The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) take action to end Hotel booking sites 'misleading' sales practises
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched enforcement action on six OTAs after it found that they had been undertaking misleading practices when selling hotel accommodation. The CMA began its investigation in June 2018 but did not name the comparison sites it was investigating. The action involves Expedia, Booking.com, Agoda, Hotels.com, ebookers and Trivago and is aimed at resolving issues such as pressure selling, misleading discount claims, the effect that commission has on how hotels are ranked on sites and hidden charges. The sites will now have to disclose whether commissions they receive affect the search results and they have
agreed to be clearer with discount claims and hidden charges.
Each of the companies targeted has undertaken a formal agreement with the CMA to discontinue various practices which differ from company to company but are broadly similar. The main practices covered by the undertakings are:
- Disclosing the effect of Money Earned on Search Results
- Comparisons with prices in different circumstances
- Misleading Discounts and not displaying the Total Price
- Clarity with regard to statements about popularity and availability and price
Whilst this action was associated with accommodation booking sites, the CMA is requiring other online platforms selling different products to stop undertaking these practices as well, so this will also impact on car rental and other travel sites.
In June 2018 the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) were commissioned by the Home Office to produce a fully comprehensive review of the shortage occupation list (SOL). To gather sufficient evidence, the MAC issued a ‘call for evidence’, whereby stakeholders were encouraged to submit evidence via an online form in relation to any job titles or occupations in their associated sector/industry which they believe to be in shortage. The Welsh Government has now been given until mid February, particularly as the The White Paper on Immigration extends the ask of the MAC to consider introducing a Northern Ireland and Welsh Shortage Occupation List. Details of the ‘call for evidence can be found in the link below.
The Welsh Government, in conjunction with the MAC, are also arranging two round table events, one in Llandudno Junction and one in Cardiff. To:
Llandudno Junction – Welsh Government office – 20 February 13:30 – 15:30
Cathays Park – Welsh Government office (TBC) – 5 March 11:00 – 13:00
Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Lord Elis-Thomas has announced that £2.2 million is being offered to 23 projects which will improve the experience visitors have in Wales. The funding has been made available through the Tourism Amenity Investment Support scheme (TAIS), aimed at public, third sector and not for profit organisations for investment targeting small scale infrastructure (visitor amenity) projects in the tourism sector in Wales. This project has received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities - Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.
The funding has been allocated to infrastructure projects across Wales which will see improvements to visitor amenities as well as products which help develop high quality destinations. Deputy Minister, Lord Elis-Thomas, said: “This scheme is an excellent way for us to assist the tourism sector to make the improvements to local facilities and amenities, and I’ve seen the improvements made in many areas with the help of this funding over the past year. Facilities such as footpaths, toilets, signage, car parking are often only noticed when the provision is lacking or not up to scratch – which shows that they are an important part of the experience that people have of Wales. This is also an investment by the public sector in amenities for those who live in the area and will benefit locals and visitors alike. These projects also make it easier for local residents and visitors to become more active in Wales’ natural environment.”
The funding has provided an opportunity for local partners to identify a cluster of products which can make a difference in their area.
The projects include Improvements to cycle paths; Upgrades to access & facilities at blue flag beaches; Visitor parking; Signage and public conveniences and reflect local and regional destination activity as well as national priorities.
Specific examples include:
Andrew Campbell, Chair WTA and Adrian Greason-Walker, Policy Advisor met with Kevin Brennan MP at Portcullis House, Westminster (23/01/2019). Kevin Brennan is Labour's Shadow Minister for DCMS and is responsible for Labour's Tourism portfolio. Whilst it was acknowledged that Tourism is a devolved issue discussion revolved around the UK Tourism Sector Deal and the development of Labour's UK Tourism Strategy. Adrian Greason-Walker stressed the importance of tourism particularly as a means of self-employment and as a pillar of the rural economy in Wales. Kevin Brennan was in agreement and was keen to acknowledge tourism as an essential contributor to Wales GDP. Other issues which were picked up on included overseas marketing; the growing impact of on-line travel agencies; VAT and Tourism Training. Mr Brennan stressed that he was keen to continue dialogue and work with the WTA moving forward.
Westminster was the venue for a Summit meeting between the Wales and English Tourism Alliances on the 23rd January 2019. Each reaffirmed their commitment to continued cooperation in tackling issues of mutual interest. Adrian Greason-Walker - WTA Policy Advisor, Kurt Janson - Director of the Tourism Alliance and Andrew Campbell, Chair of the WTA met at Westminster to run through the lengthy list of Industry Issues that both organisations have agreed to tackle jointly or offer mutual support in.
This includes international marketing, taxation issues, maintaining and improving the skills needed by the industry and cooperation on the Annual Tourism Weeks. Brexit and its consequences were also discussed at length with both Alliances agreeing to continue to fight for the profile and importance to the UK economy of the industry. Finally, mutual membership of each other was also agreed.
The latest WTA Members Meeting, well chaired by Andrew Campbell and attended by a good cross section of sectoral representatives from the Membership was held this week. Thanks to all for making the journey to a very sunny Llandrindod Wells.
