to be available in the autumn along with the final report. The research will be robustly conducted, involving other relevant bodies as appropriate, and properly analysed. We will, of course, take into account consumer views, as well as industry views, before reaching any decisions about the best way forward—this is what was done prior to the launch of the schemes for serviced accommodation in England, when they were harmonised with those of the AA and RAC in 1999.

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (1) what weight she gave to the views of (a) domestic tourists and (b) international visitors when formulating her policy on accommodation grading schemes; [115646](2) who will chair the review of accommodation grading; and if she will make a statement; [115645](3) what input other bodies will have into research conducted into consumer attitudes to accommodation grading schemes; [115652](4) what the terms of reference are for the review of accommodation grading schemes; when the review commenced; who has been invited to participate; and what timetable will be followed. [115647]

Discussion with senior industry representatives over the last year and a half has affirmed their commitment to the huge importance of quality, including the principle that establishments only of acceptable quality should be marketed via publicly funded e-tourism channels and in local authority brochures.The first part of the review of the accommodation grading schemes is being led jointly by the three National Tourist Boards in England, Scotland and Wales, who have engaged Alan Britten (former chairman of the English Tourism Council) to lead the review group, consult widely and report his findings to this Department this autumn. The group will examine the differences that exist between the schemes for hotels and guest accommodation in each country, with its main aim being to reach a view on whether common schemes are feasible and would be more readily understood by consumers.Good progress on common Great Britain schemes has already been made in respect of quality assurance schemes for non-serviced accommodation, for instance self-catering, Hostels and Campus accommodation. The national Boards have agreed that research and consultation in relation to the self-catering scheme should commence during the summer of 2003. This part of the review will also include consideration of the effectiveness of the symbols used to indicate scheme membership and how we could reduce the proliferation of signs and logos that are currently displayed. The review will consider consumer and industry views of the value of the quality assurance schemes, the scheme's effectiveness and value for money of scheme membership. We also wish to look at how we can increase the levels of participation in the schemes, especially hotels and guest houses.The second part of the review relates to England only and is being led by VisitBritain. It will look at the management of the schemes, covering issues such as: assessment, administration, recruitment of businesses, and promotion to consumers. We expect a report to be ready early in 2004

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (1) what financial provision has been made to support the costs of further harmonisation of accommodation grading schemes, with particular reference to (a) property re-inspections and (b) production and distribution of new signage; [115649](2) what estimate she has made of

(a) the impact on business and (b) the cost to public funds of further changes to the accommodation grading system. [115648]

We are confident that any changes made to the current accommodation schemes, which will take three years to implement from the consumer perspective, will be cost-effective as well as increasing clarity and benefiting business. Any costs relating to inspections to any new standards will be minimal, as they will fit in with the established annual timetable.Replacement signage, if required, is in any case optional and should benefit business in view of the greater clarity we are aiming to achieve. VisitBritain has allocated £72,000 from within its annual allocation to take forward the two-past review referred to above—funding by the other National Tourist Boards is a matter for the devolved administrations.