We are all keen to understand how the industry should best adapt to the new circumstances after spring 2019, says Peter Hancock
You don't need me to tell you how divisive last year's referendum has proved to be, nor how anxious the decision has made a great many in our trade. Jeremy King was quoted in this very magazine as describing Brexit as "stupid, short-sighted and xenophobic", and I have heard countless hoteliers and restaurateurs lament the added staffing difficulties our departure from the European Union will cause them.
I am not qualified to pontificate on the matter but, along with everyone else, I am keen to understand how the industry should best adapt to these new circumstances.
The organisers of the forthcoming Independent Hotel Show (17-18 October at London Olympia) have rashly entrusted me with chairing a panel discussion on this topic, where I shall be joined by Paul Milsom, chairman and managing director of Milsom Hotels & Restaurants, and Bespoke Hotel chairman Robin Sheppard, as well as the chairman of UK Inbound, Deirdre Wells OBE. It will be interesting to discover how each of them plans to deal with a changed employment landscape and, perhaps, to hear about any positive sides to the issue that could benefit our industry.
Preparing for this has made me consider what our great challenges would be if the referendum had gone the other way, and the country had decided to stay in the EU.
Employment in Britain is at an all-time high, so presumably we'd still have worries about staffing, not least the difficulty in persuading native students to make hospitality their first choice of career, though clearly our ability to draw on talent from the rest of the continent would continue unhindered.
Escalating costs such as business rates would probably get more attention, and one assumes the spectre of Scottish independence would be haunting us as before. David Cameron would be at 10 Downing Street and the current editor of the Evening Standard would still be his neighbour.
It is very difficult to look ahead beyond the spring of 2019, when our membership of the EU officially ends. Being an optimist by nature, I expect there to be winners and losers from it all, with the most adaptable operators finding a way around the problems and spotting new opportunities. But this doesn't help right now, of course.
At the time of writing, my next commitment is at a consumer event called Brides the Show, where Pride of Britain and some of its member hoteliers will present luxurious venues to, hopefully, hundreds of soon-to-be brides and bridegrooms. At no point will my colleagues advise against getting married, despite the known risk that some years later one or both parties may regret the union. That would just be cruel.
Peter Hancock is chief executive of Pride of Britain Hotels