A number of issues and topics were discussed, although the key issue was the Tourism Industry in Wales, post Brexit (if and when there is such a thing) which presents challenges for the tourism industry for growth in business and employment. It was agreed that both the Welsh Government and Industry need to be proactive if any emerging opportunities are to be seized. We are all aware that the business environment will be tough, however if Sterling weakens after March 2019, an increase in international visitors maybe forthcoming, (although recent IPS figures are a little gloomy), however we are optimistic that the so called number of ‘Staycations’ will increase as consumer concerns over costs and delays about travel to Europe unfold.
Related and also discussed was marketing, particularly the latest Welsh Government led 'Year of' Campaign, to celebrate a Year of Discovery which 'invites' visitors to explore what makes a unique Wales, i.e the things you won’t find anywhere else in the world. Other issues included the maintaining and improving of skills needed by the Industry, and recent developments in North Wales related to the North Wales Growth Deal and the transport and adventure tourism project.
Please remember Wales Tourism Week 2019 it starts on the 11th May, with the Annual Reception at the Senedd scheduled for the 14th May with the 15th May 2019 being our Westminster drop in session for Welsh MPs. The banner this year - ‘Strength through Partnership - Team Wales’. Afternoon Event for both, but timings to be confirmed.
Gold medallist chef Nick Davies has been appointed the new manager of Culinary Team Wales. Davies, who lives in Llanidloes and works as a culinary craft trainer with Cambrian Training, steps up to manage the globe-trotting team of chefs, having previously been a team member and captain. After taking six years out of the team to run an award-winning restaurant at the Lion Hotel, Llandinam, Davies returns with great enthusiasm and feels honoured to have been appointed manager.
Having won gold medals at the Culinary World Cup and Hotel Olympia with Wales and an individual gold in the Worldchefs Global Chef regional competition, he knows what it takes to achieve the highest standards on the international stage. As manager, his goal is to guide Wales to gold success in the future and he’s keen to build a squad of between 12 and 15 talented, committed chefs.
He stresses that the team is open to all chefs who have the skills and commitment to compete at the highest level. To qualify, chefs must either work or live in Wales or be Welsh by birth.
“I am looking for chefs who are committed, have a really good skill level, who want to progress in their career and will be proud to represent Wales,” said Davies. “I would like a commitment of at least four years because it’s vitally important that we go to two or three international competitions together to gain knowledge and progress.
“The aim is to build on what the team achieved at the Culinary World Cup last year and to re-energise by working together to create a positive and exciting environment.
The focus will then be on building a team ready for the Culinary Olympics in Stuttgart in February next year. Davies is looking forward to the challenge, as welcomed competition changes will see a much greater focus on cooking rather than culinary art.
Chefs wishing to join Culinary Team Wales are asked to contact Davies on Tel: 07944 747902.
The latest International Passenger Survey figures have just been released for Q3 last year. In terms of expenditure, European visitors spent 7% less and visitors from the rest of the world spent a whopping 26% less, that despite weaknesses in Sterling! Whilst we continue to have some reservations about the accuracy of the IPS, nevertheless they are the best indicators we have at present.
Inbound visitor numbers were down 3% to 10.8m and expenditure was down 15% to £7.2bn . A little bit of good news...VFR travel increased by 1%, while business visits increased by 6%. Visitors from North America were up 9%. Flipside, outbound tourism numbers were up 1% to 24.2m in Q3 and expenditure was up 3% to £16.4bn. So despite all the other upside down issues that we face at this crucial moment in Global, as well as UK politics, the UK consumer still sees travel overseas as an essential.
The Welsh Government are consulting on corrections to Welsh statutory instruments derived from EU law. These relate to food marketing standards, labelling and school milk. The proposed amendments correct deficiencies. They are made in order to ensure the law remains effective should there be a no deal Brexit. The changes should not affect Welsh industry. The affected legislation is:
The Quarterly Tourism Cross Party Group (CPG), chaired by Suzy Davies AM, met to focus on the issue of International Tourism. This follows the previous CPG which reviewed Tourism Research and issues relating to the International Passenger Survey (IPS).
Anthony Pickles, Head of Tourism Affairs at Visit Britain was invited to present an update on the work of Visit Britain and it's Programme for promotion of the Wales Tourism Product. Adrian Greason-Walker followed with an analysis of key figures reaching back over the last 40 years and using more recent statistics over the last three years to illustrate a number of industry concerns particularly with regard to a lack of growth in numbers and value. He also made comparisons with Scotland and raised a number of questions, 'Why has Scotland outperformed Wales for so long? What are we doing wrong and what could we do better'?
A great deal of debate followed with Visit Wales; Members of the WTA and with the Assembly Members present. Visit Britain and Visit Wales discussed closer working relationships; the need to focus resources and their ability to react swiftly with regard to changes in consumer need and sentiment. Visit Britain also agreed that Wales needed to be central to the UK product in order to encourage more visitors to leave London and explore.