Open Letter to Martin Couchman, Deputy Chief Executive of the British Hospitality Association

Dear Martin,

Further to our recent conversation, I understand that it is awkward for you to involve the British Hospitality Association in the ongoing price fixing investigation in the hotel industry because many of your members are unsure about their legal standing. I now feel that’s exactly why you need to step in.

As we all know, there’s an elephant in the corner of this industry the size of the Ritz. We exist in this grey legal area of fixed prices or ‘rate parity’, a practice that underpins all our individual businesses. Yet no-one knows if it is legal. In the meantime we can’t move forwards or backwards because we’re too scared we’ll either be punished by the authorities or our trading partners.  Apart from a couple of major players, this industry is stagnating.

I am also now in an uncomfortable position in that I am being asked to assist hotels in a case which I no longer even hold as my own.  One wrote to me:

“I am aware of the devastating effect some OTAs have on the industry…We need all the help we can get and you seem to know the problem well”.

However, the OFT is no longer representing my interests. I am not sure who they’re representing any more but I do know that the commitments in their recent proposal, if accepted, will affect every one of your members in one way or another.

To be clear I was never asking you to come down one way or another in your position on this. I was only proposing that your members were made fully aware of what’s at stake with the commitments in the OFT’s proposal.

As much as I want to help my colleagues in the industry it is time for others to take over. As the representative of the British Hotel Association I’m hoping you can manage the way out of this. It would be wonderful if Britain could take the lead in solving this global problem.

I have taken the liberty of copying in Gaucho who is heading up the investigation for the OFT. Also, in the interests of transparency, I have put a copy of this correspondence on my blog.

Kind regards,

Dorian Harris

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