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Hospitality seventh sector deal: Q&A with UKHospitality’s Kate Nicholls

The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Jeremy Wright confirmed the Government will begin negotiations with the hospitality sector in relation to their ambitious Industrial Strategy sector deal for tourism in the UK.

This will see tourism (and hospitality more generally) recognised as the seventh sector to be given this status.

We asked Kate Nicholls, CEO of UKHospitality, representing more than 700 companies in a sector that employs 2.9 million people, what she considers the deal can do to promote and assist the hospitality sector.

What are the seven sectors and why they have been singled out for special focus?

Sector deals have come out of the Government’s overarching Industrial Strategy, the aim of which is to boost productivity by backing businesses that are set to be the future engines of economic growth and good quality jobs as we go through the fourth industrial revolution. The overarching strategy seeks to identify and back winners who can increase the earning power of people throughout the UK with investment in skills and infrastructure.

Underneath this, Government has sought to forge a partnership or sector deal between public and private sectors on sector-specific issues to do with productivity and growth. By tackling the issues in a deal, the aim is to unlock productivity, employment and innovation. The first four deals to be announced were in traditional manufacturing areas that included automotive, aerospace, energy and life sciences - what you might typically think of when you think of industry, and crucially areas that are relatively easy to pull together because you have a small number of large players. The next deals were in AI, construction, creative industries and nuclear & offshore wind, again areas where productivity improvements could be effected through large scale R&D investment rather than policy change. These represent a landscape that Government understands and has a history of working with.

What is crucially different in relation to the tourism deal is that it will require lots of small scale incremental changes which will have a big overall impact on hospitality.

How will having a sector deal benefit the industry?

The premise of a sector deal is a partnership between industry and Government that recognises the sector as critically important to UK PLC, as a generator of jobs and growth and therefore needing political support to deliver to its full potential. It means that chosen sectors cannot be seen as a Cinderella industry or one which can be left to its own devices, but rather one which needs to be front and centre of Government plans and ambitions.  This recognition is an explicit endorsement of hospitality as an engine of economic growth and a generator of good quality jobs, and as such will be invaluable in unlocking the cross departmental, joined up thinking we have needed up to now from Government.

Tell us what a sector deal means for licensed premises?

It will allow us to address the recruitment and skills challenge the sector has battled with for too long in a very real and transformational way. We will launch an industry led 10 year campaign to attract talent, particularly chefs but across all areas of the business, to up-skill our existing teams to boost retention and we will do it in a joined up way across hospitality and with explicit government support. It will be a step change in our existing activity.

At a local level Tourism Action Zones will see ALL hospitality businesses recognised as an important driver of growth in non-traditional tourist hot spots, with help for business growth and investment in infrastructure.

Most importantly, it will mean we can talk at a national and local level about the policy changes that are needed to unlock the ambitions we have set out in the sector deal – the things which are holding back investment, the changes we need to see on apprenticeship levies, licensing and planning, tax and regulation, or in relation to Primary Authority, for instance.  

How can licensed premises make the most of this increased focus?

  • Get involved – talk to your local councillor or MP about how to ensure your town/city/ neighbourhood is included in any Action Zones;
  • tell us about your staff 'stars' to boost our recruitment campaign and give us real life examples of our 'bar to boardroom' career opportunities;
  • get involved in our 'Be The Business' productivity programmes as business mentors or mentees, or through benchmarking productivity in your own business; and
  • tell us what more we need to do to help get across the message.

London is seen as the economic driver for the economy, but what can businesses outside London expect to see?

There are explicit commitments to hospitality development and investment outside London and an ambition to make Britain as a whole the most accessible, most successful tourism destination. This will particularly apply in relation to business events. Through this, we can look forward to growth across the regions. In addition, Tourism Action Zones will seek to extend the season in tourist destinations outside London and other major cities.

Is there a way of getting involved or having a voice in what the sector deal is looking to do?

The deal is the start not the end of the process – the hard work starts here. We will host a seminar with Visit Britain in September to map out the road ahead. The best way of getting involved and shaping the process is by being part of UKHospitality or one of the other sector trade bodies. Or, if you prefer raise money for Springboard to help fund the recruitment campaign – every little helps. Details can be found at: https://charity.springboard.uk.net/

How are UKHospitality looking to use this spotlight on the industry to help drive economic growth?

As well as being important as a stand-alone initiative, most importantly the deal means we can have a robust baseline for having tough conversations locally and nationally. It will mean we can talk at national and local levels about the policy changes that are needed to unlock the ambitions we have set out in the sector deal – the things which are holding back investment, the changes we need to see on apprenticeship levies, licensing and planning, tax and regulation and Primary Authority.

There is a significant regulatory burden on licensed premises. Can this sector focus help to highlight where regulation goes too far in terms of the harms it is seeking to address?

Yes, absolutely – although it is not a panacea for all ills. If we can demonstrate how a policy change could unlock productivity growth, that is helpful.

Can the sector focus help the industry adapt to technological change, for instance in the use of digital ID for sales of alcohol?

One of the aspects of the deal we have focused on developing is up-skilling and in-work training and I think there is much that could be done here to boost digital skills to help businesses and employees navigate new technology. We are working with Be the Business, a Government funded body looking at pilot projects on technology and productivity. Visit the Be the Business website for more details.

UKHospitality, and Kate, can be found at; https://www.ukhospitality.org.uk/

This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at July 2019. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms and conditions.

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