Hospitality must have its voice heard before the next election, says Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association
Over the coming weeks we will be speaking directly to the parties on behalf of our members and encouraging everyone to get involved with their local candidates. We need as many people as possible to participate so that our views are known by all our potential law- makers and Brexit negotiators.
At the heart of this will be the BHA's own manifesto. We are putting the finishing touches to this right now, but it will come as no surprise that we have three main issues.
First - we need to maintain EU migration numbers at a sufficient level for the foresee-able future while we encourage more Brits to see hospitality as a career of choice. The report we commissioned recently from KPMG, Labour Migration in the Hospitality Sector, concluded that at least an extra 60,000 EU workers were required each year to keep hospitality and tourism going and growing.
The BHA commissioned the report because we had an educated hunch that our industry's reliance on EU migrant labour was bigger than many people thought, and this turned out to be the case. It is important that we have documented figures when we talk to politicians about what can be done to keep the wheels of our industry turning.
It was no accident that on the same day we released the report we also published the letter we had sent to Number 10 with our 10-year strategy to encourage more UK workers. We felt there was no point in just whingeing - we had to come up with solutions, too. We were also keen to be the UK's first major industry to acknowledge we have to get a move on.
One thing we are particularly keen on is changing the perception of our industry. Why is it that our children, when asked what they want to be when they grow up, might mention being an astronaut, a footballer, a fireman, a computer programmer - but never a hotel manager? In Europe hospitality is seen as a worthwhile career and managing a hotel is seen as something of which to be proud.
Our second demand is for a cut in tourism VAT. We have statistics showing that cutting VAT on tourist accommodation and attractions to 5%, putting us on a level playing field with most competing European countries, would create more jobs, increase exports, benefit local communities and lead to more revenue for the Treasury in the long-term. This is why every other major destination country already enjoys a reduced rate.
Our third ask is that the national living wage be set by the Low Pay Commission. We all want to pay as much as we can, but it has to be put in the context of the other rising costs facing the industry; notably massive business rate hikes and food inflation. The Low Pay Commission would be able to look at all the facts before making its recommendation, rather than have figures plucked out of the air by politicians who do not understand the realities on the ground.
Read the BHA's 10-year strategy here >>
BHA's guide to cutting sugar
Most of you will have seen or heard about Public Health England's report on reducing sugar in our food and drinks by 20% by 2020 to counter growing obesity in the country.
We are, obviously, fully behind the strategy, but we remain worried about how a sector as diverse as ours, with its different operational models and wide variations in scale, can collect and report consistent data.
So, we will soon publish the BHA's first industry nutrition guide, which will help chefs and catering managers produce healthier food and reduce sugar.
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