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The Caterer

Viewpoint: The election is an opportunity to unleash hospitality's potential, says Kate Nicholls

28 November 2019
Kate Nicholls spokesperson for Hospitality and Tourism Action Group

This General Election represents a huge opportunity for hospitality, politicians and the British public. By delivering a policy and operating environment that empowers hospitality to thrive, our country's employment, commercial and social interests will be better served, as well as safeguarding the future enjoyment of domestic and international tourists alike.

Our message is simple: unleash hospitality's potential and it will unleash Britain's potential.

Last week, UKHospitality launched the UKH Menu for Change; a document outlining our vision of how the sector can be even more productive. With a sensible regulatory environment, the sector can grow its output by 5.5% over the next three years and is in pole position to lead on issues as diverse as sustainability, promoting healthier attitudes to food and drink and job creation. We can also be the secret weapon in the revival and future growth of Britain's high streets.

Our sector is a vital one for the UK economy, it is the engine of the nation socially, culturally and economically. Hospitality creates £130b in economic activity per year, contributing £39b in tax and employing over 3.2m people. These contributions are spread across every region of the UK; our venues are important community hubs, places for people to meet, socialise and relax.

The sector is also internationally renowned, setting global standards for customer experience and service, outstanding venues and innovative business development and practices. It forms the core of Britain's attractiveness as a thriving and valuable tourist destination. But we face significant headwinds as a result of government-imposed costs. We need certainty combined with a flexible and supportive tax and regulatory framework.

What are we asking for? Put simply, we need a business environment that will allow us to do even more, supports the sector and incentivises investment and growth – as well as continuing to provide great customer experiences.

From a people perspective, we need a future immigration system that works for the whole economy at all skills levels. Reform of the apprenticeship levy and support for a long-term strategy to create and promote attractive and fulfilling careers, as part of the Sector Deal, is critical.

Measures that free up investment are also front and centre. The next government must make good on promises to review business taxation that will reduce the burden on property-based outlets and save our High Streets, supported by immediate reductions in rates bills. We welcome the Conservative pledge to cut employer National Insurance Contributions to support us in delivering higher wages for our teams.

Critically, we must have a level playing with the digital economy across both tax and regulation, which properly recognises that bricks and mortar businesses do much more to create a sense of community spirit throughout the country.

The past few years have been turbulent for many in the sector, but equally, many businesses have evolved to meet changing consumer demands and flourished despite tough trading conditions. Whoever does hold the keys to 10 Downing Street following this election, we will ensure they know that hospitality is a responsible employer and community champion, keen to play its part in resolving the challenges we face collectively.

On a practical level, readers of The Caterer can help get the message across loud and clear to prospective MPs about our positive contribution. Use the toolkits and resources available on the UKH website to contact candidates, invite them into your businesses and demand they pledge support for our sector.

To download a copy of our Menu for Change, please visit ukhospitality.org.uk

Kate Nicholls is chief executive of UKHospitality

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