September 29 2022, Kimpton Fitzroy London
Friday 30 September 2022, JW Marriott Grosvenor
21 November 2022, Hilton London Metropole
It is being called the most important election in a generation for Great Britain.
After 13 years in power, the Labour Party led by Gordon Brown is seeking an unprecedented fourth term in office. For the first time the Liberal Democrats are no longer on the periphery, and we are looking at a real possibility of a hung Parliament.
Among the uncertainties, however, is the inevitable reality check of spending cuts.
The new government must stabilise the economy, reinvigorate a mistrustful private sector and tackle a mountain of debt and overspending - and to date none of the three main parties have made it totally clear how they will achieve this.
Both the Tories and Liberal Democrats can currently skirt the extent of Britain's austerity issue based on the fact that they are not party to the full extent of the problem, but that government spending will be curbed and brutal tax increases introduced is certain.
Business travel will without doubt be a target, and it is the responsibility of our industry to work harder to prove that face-to-face meetings are the most efficient means to foster profitworthy decisions and long-term relationships.
Hotels, and in particular four and five-star venues, may well find much of their offering ‘surplus to requirements' and we could see properties wishing to deliberately deflate their classifications in order to keep themselves on selection lists.
Considerations regarding executive performance will become a key booking factor and it will be those venues who are proactive in helping to boost business traveller productivity, for example through greater emphasis on the bedroom as office, which will trade most successfully.
Green-minded hotels which can offer value by passing on their energy-related savings to their customers will also thrive more readily.
In terms of the economy, a return to inflation at a sensible level could represent something of a silver lining for business travel - helping hotels to recover room rate levels - as well as generating a reduction in the value of the government's national debt as price levels rise.
So maybe the best solution would be to back whichever political party or coalition can put forward the most effective ‘inflationary' package.
In effect, this is a policy which would be consistent with the monetary policy of the 1980s only in reverse. The recent run of quantitative easing is a step in this direction.
Unfortunately, a much tighter fiscal policy would still be required to avoid a long-term increase in interest rates as the government funds its deficits through huge bond issues at a higher cost to the taxpayer (higher interest rates) to persuade investors to hold the bonds.
What, however, if we are left dangling in ‘hung' Parliament territory? A late-April survey by the British Chambers of Commerce found that 65% of 300 businesses polled were either concerned or very concerned about the prospect of no clear election winner.
This must surely be a reflection of fears that the needs of the country and the economy will be left on the back-burner as the politicians bicker to secure their own interests.
In the Netherlands, where parties are used to coalition arrangements, policies are necessarily constructed along ‘sensible' lines as otherwise parties disqualify themselves from power.
But would the Tories or Labour, unaccustomed to making compromises, be sufficiently constructive to make it work with the Liberal Democrats?
The likely ‘muddle and fudge' may not do much to restore much needed confidence in the corporate sector and could lead to prolonged difficult trading conditions as public sector travel policy decisions are postponed.
Without a decisive victory, the economic recovery will be considerably delayed and our sector may well suffer from the prospect of a ‘double dip' situation.
Whilst we can't predict who will be the winnersof this general election, it is pretty certain that there will be plenty who feel that they are on the losing end.