On 6 July, London was named host city for the Olympic Games in 2012. It was a wonderful moment as Sebastian Coe and his team triumphed, apparently against the odds, to win the necessary votes from the IOC. Paris, we had been reliably told, was miles ahead and a clear bookies' favourite.
The victory was sweet and the news welcomed from every quarter, particularly the hospitality industry, which stands to gain not only from the games but also from the considerable build-up. But while the victory offers great opportunities for tourism and hospitality, recent research from Sector Skills Council People 1st points out that the industry's well documented staff retention problems are getting worse. This is a worrying trend for the sector as it faces its greatest challenge.
The crisis, currently costing the sector 900m a year, is set to escalate to a whopping £6.2b a year by 2012. One of the main problems, according to People 1st, is the lack of training and career development given to staff, who become disillusioned and then leave the sector.
Just as with the athletes in pursuit of medals at the Olympics, training appears to be the key to better performance. It also has clear benefits for businesses, as improved retention rates lead to consistent standards and a better quality of service. It also removes the cost of recruiting and training new staff which, as People 1st's research shows, is a costly burden.
While the onus might be on employers to improve staff training, hospitality businesses could do worse than support their Sector Skills Council as generously as other industries do. Last year, hospitality businesses funded People 1st to the tune of 67,000, which was dwarfed by the £100m given by those in the construction industry to its sector skills body.
While a properly funded People 1st wouldn't solve the sector's woes overnight, it would certainly help the industry tackle the problem of training and develop the practical qualifications that employers demand. The Olympics is now less than seven years away, and training to improve performance should start sooner rather than later.