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What the government needs to do now to support the UK’s fourth-largest industry

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What the government needs to do now to support the UK’s fourth-largest industry

We need to ensure hospitality keeps growing at its current astonishing rate, says Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association

All of us who work in hospitality and tourism have long expected that our industry is growing at a phenomenal rate – and now we have the figures to prove it.

A report by Ignite Economics has confirmed that the hospitality industry’s  contribution to the UK economy has grown faster than any  other sector since the economic downturn in 2008 and it predicts that more than 500,000 new jobs could be created in hospitality in the next five years. This is staggering.

Look at our success so far. Last year hospitality and tourism provided £161b to  the total economy, £15b in exports and £38b in direct tax receipts. We employ 4.6  million people directly and indirectly, making us the UK’s fourth-largest industry.

This means about 17% – that’s nearly one in five – of all jobs in the UK is now related to the hospitality and tourism sector. The jobs are spread around the  country with hospitality ranking as a top-six employer in every region of the UK.

And we can do so much more.

Labour-intensive industries appear to be out of vogue with the current  government, but they provide a key role in job creation and in preventing significant socio-economic issues associated with high levels of unemployment.

In the current climate of economic uncertainty, it is more important than ever to promote industries with strong economic fundamentals.

The industry is the front door to the UK and is essential for ensuring that the UK  remains open for business. Hospitality and tourism is the best way to directly  market and demonstrate the excellence of the UK as a product; our services and intellectual capital; and as a welcoming, open destination of choice. Every sector  of the UK – whether it’s financial services, manufacturing or the creative  industries – depends on the industry’s ability to facilitate, host and cater for existing and new business.

What we need is for the government to step up and support the UK’s fourth- largest industry by reducing tourism VAT; to work with us to reduce the dependence on EU workers and increase the number of UK workers joining the industry; to allow the Low Pay Commission to set the national living wage; and to bring forward the review of business rates.

With the right strategic support, economic stability and access to labour,  hospitality and tourism can continue to grow and become a career of choice for more and more people.

DUP deal could provide VAT campaign boost
The general election result provides new opportunities for our industry and it  was announced that, as part of the Conservative- DUP deal, a detailed  consultative report will be commissioned into the impact of tourism VAT on  Northern Ireland. This is great news for the campaign, which has gone from strength to strength, particularly in the past few years.

The BHA will be working closely with the Cut Tourism VAT campaign to lead the industry’s representations and will continue to engage with politicians across the UK on this matter. Reducing tourism VAT would be a lifeboat to thousands of  hospitality and tourism business, and allow the UK to compete on a more even  playing field.

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