Discrimination Law Review
Thursday 20 September 2007, 10:19 AM
Letter adddressed to Kate Hepher, Discrimination Law Review Team, DCLG
The Tourism Alliance was established in 2001 as the voice of the UK tourism industry. It now comprises 50 tourism industry trade and marketing associations that together represent some 200,000 business of all sizes throughout the UK. The Tourism Alliance’s mandate is to work with government on issues relevant to the growth and development of tourism and its contribution to the economy. It is therefore responding to this Inquiry in that capacity.
Britain’s tourism industry has been one of the largest and fastest growing sectors of the British economy over the past 20 years and is now worth £85bn and accords for over 7% of the UK workforce. Importantly, in addition to the revenue and associated employment benefits, tourism delivers a wide range of social benefits that support the Government’s social inclusion agenda. For example, the tourism industry provides a valuable stepping-stone to young people with little or no experience and/or qualifications. ONS Labour Force Survey data shows that tourism employment among 25-34 year olds is growing by 6%.compared to “manufacturing”, “other service industries” and “total employment” which have seen negative growth in this age category over recent years.
The unique flexibility of tourism jobs is also the key to employing a wide range of groups who would otherwise be excluded from the labour market. In particular, tourism is a significant employer of disabled people. According to ONS Labour Force Survey data, growth in the number of employees who are classified “DDA disabled and work limiting disabled” and “work limiting disabled only” has been higher in tourism (12.2%) than growth in manufacturing (-1.9%), all service industries (9.5%) and total employment (6.0%) . Growth in “DDA disabled only” employees in tourism (15.2%) has been nearly three times that of those in manufacturing (5.4%).
Recognising the economic and social benefits of a healthy and growing tourism industry, in 2004 the Government set the target of increasing tourism revenue from £75bn at present to £100bn by 2010. To achieve this, the industry, the Tourism Alliance, the Department for Culture Media and Sport and national tourism agencies such as VisitBritain are working together to develop and implement policies and initiatives that enhance the quality of products and services that the industry provides for all customers regardless of race, gender, ability or sexual orientation. If is only through being as inclusive as possible that we are going to achieve this target.
As such, the tourism sector is proud of its record on anti-discrimination issues and is generally supportive of the discrimination law review as any move to remove barriers to people being able to fully participate in tourism-related activities is to be welcomed.
However, the Tourism Alliance does have some considerable concerns relating to the proposals in the review to make it illegal to provide goods and services on the basis of age. We understand that the legislation will not apply to those under the age of 18 and support the proposed exemptions including:
Nevertheless, there remains a very legitimate need for any proposed legislation to provide tourism operators with the ability to restrict the provision of goods and services on the basis of age. There are three main circumstances where such restrictions are currently exercised by operators to the benefit of all customers. That there are currently no real complaints from customers when these restrictions are implemented indicated both that the restrictions are reasonable and that the tourism sector is so large that the many viable alternative products and services available to customers mean that they are not placed at a disadvantage by the current restrictions.
The age-related restrictions that some businesses currently institute can be summerised as follows:
1. Duty of Care to All Customers
It should be noted that the provision of many tourism products and services differs markedly from the provision of many other products and services in that, in many cases, the customer has non-exclusive use. For example, with most retail shopping the customer does not share the goods and services being provided – if one buys a loaf of bread or a pair of shoes the customer has exclusive ownership of the product and there is no external impact on another customer buying the same product and being able to use it as they desire.
By contrast, in tourism, customers do not tend to have sole and exclusive use of the product or service that they purchase. In a hotel or at a camping site, the customer may have exclusive use of the hotel room or pitch site, but the majority of the services in the hotel or camping ground are shared. Further, even if the customers remain within their room or their pitch site, their activities can have a detrimental impact on the quality of experience that other customers receive.
Therefore, tourism operators have a duty of care to ensure that all customers receive the quality of experience that they have purchased without this experience being ruined by other customers. To achieve this there is a need to retain an ability to impose restrictions based on age. It is not uncommon for accommodation providers to place age limits and size of group limits on customers to ensure that certain groups do not ruin the product or service that other customers have purchased. A good example of this is the many accommodation providers in certain city centres that place restrictions on hen and stag parties because they know that there is a considerable risk that other customers will be severely inconvenienced by their behaviour.
2. Preventing Damage
The second reason that operators sometimes need to impose age restrictions is associated with the protection of their property. As well as accommodation providers who do not take bookings from groups of young people attending stag or hen nights due to the damage that they can cause to premises (which, in the case of bed and breakfast and guesthouses, tend to be the owners’ home), there are many heritage houses, listed buildings, museums and other heritage/cultural venues that do not hire their facilities out to events such as 21st birthday parties, graduation balls and stag or hen nights.
These venues often contain very high value and frequently irreplaceable furnishings, collections of fragile porcelain, objets d'art and paintings and the owners simply will not take the risk of hiring the premises to groups who they consider might cause damage.
Faced with legislation by which they could not prevent 21st birthday parties hiring their premises, many of these operators would simply stop hosting events altogether. This would not only disadvantage the majority of customers but also place many historic houses and venues in financial jeopardy as the hosting of events constitutes a vital source of income for their maintenance and upkeep.
3. Providing What Customers Want
Finally, there is the assumption in the proposal that groups of different ages either want to associate together or, if they don’t, that they should be made to. However, there is a section of tourism customers who choose to associate with people of their own age, whether that be because they feel safer or more comfortable doing so or simply because they want to associate with people who have shared similar experiences or have a similar lifestyle.
This is common in places such as holiday parks (especially residential parks) where there a large number of operators restrict use of the parks to those over the age of 50. In these parks age restrictions are an integral part of the product designed for a particular market segment for those who have chosen to live within a (semi)retired community or to holiday amongst people of a similar age. In these cases, the age restriction is something that the customers demand rather than operator imposed. Customers for these parks are paying for a particular environment that they feel comfortable in and, as there are a very large number of holiday parks and camping grounds that do not operate any age restrictions, the market is large enough to ensure that everyone gets what they want and no one is harmed by the restrictions.
It must also be remembered that in the situation of residential parks the customer has a contractual relationship with the operator in which the age restriction is usually specified. If this is affected by new legislation, there could be considerable financial implications for operators if they have to compensate their existing customers.
The Tourism Alliance wishes the Discrimination Law Reform Team well in developing measures that reduce unjustified discrimination on the basis of age. However, it requests that in developing a solution that consideration is given to the unique circumstances that apply to many tourism operators and asks that measures remain that will allow operators to provide the range of niche products that customers want, to protect the high quality experience that other customers demand and to protect the premises and their contents from damage.
If the Tourism Alliance, or its members, can be of any assistance in providing further evidence or expanding or clarifying tourism-related issues, please feel free to contact me at the address below.
- Discounted travel and leisure goods and services such as railcard discounts for the youth market or the retired
- Age-related access to cultural activities
- Age-Based Group Holidays (eg., Club 18-30 or Saga
- Where Objective Justification can be shown that a different age should be subject to different pricing policies