British Hospitality Association (BHA) chief executive Bob Cotton this week warned that the industry needs to do more to make politicians understand the value of tourism as he delivered his speech at the BHA's annual luncheon
In the current economic climate, the overwhelming objective for hospitality operators is to provide even greater value for money than ever before.
We know how difficult this is to define. Even more difficult to provide. How do we achieve it at a time of sagging demand, lower occupancies, reduced revenues and fewer staff? And at a time when the need to provide it has never been more critical?
Only through investment in people and product. The industry will successfully survive the present recession, but what it needs is a Government that recognises that tourism remains a key economic driver - both nationally and in the regions.
It needs a Government that recognises the industry is a key employer and has the potential for creating new jobs, throughout the country, at all levels of skill and ability.
It needs a Government that recognises the industry's potential for improvement, upgrading, modernisation and re-investment - and recognises the need for some fiscal encouragement to drive the process.
And it needs a Government that recognises that any investment in overseas promotion - even at this difficult time - yields a far greater return in tax and duty revenues than almost any other investment it can make.
Do we have this understanding? I fear not.
Now that we are running up to the next general election, the industry has a job to do. Nationally, regionally, locally - we all must ensure that our politicians and parliamentary candidates understand the scale of this contribution to the economy and its job creating abilities - and, more important, the even greater contribution the industry could make if only government would take it seriously.
The argument is simple. Tourism and hospitality is the economic lifeline for many regions of the country. It is ready to expand. It is ready to create new jobs. It has invested hugely in the past. It is prepared to invest in the future - but only if government gives it the right encouragement.
This argument cannot be left to associations alone. Every member of the industry has a role to play in making politicians understand that tourism is the key industry of the 21st century.