It has been my privilege to edit this edition of Caterer which marks the centenary of the British Hospitality Association. It is always difficult identifying the most significant issues that currently face the industry. Many of them - marketing, skills shortages, investment - have challenged us for as long as the BHA has been in existence. Yet there is one word which sums up the challenge we now all face: sustainability.
By this, I do not mean only environmental sustainability, although the industry has a major part to play in reducing its energy and water usage, and its carbon footprint. Energy prices will inevitably rise, while rising road and airport taxes may well succeed in deterring people from travelling. This will impact on operating costs and revenues.
We need to ensure that the industry remains economically sustainable. Investment needs to continue in order to meet growing customer demands and international competition. The real danger of Gordon Brown's misguided withdrawal of the Hotel Buildings Allowance is that it will deter investment in our provincial towns and rural areas, where business is less buoyant than in major cities.
We also need to be aware of the need for social sustainability. Here, the industry is an example to the nation. Hospitality is one of the most cosmopolitan of all industries and we have welcomed into it people of all nationalities and faiths. The result has been great social harmony. Yet, we cannot expect eastern Europe to continue to supply the industry with large numbers of workers we have to grow our own labour by training British people in British colleges.
In my opinion, this is the greatest challenge of all. It will certainly be the most difficult to meet and overcome in the future.
Bob Cotton, chief executive, British Hospitality Association