Alan Parker, the incoming president of the British Hospitality Association, calls on the industry to stand together for mutual support
What's the purpose of a national trade association? Indeed, what's the purpose of the BHA? I believe its role is to champion the interests of the industry, to encourage government measures aimed at stimulating growth, and to advance the interests of its members. To do this, any association needs its industry behind it.
The BHA is currently working with government to review the red tape affecting every hospitality business in the country and the association is in charge of an industry-led group, which I'm chairing.
Certainly, if we have a mechanism, which we've never had before, by which we can influence the negative impact on the industry of the most onerous government rules and regulations, we should make full use of it. And that would help convince Whitehall that the industry is speaking with one powerful voice.
Yet, throughout my business life, I've been struck by the lack of understanding about how a trade association operates. Many businesses take the view that they will benefit anyway from what the association is able to reap, so what's the point of becoming a member and taking an active part?
Of course that's true. But if every business took that view, there would be no trade association and the government and other powerful agencies would just walk all over the industry. For example, we're currently holding the Prime Minister to account on his objectives for growing domestic demand for hospitality and to improve our international competitiveness.
We're also protecting the industry from legislation: we pushed for a voluntary approach to publishing calorie information on menus and we've successfully overcome legal challenges affecting the industry relating to PPL and PRS fees, the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme and the LOCOG/Thomas Cook issue.
All these actions by the BHA will benefit the entire industry not just BHA members. But what more could the association achieve if the entire hospitality industry was behind us, making an even more powerful voice?
This is a critical time, with new thinking in government, new ideas of public support for industry (and of withdrawing it), new legislation - in fact, a new political climate. All at a time of great economic peril. So the industry needs an organisation that has the membership and the resources to enable it to fight its corner with a lasting strength of purpose and reasoned argument, confident in the knowledge that it has the support of the entire industry behind it.
I urge businesses to provide that support so that the BHA can become an even more powerful voice for the industry.