The http://www.bha.org.uk/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">British Hospitality Association (BHA) has called on the Government to actively partner with the industry and recognise the economic contribution of hospitality to the country.
Having welcomed Prime Minister David Cameron's August speech in which he explained the importance of tourism, BHA chief executive Ufi Ibrahim said that now was the time to create the conditions in which the industry can succeed.
"We have the support, we give three big cheers for that, but now we need to act," she said. "We need to move forward to make some real changes and help our industry to have the context in which it is able to grow."
According to an Oxford Economics study, commissioned by the BHA, the industry is currently the fifth largest in the UK with 2.4 million employees and the potential to generate a further 236,000 jobs by 2015.
Ibrahim added: "The coalition Government talks about regeneration, rebalancing and spreading growth across the UK - hospitality is one of the fastest ways of achieving that. We want to say here is an industry that can lead economic growth and development, regeneration and a rebalancing of development across the UK."
To spell out what the industry has to offer the BHA has published a report, Creating Jobs in Britain - A Hospitality Economy Proposition, which emphasises how the Government can work in partnership with the industry to help drive economic recovery.
It calls on the Government to champion the hospitality economy by:
Holding regular meetings between the BHA and senior cabinet ministers.
â- Establishing a cross-cabinet committee for hospitality and tourism to coordinate policy.
â- Enhancing the visibility and reach of Britain as a tourism destination.
â- Supporting the UK's national tourism boards.
â- Inviting a hospitality presence on the Regional Growth Fund Advisory Panel.
â- Influencing Local Enterprise Partnerships to embrace hospitality and tourism as a key pillar of their economies.
The report also urges the Government to work with the industry to assess the impact of the rate of VAT on hotel accommodation, pointing out that there is a correlation between price and international competiveness.
"Our members completely understand the need to be able to tackle this huge deficit that we have," Ibrahim said. "But the UK will stand to lose incredible levels of competitiveness when the VAT levels go up to 20%."
The BHA suggests that a detailed study should be undertaken so that the Treasury has a tool to understand the effect of the rise and when to reverse the decision.
"What we are saying to government is that we understand that it is inevitable that this increase is going to go ahead. But let's be ready so that as soon as we can actually create a more competitive VAT rate, we can go ahead and do it," Ibrahim added.
KEY RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE BHA'S HOSPITALITY ECONOMY PROPOSITION
Government relations The creation of a cross-cabinet committee for hospitality and tourism and annual meetings between key cabinet ministers and leading BHA members.
VAT Conduct a study into the impact of the rate of VAT on hotel accommodation, given that the UK has one of the highest rates in Europe.
Visas Ease visa application procedures and make their cost more competitive.
REITS Allow hotels to operate within the framework of the Real Estate Investment Trusts.
Visitor experience Facilitate BHA members to train UK Border Agency staff in customer care.
Migration cap Scrap the introduction of a permanent cap on Tier 2 workers from outside the EU.
Tourist boards Secure the long-term future of the UK's national tourist boards to enable a greater level of commercial focus.
CREATING INDUSTRY COLLABORATION
The BHA is proposing a biannual hospitality, tourism and leisure leaders' conference to enhance dialogue between industry leaders and the government.
"We want to create a high level conference where our leaders can come together, share, learn and actually, perhaps, even do business together," Ibrahim explained. "It will create a platform where we can have a single vision moving forward."
The first conference will be planned for 2012 as part of the legacy of the Olympic Games and will recur every two years thereafter.
Ibrahim added: "This is something we have committed to doing. And we are already working with a wide net in terms of industry associations and government to encourage one of the biggest public private partnership opportunities in the UK."