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Viewpoint: UKHospitality, a new voice in Westminster

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Viewpoint: UKHospitality, a new voice in Westminster

The merger between ALMR and the BHA to make UKHospitality will create a representative for the whole industry, says Kate Nicholls

The creation of a new, powerful trade association through a merger of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) and the British Hospitality Association (BHA) is a watershed moment in the history of hospitality and paves the way for a strong, clear, united voice for our sector.

The hospitality sector is at a critical point, with its growth, innovation, sustained track record of job creation and overall dynamism being buffeted and jeopardised by significant cost increases, red tape and bureaucracy. The overwhelming member support for the creation of UKHospitality demonstrates widespread backing for our ambition to reshape the future of our great industry. This may sound somewhat grandiose, but it’s about the genuine ability to stage greater interventions when it matters with government over public policies that might benefit, impact or hurt our businesses.

As chief executive, I am determined to change this. For an industry as vital to the UK economy as hospitality, the third-largest private sector, generating £38b in tax for the Exchequer, it’s fair to say that, for whatever reasons, we have not been afforded a proportionate voice within government. It is interesting that, currently, when senior ministers wish to summon representatives of the business community to discuss a key issue, we tend to see the same four big groups heading into Downing Street: the Confederation of British Industry, the Federation of Small Business, the British Retail Consortium and manufacturers’ association the EEF.

Our ambition for UKHospitality is to be the fifth group ‘in the room’. With over 700 member companies, operating 65,000 venues in a sector that employs nearly three million people across the country, and which generates £130b – 5% of GDP – our scale cannot be ignored. Businesses operating in our sector need the right commercial environment in which to prosper and continue to grow, invest and innovate. Our voice will be heard loud and clear in Westminster. UKHospitality will ensure that the government has a full understanding of the social and economic impacts of policies such as the National Living Wage, business rates and Brexit.

The new association has three clear objectives: firstly, creating a tax system that is fit for purpose, one which reflects the realities of business in the 21st century and allows a level playing field for traditional high street and community-based operators which now compete with digital companies; secondly, a regulatory regime which allows the hospitality sector to focus on growth rather than red tape; and finally, developing the hospitality workforce of the future.

It’s on this final point that I am particularly passionate. By representing the full breadth of the hospitality sector, we will be able to showcase the range of career opportunities available for young people. It’s vital that, in the future, hospitality jobs pass the critical ‘mum and dad’ test: we need to convince parents that a job in hospitality will lead to a meaningful and successful career. Absolutely key to this will be developing an integrated strategy that allows us to unequivocally highlight the diversity and benefits of a career in hospitality in comparison to other sectors.

In addition to these aims, we are also reiterating our long-standing call for a dedicated minister to represent an industry which, through its scale and influence, demands focused attention from government.

The combination of the ALMR and BHA creates a dynamic association with strong technical expertise and counsel for members across a range of issues, allied to a lobbying function boasting a proven track record of engaging ministers and government departments to the benefit of all.

We are committed to working closely with all segments of our membership and have created separate groups to ensure that the grassroots interests and concerns of member companies are addressed. Allied to this, there will also be regional and various policy specific groups.

While there is a diversity of membership, we are a powerful union bound by many common themes and issues: tax equality, cost of labour and goods, property and planning, the consequences of Brexit and others. These are some of the big lever issues where the size and voice of UKHospitality will enable us to deliver meaningful change and policies that underpin our industry’s future momentum and success.

Kate Nicholls is chief executive of UKHospitality

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