A chorus of approval

10 May 2013
A chorus of approval

An abundance of industry bodies can mean a cacophony of opinions, but it seems that the majority of our voices sing a similar tune, says Peter Hancock

The hotel and catering industry is served by a very large number of associations, trade bodies, institutes, guilds, charities and academies whose lists of supporters often overlap, for the best of reasons.

It is frequently argued in the pages of Caterer and Hotelkeeper that there are too many of these organisations, and that our industry would be better able to speak with one voice if there were fewer, notwithstanding the British Hospitality Association, which is uniquely placed to represent the whole industry.

I must now declare an interest, because I work for Pride of Britain Hotels, a consortium that revels in its idiosyncrasies and has no ambition to expand or wipe out its competitors. When our stakeholders get together my task is compared with the art of herding cats, a challenging but not impossible role so long as most of the cats (or, in our case, lions) can travel in the same general direction.

This has made me a bit of a connoisseur of association management, and so I recently watched with interest while attending another gathering of senior hoteliers who were asked to contribute ideas to ensure that their club remains fit for purpose in years to come.

For once I was glad to be a mere bystander as the job of sticking those views into a workable plan of action required the diplomacy of Ban Ki-moon. For every progressive suggestion, someone had a compelling argument against change. For every conservative suggestion, someone had a persuasive case for being radical. The lesson was that leaving things alone is the easiest thing to do, even when everyone knows that change is 
necessary to keep the show on the road.

Perhaps the best thing about being a small organisation is the freedom to adapt to new circumstances, while the downside is having a relatively small voice. I have concluded that our rich and varied mix of hospitality industry bodies is a good thing, and if their members share similar opinions on the major issues, we have not one, but dozens of voices calling out the same message: "Cats, this way!"

Peter Hancock is chief executive of Pride of Britain

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