Headlines: June 15th, 2004

An initiative to drive up standards across the tourism industry, piloted by six local councils, has been judged a success by a new report. `Fitness for Purpose – lessons from local authorities’, details the results of the Fitness for Purpose scheme, tried out by local authorities in Blackpool, Bournemouth, Camden, Canterbury, Greenwich and West Sussex.The scheme is designed to promote better inspection and regulation of tourist accommodation, while, at the same time, offering a lighter touch regulatory approach to well-run businesses already meeting minimum standards. The accommodation providers are given a checklist against which they can measure themselves. They can then draw up plans to correct any problems that are identified.The aim is to reassure consumers that hotels, guesthouses and Bed and Breakfast accommodation meet minimum legal and safety standards, and to give businesses the support they need to raise standards in essential areas such as health and safety, fire and food safety and complying with trading standards regulations.

The report has been published by the Local Government Association with the support of the Department for Media, Culture and Sport. Tourism Minister Richard Caborn welcomed its findings and said it showed that Fitness for Purpose had real promise in helping deliver the higher standards expected by home and overseas visitors in an increasingly competitive tourism market. He said the report also showed that, given time, Fitness for Purpose could become a product businesses wanted and believed in.

Findings from the report highlight the need for initial funding as new working practices are tested and the need for further work with the Food Standards Agency and the Health and Safety Executive to define how they can have the most impact in tackling problems in the tourism industry. The pilot studies, particularly in Blackpool and West Sussex, generated a high level of business satisfaction, with initial caution evolving into support and generally it was found that the scheme’s flexibility was one of its strengths.