Tourism minister Helen Grant has launched a Tourism Council in an effort to bring together the hospitality sector and government and boost the image of the industry.
Chaired jointly by Grant, Minister for skills and enterprise Matthew Hancock and Hilton Worldwide EMEA president Simon Vincent, the council will meet quarterly to discuss how best to promote hospitality and tourism both to potential guests and the next generation of employees.
Speaking to Caterer, Grant said: "The sector makes a huge contribution to the UK economy and we want that to continue. I think listening to people who are at the coal face is a very important part of that process of assisting. They can tell us what the challenges are and what's working and not working."
Grant added that she was determined to continue the skills agenda in terms of jobs and apprenticeships. "For me it's becoming a mission to dispel the myth that the sector is about starter jobs," she said. "It isn't. The make up of the people on our panel prove it. That's what I want young people to know."
Vincent added that it was a unique opportunity to put tourism at the heart of government policy. "We as an industry have been crying out to be heard by government. This is a really positive initiative. We have to seize the opportunity.
Vincent said that an agenda for the council had not yet been set, but that it would concentrate on reinforcing the UKs position on the world stage.
He added: "I plan to represent the industry and find a common agenda on those issues that will have the most impact.
"The council will target realistic goals. We are a year away from a general election and have 12 months to make an impact. We have no financial jurisdiction. We're here to represent the UK as a great place to come on holiday and experience British hospitality."
Council member BHA chief executive Ufi Ibrahim said the industry deserved to have a position at the heart of government.
"All credit to Helen Grant for listening," she said. "We can drive forward job creation and help to equip thousands of people in this country with the skills required for a growing industry."
Other council members include Whitbread managing director Patrick Dempsey, Intercontinental Hotels Group chief operating officer for the UK Stephen McCall and VisitEngland chairman Penelope, Viscountess Cobham.