The British Hospitality Association (BHA) and Association of Licenced Multiple Retailers (ALMR) have agreed a merger that will see the creation of UKHospitality, a new association representing 700 operators across 65,000 sites.
The decision was approved by members of both associations at an extraordinary general meeting held yesterday and led by former ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls (pictured), who will take the helm of the new body.
Commenting after the vote, Nicholls said: "The hospitality sector is at a critical point, with fantastic innovation, dynamism and enthusiasm across the industry, however this is being jeopardised by significant cost increases and red-tape. The incredible member support for creating UKHospitality demonstrates our ambition to reshape the future of an industry, which represents 10% of UK employment and generates £38bn of tax for the exchequer.
"I look forward to working closely with all members to achieve our vision and to give a sector of huge economic, cultural and social importance the voice it deserves within government, and to deliver the much-needed policies that will support its strong growth trajectory."
Current BHA chair and Merlin Entertainments chief executive Nick Varney, will chair UK Hospitality, with Steve Richards of Casual Dining Group taking the position of deputy chair. Ufi Ibrahim, Chief Executive of the British Hospitality Association, has decided to pursue other interests after eight successful years with the organisation.
All current BHA and ALMR employees will join the new organisation, which is likely to be based at a new London site.
Varney said: "The launch is a significant moment for our sector. The hospitality industry needs the right commercial environment in which to prosper. Our vibrant and dynamic sector has been overlooked in policy decisions over recent years, which has had a direct impact on jobs and value creation."
Richards added: "We are today reiterating our call for a dedicated minister to represent an industry which is the third largest private sector employer in the UK; double the size of financial services and bigger than automotive, pharmaceuticals and aerospace combined. The sector's tax contribution is as big as the defence budget, and warrants focused attention from government. Kate and the team have an ambitious plan to secure the future of our industry and will be actively engaging on behalf of the sector at home and abroad."
Mike Woods, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Beer Group and MP for Dudley South, and Marcus Jones, former pubs minister commented: "This merger is a welcome, positive step to create a powerful body to speak authoritatively for a sector that generates over £130bn in turnover and employs nearly 3m people. Such a significant part of the UK's economy deserves a trade body with the capacity to promote the fantastic work being done across the UK. Kate is a great champion for hospitality and has extensive experience of working with Parliamentarians to highlight the opportunities and challenges being faced by businesses. I am pleased to see hospitality uniting behind a common cause and I look forward to continuing my work with Kate and UKHospitality."
The new body has said it has three clear objectives: firstly, creating a tax system which is fit for purpose, reflects the realities of business in the 21st century and allows a level playing field for high street and community-based businesses, which now compete with online companies; secondly, a regulatory regime which allows the hospitality sector to focus on growth rather than red tape and finally, to develop the hospitality workforce of the future.
An English graduate from Cambridge University, Nicholls spent three years early in her career working in the government relations department at Whitbread. She has since worked for the Westminster Licensees Association and the Council of Property Search Organisations before taking on the role of strategic affairs director at the ALMR in 2011. She was appointed chief executive in 2014.
The proposed Board of UKHospitality would include: Wendy Bartlett of Bartlett Mitchell; Steve Cassidy of Hilton; Grant Hearn of Amaris Hospitality; Bob Ivell of M&B; Simon Jones of Premier Inn; Dermot King of Bourne Leisure; Peter Marks of The Deltic Group; Ranjit Mathrani of Masala World; Calum Ross of Loch Melfort; Robin Rowland, Yo Sushi; Alex Salussolia of Glendola Leisure; Damian Walsh of CGA; and Paul Wigham of All Our Bars.
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