It’s lucky for hoteliers Brand UK remains so strong
It’s lucky for hoteliers Brand UK remains so strong
03 JUNE 2019 7:28 AM

In the race to spiral downwards, United Kingdom politicians are overachieving even for themselves, with European Union elections and a new battle to become prime minister producing more noise to settle on the heads of a very grumpy population. Luckily, the brand that is Britain seems never to have been stronger.

United Kingdom hoteliers at the recent Hotel Operations Conference in London underlined their resilience that has become as important a skill to add to the curriculum vitae as experience in revenue management or sales and marketing.

Those responsible for staffing spoke of widening their nets to make sure all future talent comes their way, and they added that things such as offering support, being nurturing, keeping close tabs on other industries and workplace initiatives and forums are critical to making any one particular firm the place employees want to be.

Operators spoke of improving relationships and best practices among all stakeholders to both improve the product and the bottom line.

This was all encouraging to hear, but a little seed in me suggested that this is the type of talk needed when backs are against the wall.

Fortunately for the U.K. Brand Britain—call it what you will—remains very strong. Monarchy, tradition, the Loch Ness Monster, London, quirky inhabitants, legends and folklore, Rowan Atkinson, Bath, red buses, black cabs, The Rolling Stones, green fields, Edinburgh, fish n’ chips, whisky, Stonehenge, Stratford-upon-Avon, Kate Bush … the list continues.

Which is just as good as our politicians are doing hoteliers and probably nearly everyone else absolutely no favors.

Hoteliers often speak about sustainability, and it is high time politicians listened to them.

On 23 May, the U.K. took part in European Union elections, a vote we did not think we were supposed to take part in, but the inability to conclude a deal to affect a divorce from the EU, that is, Brexit, meant we all trooped off to the ballot box.

Well, 37% of us in the U.K. did, which despite the noise generated by all things Europe in the last few years is actually 1.52% fewer people than voted in the same elections in 2004, and only 1.4% more than in the last EU election in 2014.

Then on the very next day—before we even knew the results—Theresa May, the prime minister, said she is to step down on 7 June, coincidentally after the visit here of U.S. President Donald Trump.

On 26 June, the results of the EU election (all EU member results are largely announced on the same day despite them taking place over four different days in the same week) showed that the ruling Conservative party and the main opposition party, Labor, were trounced by either Leave or Remain parties.

So, the indecisive parties were crushed by parties sitting on either side of a huge chasm.

The U.S. also seems to me to be a country where the politicians cannot do too much damage to the brand that is Brand USA, which, like as with the U.K., is testament to a lot of hard work in terms of culture, hospitality and welcome.

These advantages we cannot assume will always be present. For one thing, Scotland is looking with passion again at an independence referendum, certainly after almost unanimously seeing pro-Remain support dominate in the EU elections.

According to the government’s own statistician, the office for National Statistics, the number of overseas visitors to the U.K. dropped 3% in 2018 compared with 2017. That is still 37.9 million visitors.

Somewhat humorously, 71.7 million Brits left the country for visits overseas in 2018, which is more than one trip per inhabitant, although that also was a 1% decrease compared with 2017.

And add to all the noise in the U.K., there is now a bruising battle to replace May as PM. Whoever does win faces all the same problems—a bitterly divided government, a bitterly divided Parliament, a bitterly divided populace and an EU that is throwing its hands in the air and saying this is a British problem, not one for them considering they have come up with a deal they would support but will not change.

That might change if the arguments continue and the country heads to the end of October with no deal.

“No deal” is regarded as being a disaster-in-waiting, one some politicians I suspect are sanguine enough to take just to be happy to sit back and see what the outcome will be.

This leaves the country in more limbo, with hoteliers, investors, developers and lenders moving along, trying to strategize, carefully considering staffing and all manner of other issues with at least three plans in place: a Brexit plan, a no-deal plan and a second referendum plan with the bitterness that surely would follow that outcome.

The solution is for the British people to form more rock bands, find a new Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy, discover never-before-seen footage of The Beatles, develop some new, interesting, preferably undecipherable accents and organize more crazed, annual sporting fixtures such as rolling cheese down a hillside with resultant broken bones and a suitably strange, “worthless” prize such as a ceremonial twig of birch.

Email Terence Baker or find him on Twitter.

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