Hospitality Industry: New Growth Strategy Needed
A new strategy to unlock the hospitality and tourism industry’s job-creating potential must be developed, says Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive, British Hospitality Association.
“If there was one message that came out of the Hospitality and Tourism Summit, held earlier this month, it was that there is overarching concern that the present government is not listening to the country’s wealth creators,” she says.
“The BHA must now focus on ensuring that a new strategy is developed so that the industry’s growth potential – in jobs and investment – is fully realised and is not held back by barriers that could be removed and which would hugely advantage not only the industry but the UK economy overall.”
She said that the BHA was now following up with all speakers and delegates at the Summit to trawl opinion on the focus of the new strategy before the association took it forward.
“The BHA’s role is clear. With ever-widening industry support we must lead opinion so that government fully understands the critically important role that hospitality and tourism plays in the UK economy.
“At present, there is a lot of government talk about supporting the industry, but very little action.
“We must quickly gather together all the industry’s forces to ensure that there is a real change in government attitudes and policies, so that action follows.”
At the Summit, over 500 delegates were united in consensus on the need for industry and government partnership to ensure that the hospitality and tourism industry’s job-creating potential was fully realised.
Ms Ibrahim said that many speakers emphasised the fact that tourism was a rapidly changing global industry, with more destinations opening up every year.
“It is not just the number of competing destinations which continues to grow; the nature of competition is also fast changing. The UK cannot compete without greater government understanding of the competitive barriers that are holding back growth. More important, those barriers must be broken down. At present, the industry is just fighting to maintain its share of the market, with little hope of significant growth,” she said.
“Government must listen to the people who create the country’s wealth because they have to deal with the UK tourism’s lack of competitiveness. This is the biggest barrier to creating jobs in the industry – jobs at all levels, for men and women of all ages, throughout the country.
“The BHA will be taking this message to Whitehall as we develop the new industry-wide strategy for growth.”
Among the major points highlighted at the Summit:
- Hospitality and tourism must be prioritised by government as one of the key drivers of the UK economy, not only in words but in actions. John Penrose MP, Minister for Tourism, admitted there was “a long way to go”.
- These actions include reducing VAT, easing visa controls, making a timely decision on much-needed airport infrastructure, and reducing the negative impact of regulations – all in order to drive Britain’s competitiveness and to stimulate the growth of hospitality and tourism jobs.
- The domestic market is also affected by global competition. With a weakening Euro and strengthening pound, foreign exchange movements are currently working against the UK as an inbound and domestic market. This compounds the difficulties of the present 20 per cent rate of UK VAT on hotel accommodation and visitor attractions which is higher than in all but three other EU member states.
- Government spends money on promoting Britain overseas, but it spends similar amounts of money on keeping visitors out through tight tourist visa controls.
- England is the best debating chamber the world has ever produced – but government seems unable to act. We need decisive leadership.
- Other countries – USA, Mexico and China in particular – are looking for faster, higher, stronger hospitality and tourism growth. New strategic partnerships are being formed (and in some cases chaired by the head of government) bringing together policy-makers, industry and other key stakeholders to focus on agreed targets, timelines and assigned roles and responsibilities. The UK has to compete in an increasingly competitive and rapidly changing world market place.
- Britain is one of the top ten world tourism destinations but cannot be satisfied with its present position. It must raise its game in the international tourism arena. There is no room for complacency.
- Industry needs to get behind the British Hospitality Association and back a single and unified strategy which embraces coherent, definite, measurable and achievable targets for the industry. Rather than directing these messages to ‘government’, actions should be assigned to specific policy-makers, thereby personalising the implementation of the strategy and enabling the industry to hold policy-makers accountable for much-needed change.
- The need for partnership between the public and private sector is paramount, as well as between different sectors of the hospitality and tourism industry; many industry bodies should be amalgamated.
- The many sectors of the industry – hotels, restaurants, attractions, travel and transport, member clubs, events, meetings, sport, theatre, the arts and heritage – should work together towards a common aim: creating UK jobs.
- The industry offers huge potential for job creation – particularly with regard to work placements and apprenticeships – but best practice in employment must be shared throughout the industry. ‘The Big Conversation for Hospitality’ event on 11 July 2012, will be the first, industry-wide, step toward advancing job creation, particularly for 18 to 24 year olds.