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The Caterer

Wake up to the threat of Brexit

10 February 2017 by
Wake up to the threat of Brexit

Now is the time to start making plans to cover the cut in employees, says Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association

I'm still not convinced that everyone in our industry has quite understood or woken up to the profound impact Brexit will have on hospitality. Right now, many will already be feeling the considerable pinch of higher bills for imported foodstuffs or equipment caused by the devaluation of sterling, and will be debating how much of these increases can be passed straight on to customers or how much of an increase the market can take.

For make no mistake that, despite what organisations such as the BHA are doing to mitigate the situation, there will be a cut in numbers - a political reality acknowledged recently when John Guthrie, our employment policy adviser, gave evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee.

John told the MPs of our plan, already submitted to the government and publicised by The Caterer, for a 10-year tapered approach to reducing the numbers of EU migrants. We have conservatively estimated there are 700,000 EU migrants and hope to get a truer number from research commissioned from KPMG.

The 700,000 figure is a huge one - it's the equivalent, give or take, of the number of people living in Leeds. Even if, as we expect, those already here can stay, replacing those who move on or decide to leave will take time and effort. At the moment there just are not enough UK residents to fill the gaps - and that would mean that some businesses will be under threat, which will mean unemployment for all those who work for those businesses.

That is why we are redoubling our efforts, as part of our 10-year plan, to encourage UK nationals to consider a career in hospitality. We all love this industry and so it is apt that our efforts start on 14 February, Valentine's Day, with the first of this year's Big Hospitality Conversations under the timely headline Fall in Love with Hospitality. This is where we get businesses together to inspire young people to realise the career and job opportunities existing in hospitality - to offer jobs whether it be through work placements, apprenticeships or other opportunities. The Big Conversation will be held at Anfield, the home of Liverpool FC, one of the BHA's newest members, and it's still not too late to get involved.

www.bha.org.uk/events/event/bighospitality-conversation-liverpool/

The BHA Travel Monitor

We launched the BHA Travel Monitor last autumn so that we can provide, through detailed and structured analysis of passenger data, a true picture of hospitality and tourism performance. I am happy to report that the monitor for November shows that holiday visitor numbers from abroad show a 32.4% increase, year on year. This is very welcome news, but we must keep this in perspective as the year to date shows only a 1.2% increase.

Obviously the fall in sterling's value is the main reason for this increase late in the year. Overseas spend in the UK for November was up 14.1% a year on the previous year. But we cannot rely on fluctuating currency rates to provide for our long-term success.

The number of Britons choosing to holiday abroad continues to rise - up 4.3% year on year. The UK continues to have, on average, twice the tourism VAT rate than our competitor countries in Europe. The campaign to Cut Tourism VAT continues to grow, with mainstream media commentators, like the business editor of The Mail on Sunday, writing in favour of the plan. He knows it makes sense - like we do.

To see the full details of the BHA Travel Monitor, go to www.bha.org.uk

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