In a sector facing extreme growth and development, there is an ever increasing need to plan carefully and obtain expert advice to guide you through this exciting time for your business.
Our essential guide to ‘getting it right’ from the start, offers tips and advice that are highly relevant to all businesses across the sector, whether you are starting out from scratch, are a seasoned operator, or are thinking of the future and an exit from the industry.
This guide offers you a snapshot of just what is required to plan and run a successful business within the tourism and leisure sector. Ultimately the team of advisors that you build around you will have a shared sense of purpose, with the appropriate knowledge to advise and offer the necessary support.
As Associate Members of the British Holiday & Home Parks Association (BH&HPA) we are one of the few law firms in the country with a specialist holiday parks team.
With offices based in East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, we are at the heart of the caravan manufacturing industry and supply chain.
Having worked with many owners of holiday parks for many years, our specialist team has a comprehensive understanding of owning and operating a holiday park and the unique challenges that come with it.
Staycations, short breaks, camping, glamping, spa breaks, day trips, outdoor pursuits - they all contribute to our expanding tourism sector.
In employment terms this is the fastest growing sector in the UK and predicted to be worth more than £257 billion by 2025. Increasing by up to 4 per cent every year, this puts it well ahead of manufacturing, construction and retail.
With such continued growth comes demand for quality accommodation - food and beverage outlets, attractions and entertainment, creating opportunity for expansion, creation and diversification across the sector. From holiday parks, to hotels or smaller projects, around every corner of the country innovators, entrepreneurs or one-man bands are looking to seize this opportunity.
Are you considering the diversification of an existing business, an expansion or is it your first venture into the development of a holiday park, accommodation or visitor attraction?
If so, then the early planning stages are extremely important and it is crucial to build a team around you who are reliable, knowledgeable and experts in their individual fields.
As with any new development there will be many issues to address, and these are likely to include...
Access to the appropriate finance and funding partners.
Possible restructuring to accommodate a merger, acquisition or sale and to ensure that the most tax efficient purchase vehicle is used.
If you are planning to purchase an established hotel or caravan park, does the seller have the correct consents, contracts and permissions in place to enable you to take over the business and provide you with future development potential? Are the contracts and licences easily assignable or will you need to enter into new agreements and make new provisions once you take over ownership?
Do you have a detailed business plan that gives you the confidence with regards to commercial viability?
Have you carried out the appropriate due diligence and enquiries into the development, gaining advice on any possible risks and eventualities? Engaging the correct expertise may seem an initial expense, but not doing so could prove to be extremely costly and indeed, worse-case scenario, overlooking certain issues, could even scupper a project, so getting it right from the start is vital.
Retaining good quality staff is a real challenge in the leisure and tourism sector and is an important factor for business growth.
Furthermore, the ever-changing landscape of employment law places increasing burdens on employers to comply with and adapt to. So, what sets a business apart as a “good employer”?
Clarity of the relationship is key. It is invaluable to have a clearly defined contract of employment between employer and employee which sets out the scope of the relationship, combined with a set of well-defined policies and procedures which deal with the finer details of day to day employment.
From April 2020 it will also be mandatory for all workers, not just employees, to be issued with an employment contract from the first day of employment, so it is a good habit to start.
Following the rise of the “gig-economy”, it is more important than ever to know exactly who is working for you and in what capacity. This is a particularly prevalent topic in leisure and tourism, with many different working arrangements in place to cover the wide array of services provided.
Knowing whether you are dealing with an employee, a worker, or a self-employed contractor can have far reaching implications on an employer’s obligations, and so it is crucial to assess this properly from the outset.
Workers from abroad have long been an important asset of businesses in this sector, particularly with the seasonal nature of the work. With Brexit on the horizon, there is much confusion amongst these workers and their employers about how they will be impacted.
Employers can take steps to assist in retaining their overseas workers and with recruitment becoming more and more difficult, this is something which will likely be at the forefront of many employers’ minds.
Recent changes in employment law have imposed far more onerous provisions dictating how much holiday pay should be paid to workers and employees.
This is having a significant impact on many businesses operating in the tourism and leisure sector as it mainly affects those who work irregular hours and overtime.
If this is not something which has been addressed, it is crucial that changes are put into place as it can have financial and legal implications.
