Hotel industry employment will fundamentally change as a result of the pandemic, with further emphasis on whether hospitality is a worthwhile career choice.
The essence that hotel and hospitality leaders are doing all they can to balance health and economic requirements was made very clear at the hybrid HOSPA conference that was beamed live last Thursday from London’s The Royal Lancaster London hotel.
One of those leaders due to speak was Kate Nicholls, CEO of industry lobbyist UKHospitality, but she was called away for talks with government ministers.
I think the new jargon is she was at the coalface, which is an odd analogy considering today few people use that fuel, but that is neither here nor there.
Nicholls, however, did provide a video Q&A on the state of the United Kingdom’s hotel industry.
One of her messages was that the industry needs to be ready for when demand returns by being more creative with how employment and careers in the industry look going forward.
More flexibility—when we do get back to something resembling normal—will be needed with work hours, job sharing, career opportunities and who enters the industry at all.
One development that might help is that many hotels and employees have played critical roles in their communities during the pandemic. Those roles are not as stressful as working the front line of a hospital, for instance, but they have been seen by communities, guests and others as often vitally important, and that bodes well for our future.
Nicholls said the industry needs to keep working on making hotel jobs and careers pass the “Mum’s Test”—that is, why should a mother sanction and encourage her sons and daughters to choose a career in hotels and hospitality?
She added that hotels and hospitality are the largest employer in areas and regions that had the greatest push for summer staycations this year. Rural and seaside locations were jammed this summer, and the industry has a larger voice in the entire nation as a result.
COVID-19 has made guests realize how much they treasure hospitality.
Nicholls said the industry occupies three chairs around the cabinet table, three critical voices that have backed up the industry, even if there is as yet no Minister of Tourism, or some such label, that would directly be dedicated to hotels and the like.
She also said a number of the new members of Parliament elected in the General Election of last year represent newly won Conservative Party seats in the so-called Red Wall of traditionally Labor Party-supporting constituencies, with many of these locations employing a great number of hotel and hospitality staff.
All in all, the industry in the U.K. might not have been as powerful as it is now, and now is the time to flex those muscles.
Nicholls continued with her assertion that the U.K. does not have a skills shortage in regards to the hospitality industry, but a labor shortage amid a climate of high employment and caps on international employees.
Hoteliers need to demonstrate more than ever that the industry can provide interesting, fun careers, Nicholls said. If they do not, labor will come back to bite them again. Added to that, the industry has lost so many good people because of the pandemic, so it is important hoteliers keep them connected with the industry or lose them permanently.
Added to that, she said she believed employees will demand a different way of work, a different form of contract; indeed, the types of work and contractual practices have been principal barriers keeping many from coming in.
As for Nicholls’ own Christmas, she is hoping for the entire industry that when the current lockdowns end on 2 December, guests will be allowed to travel among regions.
That is also important for her, with a home in London but a Mum—presumably one who knowns the importance of passing the Mum’s Test—in County Durham far to the north of England, who she desires to see, as do so many families wishing to see their own loved ones over the holidays.
“My mum’s house is too small for me to stay there, so I do need to stay in a hotel, too. I hope we see a lifting of restrictions for the whole month, not just the five days (around Christmas Day) some have spoken of,” she said.
“Then we can start preparing for the New Year and recovery,” she added.
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