Tomorrow’s Tourism, an 80-page document looking at the future of tourism, was launched at the beginning of March. At the heart of the document is a 15-point action plan, including proposals such as setting up a new national body; a new grading scheme for all hotels and guesthouses; and more Government support for the regions.
The new national body has yet to be drawn up or named, but it replaces the present English Tourist Board. The budget for spending in the regions is about £9.7m per annum.
RECENTLY I was offered, and with alacrity accepted, an award for which the citation read “for services to tourism and the catering industry”.
Given that I have worked and studied in catering for 44 years, albeit within staff canteens, oil rigs, hospitals and schools, I can – with due modesty – understand the industry a bit. But tourism leaves me confused.
Agreed, I have never missed a day’s holiday, I have been to Majorca many times and have a predilection for theatres, restaurants and generally enjoying the benefits of key British tourist attractions, but I never realised that these pursuits were worthy of a citation.
The truth of course is that the hospitality industry (hotel, catering and restaurants and institutional management to the older among you) is now deemed by those in power to be the tourism and leisure industry.
So what? I hear you ask.
At last we have a Government that is listening, a minister who cares, a secretary of state who has heard of us, and a strategy for our industry.
So in my view, it matters a lot. If we can’t define accurately what we are, who can? And if the Government is reinforced in its misconception, by the puppy-dog approach of some of our industry bodies so desperate for recognition, that for hospitality you should read tourism and leisure – then God help us.
The situation was highlighted recently at the breakfast launch of Let’s Make it First Choice, an excellent initiative to attract young people into the hospitality industry, where the minister for tourism, leisure and film, the impressive Janet Anderson, told the assembled multitude the benefits of tourism and leisure to the national economy, using statistics relevant essentially to the whole of hospitality.
There were two films showing both negative and positive aspects of our industry, which exclusively featured hotels and one zoo. This was followed by speakers solely from the hotel sector – the tourism myth was again reinforced.
Does it matter? I hear you say. The answer is a resounding “yes”.
If we present ourselves as just the glamorous tourist industry it is not surprising that not-very-useful college courses in tourism and leisure are over-subscribed, and courses for hotel catering studies have falling applications and a massive number of dissatisfied and misinformed students.
The fact that university syllabuses are moving away from vital craft skills towards more and more academic rhubarb is not surprising.
Good employment practice
The paradox is that good employment practice and sustained job opportunity is more likely in those sectors of the hospitality industry not involved in tourism and leisure.
Work in contract catering, hospitals and schools generally offers more job security, training and promotion than the fragmented tourist-related sector, and employs 49% of hospitality workforce.
While it might suit the department of tourism, leisure and sport to box us off, it misleads and misinforms the world as to the reality of this business and its needs.
Tourism: a combination of parts
Clearly tourism is a vital source of income to the exchequer, but it is not truly an industry. It is a combination of the parts of many industries, including, in fairness, a significant part of the hospitality industry.
The truth is that tourism is more a subset of hospitality than the reverse.
If, as we are led to believe, we are being offered joined-up Government with inter-departmental co-operation, it is totally incumbent on the hospitality industry to present a joined-up, well-defined industry so that we can demand not only recognition, but action.
Action on better and relevant training and education, action for saner licensing laws, action on fairer food prices and fuel costs, and action to demand less of the bureaucracy which curtails the entrepreneurial spirit that creates our success.
If hospitality is the business of the 21st century, let’s at least define it correctly and demand our due recognition. n
Garry Hawkes is chairman of contract caterer Gardner Merchant