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Inside track: Robin Hutson finds a silver lining in the renewed focus on hospitality

30 June 2020 by
Inside track: Robin Hutson finds a silver lining in the renewed focus on hospitality

If we can find positives, it's that hospitality has been brought front of mind before the reopening, says Robin Hutson

So, after just over three months of lockdown, we have now been given guidance on how we can open up again. Despite all our concerns, ‘the rules of the game' ended up as being pretty fair for hospitality. Many of us have been engaged in lobbying government, not least UKHospitality's Kate Nicholls and Jonathan Downey of London Union, but lots of others too, and I feel that much of what has been asked for has been adopted as guidance. From my perspective, at least, it feels like we have been listened to.

In fact, I would go so far to say that for the first time in my memory, due to this horrendous coronavirus period, we have managed to bring the national importance of the hospitality industry to the notice of both the politicians and the general public alike.

Through the notable absence during lockdown of our pubs, restaurants, hotels and venues, not only have the government acknowledged the massive benefits of the sector as a key driver for the economy, but also the critical part it plays in the wellbeing and mental health of our nation. Have you ever heard any prime minister or their cabinet colleagues refer to the sector as much as they have in these past few months? Barely does a press conference pass without deferential reference to hospitality.

So, bizarrely, through the adversity of this situation, there has been real progress for the profile of our industry.

Bizarrely, through the adversity of this situation, there has been real progress for the profile of our industry

This period is now a golden opportunity for hospitality to build on its new elevated recognition. We need to demonstrate how our diverse, resilient, creative, professional industry can show other sectors the way to safely open to become a powerful force in getting the country on track again. We also need to build on the engagement with government that has been so effectively achieved during this period to support and champion hospitality in the months and years ahead. We have caught the government's attention and now we must not allow it to forget us again.

Credit: Shutterstock
Credit: Shutterstock

In the past it has often felt that hospitality is an ‘also ran' of an industry in the eyes of the government. But it feels now there is a genuine respect and enthusiasm for the sector.

It's our job now to open up in the safest, most responsible, professional way we can, demonstrating to government that we can be trusted to instinctively take the right decisions during this ‘knife edge' period while the virus is still present. In doing so we can prove our importance as part of the unemployment and economic solution, as well as our role in lifting the spirits of a nation.

If we get this right, our platform to campaign for the enduring needs of the industry, for a VAT cut, for help with skills shortages and labour movement, for planning process and much more besides, becomes a more realistic possibility.

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