Hospitality bosses fear election uncertainty

05 May 2015 by
Hospitality bosses fear election uncertainty

A majority of chief executives in the hospitality sector fear that uncertainty around the 2015 General Election result will negatively impact business this year.

That's according to a new survey conducted by high level recruitment firm Heidrick & Struggles, in association with the British Hospitality Association (BHA).

The report captured the views of 42 UK-based hospitality chief executives and leaders from companies including Elior, Fuller's Marriott, Spirit pub company, Travelodge, Whitbread and Yo! Sushi.

The hospitality bosses view the state of the economy as stable, with 72% of participants positive about the outlook for growth.

Meanwhile, 67% of CEOs predicted moderate or significant growth for their own companies over the next 12 months.

But a majority of leaders said they feared that the uncertainty about the 2015 election result could negatively impact business this year.

One CEO, who remained anonymous, said: "Were it not for the election, I would be very optimistic about my business's changes this year", while another worries that "no real result" was as bad as the "wrong result".

Another added: "The media has a huge role to play here… as a business our worry is a result that the media decides is wrong, spooking our customers into slowing their spending."

As things stand, it appears that no party will win an outright majority, with the BBC's poll of polls from 2 May putting the Conservatives on 34%, Labour on 33%, UKIP on 14%, the Lib Dems on 8%, the Greens on 5%, and other parties on 6%.

Consumer confidence

The survey also showed that in general, there continued to be concerns about consumer confidence, which is seen as a major challenge in the UK economy.

This fear appeared to affect businesses both big and small. A significant 38% of leaders were concerned that confidence is declining, although 54% felt that optimism would improve over the next 12 months.

Several CEOs spoke about consumers being more selective and while they are still spending money, they are increasingly focused on rewarding good food and good service.

One CEO said: "Confidence will stay neutral until consumers believe costs will stay low" and that "even with fuel prices declining and low interest rates, consumers aren't loosening their purse strings…we're not in boom time!"

While the majority saw business performance as the same, somewhat better or much better than the year before, they pointed to a challenging post-Christmas 2014 and also highlighted the difference between London and the South East and the rest of the country.

Another CEO also spoke specifically about the differences in performance between the stellar tier 2 locations like Bristol and Sheffield, and tier 3 areas like Scunthorpe or Milton Keynes.

What keeps CEOs awake at night

When it came to what keeps CEOs in the hospitality sector awake at night, it was the threat of a terrorist attack and the impact this would have on business that topped the poll at 22%.

Commercial performance ranked joint second at 17% along with "national political" considerations, while talent issues came in fourth at 13%.

Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association said: "As the country's fourth largest employer, biggest contributor to new jobs over the past five years, and one of the greatest conduits to spreading wealth across the entire country, the incoming government needs to step up to the plate and effectively serve our 3 million strong workforce. Ensuring a conducive policy environment to support the hospitality and tourism industry is not ‘rocket science'. It just needs commitment, leadership and a government that works with our private sector, rather than against it."

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