Quality in Tourism director Deborah Heather

Protecting your livelihood; support and expertise from Quality in Tourism

UK: Following the recent collapse of Brighton Holiday Homes in May and the ongoing calls for the regulation of the sharing economy, we spoke to Quality in Tourism director Deborah Heather to gain her views on how and what to do to protect both consumers and hosts in today’s litigious society.

In the last ten years, the UK hospitality and short-term rental market has changed significantly, as market disrupters including the likes of Airbnb and TripAdvisor have made it easier and easier to list a property and gain good reviews.

The rise in these platforms and their user-generated content mean that new businesses can pop up and start operating almost overnight, but at what cost? Who is checking that these properties have met minimum basic requirements such as fire safety and insurance, and how do you differentiate yourself as a truly quality provider against a more opportunist operator?

Since 2016, we have been working hard to redress the evaluation of the standards within the tourism and hospitality industry, developing new schemes, creating a primary authority partnership with Cornwall Council and launching an accreditation scheme for the sharing economy with the Short Term Accommodation Association (STAA).

As a quality provider, it is crucial that you have done everything you can to protect yourself and ultimately the consumer. This includes, but is not limited to:

• ensuring your mortgage allows for you to operate short-term lets. There are limited mortgage policies on the market that allow you to let a room / your home for the short-term. Be sure yours will cover you in the event of an incident.

• carrying out appropriate fire safety checks including a fire risk assessment, the installation of smoke alarms and highlighting fire procedures to anyone staying in your property.

• having the relevant health and safety protection in place; carbon monoxide detectors, procedures for hazardous substances (hot tub cleaners, bleach etc), and PAT testing on electrical appliances.

• the appropriate handling of money; not storing credit card information and if you are an agency, holding client funds in trust until the stay has been taken.

• having the right insurances in place which cover public liability, accidental damage and specific holiday let insurance to cover anything that may happen to the property whilst being let. This insurance cover should protect you as the owner, but also give adequate protection to the consumer if they were to have an accident or reason to make a claim.

Through our schemes, we assess both the properties that are hosting guests, as well as the agencies that promote them, providing an independent quality marque for savvy consumers, allowing them to make a truly informed decision.

Our Safe, Clean & Legal marque carries out a basic check on your property so that you can showcase to potential guests that you are a legitimate operator. If you are an agency, our Quality Assured Safe Agency (QASA) scheme checks the robustness of the policies and procedures you have in place, as well as checking a sample of your portfolio to reassure consumers of your standards and quality.

With the blurred lines between the sharing economy and the traditional agencies and operators, customers are incredibly unaware of how unprotected they can be. When Quality in Tourism recently commissioned a survey of 2000 consumers, over 80 per cent said they believe that things like fire safety and hygiene standards should be minimum mandatory requirements across the industry, including self-catering, hotels, B&Bs and homestay operators.

It is clear the risk to life features as more of a priority than money, but ignoring issues surrounding safety and legality could leave you as an operator quite seriously out of pocket.

For more information on Quality in Tourism and the schemes they operate, visit the website here.

Who is Quality in Tourism?

Quality in Tourism (QT) is the wholly owned brand of M-Assessment Services Limited. We are industry experts, offering advice, support and guidance for all tourism and hospitality businesses.

Under the QT brand we run the star rating schemes of VisitGuernsey, VisitJersey, Visit Isle of Man and the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa. We are the official accreditation agency for the STAA (Short Term Accommodation Agency) and operate a primary authority partnership with Cornwall Council, focusing on fire safety, trading standards and environmental health.

We have ISO9001:2015 accreditation. Our assessors are all formally trained annually in fire risk and health and safety, and are moderated, trained and advised by experts within Cornwall Council as part of our primary authority partnership.

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