The Working Time Regulations impose significant obligations with regards working hours. If you have not obtained an opt-out certificate from an employee or worker, they should not work more than a 48-hour week (averaged over 17 weeks) and are entitled to breaks and periods of rest.
In the busier seasons, this is something which should be closely monitored as it may have a big impact on your workers and rotas.
On top of all of the above, employers in this sector face the same struggles as all other employers such as dealing with employees on sickness absence, monitoring performance issues, and handling misconduct.
Dealing with these fairly and in accordance with proper procedures is critical to avoid disgruntled employees potentially taking legal action.
With employment tribunal fees having been abolished, claims are on the rise, and so dealing with matters correctly is even more essential to avoid the time, cost and publicity of an employment tribunal claim.
Your business may be up and running, but there is a continual need to ensure full compliance.
There can be no compromise when it comes to meeting regulations, especially in a sector so heavily reliant on consumers.
Within any food and drinks business, hygiene and health & safety should be at the top of anyone’s list. Failure to meet strict standards will lead to anything from instant closure, to legal action and/or hefty fines – alongside a definite loss of trade that the negative publicity will bring. This is the same if you are an operator of any type of leisure facility or holiday accommodation.
The sector is heavily regulated with laws governing the sale of alcohol and regulated entertainment in both licensed and unlicensed premises. We can advise you on all of the licences your business requires as well as regulatory matters such as under age sales, irresponsible promotions, reviews/expedited reviews and closure powers which could significantly impact upon your business.
If you are a new caravan park owner, do you have a local authority site licence and the appropriate planning permissions? Are these being complied with and is the site licence in the correct name of the owner of the park? On the purchase of an existing park many new owners forget to have the site licence transferred.
Do you have pitch licence agreements and park rules in place with the customers on your caravan park? Failure to have appropriate agreements in writing can cause future chaos, especially if you are looking to sell your park or remove a troublesome customer further down the line.
As a business within this sector, you are likely to have databases/records of past customers and suppliers which you use as a marketing tool for repeat business and to send out offers/discounts to returning customers. Does the way that you store, use and process data meet the new General Data Protection Regulations?
Insurance policies are an obvious must – but have you overlooked any issues, especially if you are diversifying an existing business?
For every small to medium sized business owner it is a balancing act between meeting today’s needs and reaching tomorrow’s goals.
Tax is an important part of future planning and getting it right can make an enormous difference to the amount you see in your pocket or pension fund after an exit. Leaving it too late or failing to think about it can have very expensive consequences.
The key is to think about changes early. We appreciate that transferring ownership of your business can be an emotional and complicated process and this is why it is often ignored until it becomes an issue.
Many holiday park businesses have evolved from historic farming partnerships which have diversified over time with little or no thought to the corporate structure or governance of the business.
For example do you have the appropriate shareholders agreement or partnership agreement in place to govern a situation where the owners disagree? Is there an exit strategy in place if one partner decides to walk away? Is there a business Lasting Power of Attorney in place in the event that a partner becomes unable to make decisions? All of these questions require a structured discussion with a professional who can offer transparency and clarity.
There are a number of obvious exit strategies available to business owners wanting to retire but some will be more suitable to your business than others. The most appropriate form of exit will depend entirely on your main objective i.e. do you want to achieve the maximum value or do you want to protect the interests of the business for the next generation of your family?
Does your businesses’ future success lie in the hands of some of your most valuable employees? If so, have you explored share schemes as part of any strategy? Would a management buyout be a suitable exit vehicle?
Family businesses often rely on relatives sharing expertise and working together. But is everyone clear about who will do what and when?
Ensuring that the timing of your exit is just right is crucial in family businesses: exit too early and the next generation may be too inexperienced to run the business, exit too late and your influence may inhibit the next generation’s dynamic and drive.
Clear succession plans can only be put into place properly if family discussions are held, the correct documentation such as Powers of Attorney and Wills are put in place, and inheritance tax and wealth management issues are determined.
These are key issues which should be looked at and revisited in the event of any change in family circumstances.
The ‘nuts and bolts’ of an operation are changing as we become more reliant on technology.
Online booking, social media, green energy and the move towards electric transport will all impact on how the tourism and leisure sector operates and needs careful future thought and planning to ensure that your business moves with the times.
Submit an enquiry and one of our team of experts will be in touch as soon as possible to discuss your needs.
Or call the tourism & leisure team on 01482 398386.