Challenges galore lie ahead after Brexit, delegates at the 24th Master Innholders Annual General Managers' Conference were told last week. Janet Harmer reports from the event at the Hilton London Bankside hotel
Any decision taken by the government to restrict access by foreign workers to the UK following Brexit will "substantially threaten" the hospitality industry, Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association (BHA), told the conference.
She said that replacing foreign nationals with British workers was not a straightforward process. "This is not about suitability, attitudes or a lack of a desire by the British people to work in the industry. This is about availability, with some areas of the UK close to full employment," she explained.
Delegates were told that in order to encourage more British workers into the industry, change needed to be enabled with regard to school-age students between the ages of 13 and 16.
"We have asked the government to give us a 10-year timeline to make the necessary transition through schools, colleges and career networks," she said.
While Brexit is going to dominate the work of the BHA in the coming years, Ibrahim also confirmed that the commitment to reducing the level of VAT across the hospitality sector would remain in place as long as she continues in her current role.
Take care of yourself and your staff
Sustained high performance by executives, in the face of ever-increasing pressures and rapid changes experienced within the hotel sector, can only be achieved if good health is maintained, delegates were told.
Dr Dorian Dugmore, director of Corporate Wellbeing, shocked many attendees with the stark facts that a high-pressure job without regular breaks, can pose a significant threat to health.
After around half of the 450 delegates said they did not take their entitled vacation time, Dr Dugmore urged that it was vital that all employees should take regular breaks, both by taking holidays throughout the year and short five- to 10-minute breaks every 90 to 120 minutes during the working day. "It benefits the brain," he said.
Other key tips from Dr Dugmore for peak fitness included drinking 1.5 litres of water a day, eating organic foods rich in nutrients, drinking alcohol in moderation, and getting a good night's sleep. He also advised the practice of random acts of kindness and to smile and laugh every day.
Use data efficiently
Stretch the boundaries though learning Past Master Innholder scholarship winners, Aspiring Leader Diploma (MIALD) students and employers discussed the benefits of nurturing talent and providing staff with the opportunity for personal development though a range of training programmes.
Session chair and managing director of Red Carnation Hotels, Jonathan Raggett, was joined on stage by Charlotte O'Connell of the Moxy, Lucy Gregory of the Arch, London, Greg Hegarty of PPHE Hotel Group, and Tom Waldron-Lynch of De Vere Orchard hotel, Nottingham. Hoteliers were asked to put their junior managers forward for the forthcoming MIALD. The deadline for applications is 17 February and details can be found at www.masterinnholders.co.uk/aspiring-leaders-diploma/
Creating celebrity service for all guests
Delegates were challenged on how they should go about building a level of excitement into every customer touchpoint. In an inspiring session, Geoff Ramm, creator of Celebrity Service and OMG Marketing, said: "If you can do that and fill the gap between the service you usually provide and the one you provide when a celebrity walks in, you will have guests with smiles on their faces from the moment they arrive to the moment they leave - and then they will return."
Hospitality should always win over technology
While recognising the necessity of technology within 21st century hotels, Olga Polizzi, deputy chairman and director of design at Rocco Forte Hotels, said it should never replace hospitality. "One of my pet hates in a hotel bedroom is being faced with a wall of buttons, one that opens and closes the curtains, one that calls room service, one to switch on the television or bath, and all that is after you have to navigate the row of buttons to control the lighting to see what on earth you are doing in the first place."
Call for action to promote the industry as 'a valuable career opportunity'
Craig Bancroft, managing director of Northcote in Langho, Lancashire, and 2016 Hotelier of the Year, renewed his call to the industry to unite to promote the hospitality industry as a sustainable and worthwhile career path: "We who head our businesses need to make a selfless statement of intent to create an appetite for young people and the more mature to join this fantastic business of ours," he said.
"We need to rid the image of the past and remind the world outside that we are now well paid, we provide excellent welfare, superb training and incredibly rapid career progression for those who are dedicated, with a much improved work-life balance that is truly rewarding and different every single day we go to work."