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Inside track: let's speak with one voice, says Robin Hutson

05 January 2021 by
Inside track: let's speak with one voice, says Robin Hutson

As we approach a Parliamentary debate on the creation of a minister for hospitality, Robin Hutson explains the importance of a voice outside of Westminster.

We are just six days away from the Parliamentary debate on the creation of a minister for hospitality. The campaign for this petition has had its ups and downs since it was created by Claire Bosi a few months ago.

While slow to gain initial traction, since the social media campaign kicked in we are now nudging 200,000 signatures at the time of writing, which is a little better. Not to put a dampener on this achievement, but this number still only represents a disappointing 6% of those directly employed or 4% of those indirectly dependant on the sector.

This result is a good illustration of some of the challenges facing the sector and highlights the need for a powerful single voice. Hospitality is fragmented, encompassing such a broad range of businesses, from ‘mom-and-pop' rural businesses to huge corporate international conglomerates. It's perhaps understandable that greater penetration into the many diverse arms of the sector has not been achieved.

The fact that a three-bedroom inn at the end of a coastal peninsular finds itself bracketed in the same sector as the JW Marriott Grosvenor House London hotel, or Burger King the same as Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, highlights the issue further. Yet the differences somehow emphasise the common attributes of hospitality – the collective objective to accommodate, feed and nourish while providing us social animals with perhaps less tangible benefits of community hubs, as well as celebratory venues and social experiences.

So, while achieving a single well-informed, senior voice within government is the primary objective of the petition, I also believe we desperately need to galvanise our common values and lobby with clarity behind a single voice outside of Westminster – last year's experience could just be the catalyst.

There are few within the industry to have worked as hard through this pandemic to feed a consistent messaging into the heart of government as Kate Nicholls and her team at UKHospitality. I think in the past, despite the valiant efforts and hard work of predecessors, we as a sector have undervalued our trade associations. Perhaps we needed to observe the devastating effect of the pandemic in order to fully appreciate the need and indeed acknowledge the efforts being made on our behalf.

As we begin to see a glimmer of light at the end of the Covid tunnel, we need to build on what I see as a new relationship of trust and respect between the industry at large and UKHospitality. The joint aim: to be a powerful influence on government (with or without a dedicated minister) and to create an environment that puts hospitality ‘front and centre' of the strong economic and social recovery the UK so desperately needs.

In the meantime, please sign the petition and ask everyone you know to do the same.


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