Size matters when it comes to influencing government policy about our industry's future, says Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality
It is great to be able to contribute to this auspicious edition of The Caterer, which acknowledges the rich leadership talent Britain can boast in hospitality and tourism. As an industry we probably don't take enough time to celebrate and acknowledge the great work of our operators and entrepreneurs.
At the same time, I need to take this opportunity to urge a critical call to action. The hospitality sector is at an existential crossroads: its growth, innovation, long-established track record of investment, job creation and overall dynamism is being buffeted and jeopardised.
We must engage politicians and use the wider media to explain how big and important this sector is, and assist our legislators to help us create a progressive future.
As the third-largest private sector employer in the UK, providing three million jobs and producing £130b in economic activity, it is unsurprising that we have such a wealth of talent. The hospitality sector generates £38b in taxes, which is the equivalent of the UK's annual defence budget, and is a vast, vibrant and constantly evolving sector delivering a huge diversity of jobs.
Last year the sector created one in three of all net new jobs and it has grown by more than 5% per annum since 2010. It is important that those working in the sector are supported and developed from the top down. Careers and opportunities are at the heart of what the hospitality sector offers British society; it is a true meritocracy where people can progress from backbar and potwashing to the boardroom and ownership. There are myriad demands within such a varied and diverse sector and we need to be conscious of not only supporting those already involved, but making sure that we are cultivating an environment that continues to attract talent.
We can boast many great examples of entrepreneurs and senior executives that have worked their way up from pulling pints. Every day, our people benefit â¨from the exciting combination of professional training and development and on the job, customer-facing experience in a fun industry that is ultimately about making guests happy. One of the priorities of UKHospitality would be to deliver an integrated careers and skills strategy.
The importance of strong leadership is undeniable and more than ever our dynamic businesses needs a well-funded, unified (and sufficiently loud) voice to promote, protect and develop what is one of the fastest-growing and most significant business sectors in the UK. The overwhelming member support for the creation of UKHospitality demonstrates widespread backing for our ambition to reshape the future of our great industry. This may sound somewhat grandiose, but it's about the genuine ability to stage greater interventions when it matters, with government, over public policies that might benefit, impact or hurt our businesses.
UKHospitality brings together more than 700 businesses from all aspects of hospitality. The creation of this one, unified voice has brought together high-level skills and competencies in order to deliver strong technical expertise and counsel for members across a range of issues. There are many big lever issues where our size and voice will enable us to stage greater interventions that will deliver meaningful change for the future.
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