Interviews

General election 2015: Welsh Rarebits Collection co-owner Mike Morgan – I'm voting as...

7 min read

06 May 2015

Former editor

Mike Morgan is a business leader who wants the next government to take the tourism sector more seriously, and gives us his suggestions on how this can be done ahead of tomorrow's general election.

Our “I’m voting as…” series is coming to an end today, and our second to last interview features a Welsh business that is set to celebrate a historic anniversary this year.

Who are you and what does your business do?

I’m Mike Morgan, a director and co-owner of the Welsh Rarebits Collection – which is an exclusive group of luxury accommodation in Wales. The Collection ranges from top-of-the-range spa hotels, to intimate bolt holes, chic hideaways and stunning restaurants with rooms.

I have also been running my own hotel, Llansantffraed Court, located in Abergavenny, for the past 20 years. This means I have a strong understanding of the concerns and challenges facing the hoteliers belonging to the Collection.

How has your business changed over the last five years?

With the influence of online travel agents and third party channels promoting discounted travel and accommodation, our margins have been eroded. User generated content is key to engaging with our markets, and social media allows us all to be more responsive and nimble in developing quality.

Due to the high-end nature of our hotels, however, we’ve chosen to focus on increasing our profit potential through maintaining a high standard of luxury and providing something more bespoke. We advise our members, where possible, to avoid constant discounting as it can devalue the experience and the individual nature of our offering.

We take pride in offering a full Welsh experience to visitors who stay in our properties. Our hoteliers recognise the importance of sourcing and providing local and sustainable products where possible for guests, ranging from food and drink to toiletries.

What are your growth plans for the next five years?

This year, we celebrate 30 years of Welsh Rarebits and 21 years of the Great Little Places arm of the Collection.

We’ve gathered together a unique and strong offering for travellers coming to the country, via the main Collection as well as our sister brands. We’ve become well known for providing a true Welsh “Croeso” and have been consistently supportive of local suppliers and businesses. The next five years are all about bringing the entire Collection, our advice, local knowledge and products and services closer together to make it as easy as possible for visitors to be able to access and enjoy a truly unique experience of Wales.

What kind of government would you like to see elected?

I would like to see an elected government that recognises the importance of tourism to our economy. No party has included tourism in its party manifesto, and the movement of people coming in to the UK is only spoken about in terms of immigration. 

The Welsh government does recognise tourism within its enterprise, science and technology portfolio, but I would like to see this replicated on a UK-wide scale.

We are struggling to compete with European countries at the moment, as it is cheaper to go on holiday to Spain than it is to stay and holiday in Britain as they all have lower VAT rates, and we are not competing on a level playing field. A reduction in the VAT on tourism to 5 per cent, for example, would allow to compete on quality instead of price with the rest of Europe, and give us the chance to really show what our country has to offer.

MPs have started talking about tourism, but this is predominantly seen on a very local level, and we need to see this replicated throughout all levels of government.

Read other “I’m voting as…” features:

Do you think government in general is doing enough to support businesses of your size?

Not really. I think the hospitality sector has the potential to provide a solid career path for young people. With the right funding and assistance from the government we can offer a positive alternative route to university study.

Within the next government, I would like to see the legislation and regulations that hoteliers have to adhere to reduced. I would also like to see greater and easier access to funding for industry apprenticeships so that we can offer teenagers and young adults practical experience to sit alongside their academic learning.

Has the impending general election caused any uncertainty regarding how you run your company?

Not particularly; we’re expecting a coalition government and are prepared for whatever the outcome. As no party has included tourism in its manifesto, we’re not really expecting a major change to how we function as a business.

The Welsh Assembly government election, taking place next year, will be much more significant for us.

In one sentence, please finish this line: “I’m voting as…” 

I’m voting as a responsible, green-minded entrepreneur and I’m looking to support a sustainable and healthy tourism sector by placing my vote with a party that demonstrably understands and supports the hospitality industry.

Read more from our general election coverage:

Do you agree with Mike Morgan? Is there anything you’d like to add? Please let us know in the comments box below.