The Olympian Impact on UK Hospitality and Tourism

Ufi Ibrahim Chief Executive of the British Hospitality Association

Ufi Ibrahim
Chief Executive of the British Hospitality Association

The 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games was an opportunity for the hospitality and tourism industry to showcase its talent and expertise to the world on a high-profile global platform.  Throughout the games all aspects were under scrutiny – hotels, B&Bs, restaurants, gamesmakers, workers, industry leaders - to name just a handful of facets of this wide-ranging sector.

The Olympic and Paralympic legacy, so often referenced in popular culture, is hard to measure, especially given the nature of the ever-changing economic landscape which makes like-for-like comparisons tricky and skewed.

It is clear to see, however, that since the Games, the UK hospitality and tourism industry has made great progress, no doubt benefitting from the fresh injection of energy and excitement surrounding this historical landmark.

Our industry’s mark has, and continues to be made, across the very infrastructure of the United Kingdom, impacting the lives of individuals; making inroads with government and MPs; contributing significantly to the UK economy through jobs and building projects and simplifying processes (in this case simplifying visa applications for inbound Chinese tourists).  So what is the Olympic and Paralympic legacy to the hospitality and tourism industry 18 months on....

The economic impact

In the period leading up to the Olympics and Paralympics (2010-2012) – a period of recession - the UK hospitality and tourism industry accounted for 27.7% of total UK net jobs growth.  Today, the industry employs 10% of the UK workforce which equates to over 2.7 million people.  Indeed, Britain’s fourth largest industry, hospitality delivers £53 billion annually to the economy in Gross Value Added (wages and profits).

Job creation

Since the Olympics and Paralympics, the BHA has been instrumental in driving The Big Hospitality Conversation, the industry’s biggest job creation drive to offer opportunities to unemployed young people in the UK.  New job pledges are made at regional Big Hospitality Conversation events which take place across the UK.  In the past twelve months over 1,200 industry representatives have attended these events.  With support from large leisure and hospitality organisations as well as independent ones, plus support from the Prince’s Trust Business in the Community, these events provide the opportunity to translate a real economic challenge – youth unemployment – into a business challenge.  In a further collaboration, the BHA has partnered with Barclay’s to support our goal of creating 60,000 new jobs in the sector by 2015.  Together, our organisations will use collective power and flagship employability campaigns to help young people get ready for work and find quality apprenticeships and job opportunities.

Chinese visa

Since the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the BHA, together with support from the UKCVA, the CBI, Institute of Directors and the British Chamber of Commerce has been proactively lobbying the government on the issue of Chinese visas, campaigning for swift visa reform which makes it easier and less expensive for Chinese tourists to visit the UK.  In addition, the BHA has been working directly with the Home Office and the UK Border Agency to identify the issues and their impacts on the UK economy.

News came from Chancellor George Osborne in October 2013, announcing government plans to simplify the visa applications process for Chinese tourists.  A 24-hour ‘super priority’ visa service will be available from summer 2014, while a mobile visa scheme that already operates in Shanghai and Beijing will be expanded as part of the changes.

The changes to the visa application system are welcome news to the hospitality and tourism industry. Simplifying the Visa application system, we believe, will allow us to compete internationally and ensure that we can build and strengthen the bond between our two countries at a commercial level.

Hotel build

The past decade has seen the worst recession in our country’s history, with little or no incentive for the development of new hotels.  In spite of this, the hospitality and tourism sector has driven a construction value of £12.4bn (excluding professional fees and the value of the land) and has played a major part in stimulating regeneration.  The highest level of new openings in the last decade took place – perhaps unsurprisingly - in 2012, largely due to the Olympic Games, and  43.3 per cent of newly opened rooms were in London.

Beyond the Olympic and Paralympic Games, our industry has seen significant investment from the major players, including IHG and Premier Inn, with 32 new hotel openings in London alone in 2013.  While the green shoots of recovery are slower to take root in the regions, we are encouraged by developments across the UK, notably in Scotland, Bournemouth and Cardiff, which encompass new builds rooms, refurbishments and rebrandings.

Looking to the future

2012 saw Britain at its best.  The Olympic and Paralympic Games gave us a once in a lifetime opportunity to showcase our country on a massive scale – and Britain triumphed  Looking to the future, it is clear in my mind that the Olympic legacy has given the hospitality and tourism industry a strong platform from which to showcase our work to a global audience.

The role of the BHA, which acts on behalf of a 40,000 strong community of members -  is now to focus collectively the 2.7 million voices in our industry on government.  We need to work together to ensure that the government continues, not just to listen, but to act on our agenda and ensure that the opportunities afforded by the Games are not lost.

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