Pressure needed on government to create tourism chief
Pressure needed on government to create tourism chief
26 OCTOBER 2020 7:00 AM

Hoteliers in the U.K. have often felt short-changed as to representation in government, despite the excellent work of many Members of Parliament, with COVID-19 creating even more emphasis on the need for a minister of tourism.

The Bristol Hoteliers Association, which represents the hotel industry in the city of Bristol and surroundings, is the latest body to ask for a government ministry to be formed that directly focuses on hotels as its core mission.

It has long been a bone of contention to hoteliers that the hotel industry represents so much of gross domestic product and employment in the United Kingdom but yet is shepherded in government circles by a junior ministry position, the parliamentary under-secretary of state for arts, heritage and tourism within the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Note that the department does not include the words “tourism” or “hotels.”

The holder of the parliamentary under-secretary position is Nigel Huddleston, Member of Parliament for Mid Worcestershire, who before his political career took off used to be industry head of travel at Google.

I used to see Huddleston at hotel industry events, and he is interesting, civil and capable. No doubt he would be an excellent Minister of Tourism & Hotels (I am making his new title up), but do not hold your breath.

Ministries are extremely expensive things to form, as they need premises, more staff, larger budgets and the like.

The BHA’s written position is that “it’s so important for (the hotel industry’s) voice to be heard because hospitality businesses are always among the first to be shut down, when more attention should perhaps be focused on other sectors, such as universities.”

Yes, I am singling one paragraph from the letter, which accompanies a petition with approximately 20,000 signatures, but the idea that a ministry could be formed suddenly and which will immediately decide to open up all the pubs and hotels and let them all get on with it is, again, not going to happen.

The industry does need to keep pressing home the importance of it to the economy, and the BHA’s efforts are sterling ones to heap on a little more pressure.

I heard Pete Seeger, the late American musician, saying between songs that the way history changes is, in effect, by having more people continually putting weight on one seat of the seesaw.

The struggle looks long, daunting and thankless, and then suddenly, without the opposition realizing how, the seesaw seat high in the air starts gently dropping as the tipping point is reached.

That is what the industry needs to keep on doing then, especially in this hideous time when publicans and hoteliers seem to have been saddled with a lot of the blame for COVID-19’s spread.

Pubs here in the U.K. must close at 10 p.m. now, not 11 p.m., but no one seems to believe that 60 minutes less of socializing is going to turn around coronavirus cases.

Email Terence Baker or find him on Twitter.

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