Leading View: BHA Chief Exec, Ufi Ibrahim

A perfect storm is brewing: general election, economic recovery, visa reform, a new tourism council … But to drive change, the industry needs to stand together! We invite the BHA Chief Exec, Ufi Ibrahim, to guest write this issue’s “Leading View”.

NOTE: You can read Ufi’s Five Key Actions for 2014 here. This article was originally published in the Q3 2014 edition of Hotel Industry Magazine.

What a difference a year makes!

This time last year, the economic outlook was very different. Despite the overwhelming positivity of the post Olympic legacy, the UK was still in the grips of recession.

But even in the midst of doom and gloom, the hospitality and tourism industry stood apart from other sectors through its vision, foresight and ability to work collectively.

As the UK economy begins to experience the green shoots of recovery, now is a crucial time for our industry to step up and make good on the preparations for growth that were made in the tough times.

At the British Hospitality Association, we have long held the view that the best way to predict the future is to shape it.

As an industry we certainly have the talent, capability and incentive to create a strong and vibrant future. The question is how do we achieve it?

Hospitality and tourism has always had one eye on the future and one on the past and we are not afraid to communicate our views and beliefs and lobby the groups and individuals who need to hear us.

As an industry we learn from experience; we champion growth and we embrace change and innovation.

Most importantly we know and understand that the future of our industry depends on attracting, investing in and developing the future generation through job creation.

Collaborative Solutions

Our experience with the Olympic Games has taught us that working collaboratively to find solutions is a must. Divide and conquer and find solutions to the issues and challenges which stand in the way of economic growth and job creation.

We know that successful relationships are imperative and as politicians and mandarins gear up for the 2015 general election, now is the time for our leaders across the hospitality and tourism sphere to work collectively towards a shared vision, utilising joined-up thinking to future proof our industry.

Tourism Council

The newly-established Tourism Council, announced by Tourism Minister Helen Grant at the BHA’s 2014 Hospitality & Tourism Summit is the result of three years of lobbying work by the BHA.

The Council has been set up as a partnership between Government and industry that will focus on improving skills, increasing the quality and quantity of jobs available and boosting enterprise in the industry.

By establishing the Tourism Council, the Government is affording the hospitality and tourism industry an equivalent voice to other sectors, helping to drive forward the economy.

It is this kind of joined up thinking and action which will help to positively impact across our industry.

World Class Vision

Our vision at the BHA is for the UK hospitality and tourism industry to be recognised as world class, and the BHA’s key goal for the coming year is to deliver the change that matters most to the brands, owners and operators who have a vision for the strongest possible industry we can build.

Our key objectives focus on job creation, on global competitiveness, setting and maintaining high standards and innovation.

Underpinning all our work is the need and desire to inspire the next generation and attract talent towards hospitality and tourism careers.

It is no longer enough to expect that young people will naturally gravitate towards our industry.

We need to invest time and energy into finding appealing and relevant ways to attract new talent, showing them that careers in this sector can be rewarding and meaningful.

We have to find ways to demonstrate career paths which develop these stars of the future.

The BHA’s Big Hospitality Conversation with partners Springboard, DWP, the National Apprenticeship Service and a cohort of industry leaders including Whitbread plc, Moorfield Group, Baxter Storey and Ellerman Hotels is key.

It is continuing to establish hospitality and tourism on UK PLC’s agenda for growth, and the creation of 34,000 work placements, apprenticeships and jobs across 18 events is a good start.

If every one of the UK’s 180,000 hospitality businesses created just one job for a 16-24 year old, youth unemployment would be cut by a quarter.

So more needs to be done to widen the net and also to demonstrate that the industry can and does offer jobs of high quality and high value.

Global Competitiveness

Looking beyond the UK, the BHA continues to champion global competitiveness.

Last year saw some success in helping to simplify tourist visa applications for Chinese visitors by allowing a single application to cover both UK and Schengen requirements.

This year we have been lobbying relentlessly to cut VAT on hotel accommodation and tourist attractions to 5% in a bid to give Britain’s regions a helping hand.

The Sun, Britain’s best selling daily newspaper is backing the cause with Give Us a Break, a campaign highlighting how Chancellor George Osborne can give Britain’s hard pressed regions a bolster that will benefit everyone over the long term.

The campaign continues to attract thousands of industry supporters, encompassing industry bodies such as the BHA and BALPPA, to small B&Bs, family run attractions, zoos and major international brands.

If each hospitality business joined in our march towards shaping the future we would be unbeatable.

If each business rallied around our call for streamlined regulation, policies for growth and a competitive environment, there would be no stopping us!

Time for Action!

Our political capital has never been higher, and we must support the rebalancing of growth beyond London, driving exports, investment and jobs deep into local economies.

And so our message is simple: We will continue to create valuable jobs for the UK economy.

In return, we don’t want hand outs, but simply the recognition and understanding that tourism is a jobs and growth generator.

We want continued support to expand the Big Hospitality Conversation which creates work placements, job opportunities and apprenticeships for young people.

Hospitality and tourism is a major export industry and should be nurtured as such.

Improving visa access for tourists and business people alike is absolutely critical to allow more people into the country.

And that means we also need faster decision making on additional runway space.

We must also continue to ask for a lower rate of tourism VAT to compete in Europe on a level playing field.

These are the issues which matter to our industry.

NOTE: You can read Ufi’s Five Key Actions for 2014 here. This article was originally published in the Q3 2014 edition of Hotel Industry Magazine.

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