During the same three years in which it seems that all the U.K. has done is shoot itself in the foot over Brexit, the hotel and hospitality sector has worked diligently to get the industry noticed and the ear of government. That slog came to fruition on 28 June, and we can all be positive that it has.
You would think from much of the press that over the past three years the United Kingdom slowly slipped into a Slough of Despond of its own making.
I have been responsible for a tiny speck of that noise, but deep down I always take hope from the phrase “this, too, shall pass,” an adage that has been attributed to Lee Hays, the American folk singer, former U.S. president Abraham Lincoln and a slew of Sufi poets and Buddhist teachers.
So it was refreshing to hear speaker after speaker speaking positively and of positivity at the 25 June UKHospitality Summer Conference held in London.
Kate Nicholls, CEO of UKHospitality, spoke energetically of the upcoming new sector deal for U.K. hospitality.
This deal—which will put hospitality, including hotels, very much in the government’s economic and strategic thinking and give it a louder voice in discussions on how the country moves forward—was announced on 28 June, but even though there were only three days between the conference and the announcement, no one still was sure if tourism/hospitality would be among the 10 chosen industries.
I guess no one was feeling 100% positive, but it does feel now that sunnier days are ahead, especially with UKHospitality putting so much work in its first year into lobbying government on behalf of hotels, restaurants and bars.
“This year marks the 100th birthday of (hotel firm) Hilton, and UKHospitality is only one, but we feel it is a very big one,” Nicholls said, positively.
Nicholls added that she believed “the government is going out of its way to support hospitality, which it has picked out as a winner.”
“When it comes out with a piece of legislation, I know I have a stick to go back to them with and to say, ‘how will that (legislation) help growth in our industry?’” she said.
Now the industry can take the “is” out of that sentence and replaced it with a “has.”
And read slowly these two utterances from London-based Thomas Dubaere, COO, Northern Europe, and managing director, U.K. and Ireland, at Accor: “Two things I really keep at heart: The U.K. is full of resilience, and the U.K. is constantly rebooting.
“(The U.K.’s) supply is increasing at a lower rate than demand, and there are more and more investors who are far savvier in the hotel industry. They know what they want, and they are helping us get there,” Dubaere said.
Nicholls, who said the U.K. hospitality sector now has the arsenal to help government and industry make the U.K. the world’s No. 1 destination for business events by 2025, underlined her group’s major policy pushes:
- secure a Brexit deal that delivers for future workforce and supply needs;
- champion the High Street through root-and-branch reforms of rates to make it fit for a digital economy and so that everyone pays their fair share;
- boost productivity by doubling the National Insurance Contribution threshold to take the lowest paid out of tax and support job creation and investment in people;
- foster responsible business practices and investment through tax and regulation reform; and
- endorse the U.K.’s innovative, inspirational sector deal to develop home-grown skills and reduce unnecessary costs.
More positivity emerged the day before the summer conference when it was announced that the government’s Home Secretary Sajid Javid had ordered a review of the bottom limit of the £30,000 per-year salary threshold for immigrants.
Hotels would be severely challenged to have all its employees earn that amount.
“Challenge MPs to do a skills test, for when they say ‘low skill,’ they might mean all of the hospitality industry, and as we know, some roles are highly skilled,” Nicholls thundered.
Sir Martin Sorrell, executive chairman of advertising and marketing firm S4 Capital, was the keynote speaker at the summer conference.
One point he made was that companies do well for three reasons—brilliant management, sensibly cutting costs, and going where the growth is. He added that it is folly to fight change and intelligent to embrace it, and that lobbying usually is defensive, whereas business has to proactive.
I think the U.K. hotel industry now stands facing a horizon in which the thickets have been cleared. The industry has at long last been spotted by government.
The next step is ours.
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