Brexit concerns tempered a positive outlook as hospitality leaders look to digital technologies, silver tourism and experiential travel to supercharge growth in hospitality
Triple threat of unclear visa strategy, reduced access to migrant workforce and insufficient UK talent, threatens to drastically reduce the UK’s competitive edge
Amaris Hospitality, one of the largest hotel owners and managers in the UK and Ireland, is calling on the next UK Government to sharpen the UK’s competitive edge with a pro-tourism & hospitality strategy that offers relief against the spectre of Brexit, inspiring the next generation of hospitality leaders and lays the infrastructure and digital foundations that will supercharge growth in the industry, according to a major new hospitality report.
Titled ‘Driving UK Tourism: Sustaining growth in 2017 & beyond ’, the report was commissioned by Amaris Hospitality and leading UK and Irish hotel group, Jurys Inn, and includes qualitative research amongst the hospitality industry’s top executives representing a cross-section of tourism and hospitality organisations across the UK. The findings were then discussed and validated at a roundtable discussion.
According to the report, hospitality leaders are concerned that the growth and prosperity of recent years is worryingly exposed to the risks of Brexit, with two in five (40%) industry executives highlighting the need for a clear and cohesive visa strategy as the number one issue facing the industry. A further one in four (26%) underlined the damage to the UK’s reputation in Europe and two thirds (65%) are very concerned that without a pro-tourism & hospitality strategy, the long-term effects of the devalued pound could increase costs, outweighing a boost to visitor numbers.
Brexit concerns tempered a very positive outlook as the interviewees also uncovered a number of opportunities that are moving the industry forward. The power of new technologies and ways to connect to new global audiences were identified as a rich source of future growth. Over half (55%) of the experts surveyed said the hospitality industry needed to do more to embrace the power of technology, recommending greater cross industry collaboration underpinned by a desperate need for better connectivity to create new ‘smart destinations’ across the UK.
The opportunities to ensure UK hospitality remains a strong and vibrant sector are numerous. One in four experts (25%) highlighted further opportunities available in growing ‘silver tourism’ and multigenerational travel as older generations are demanding the same tailored ‘experience-focused’ lifestyle trips as their younger counterparts. At the same time experts saw untapped potential in regional growth and call on local Tourist Boards to work together with hospitality companies to market their collective experiences to special interest groups, such as the growing food tourist scene.
Additionally, mounting concerns around Brexit are intensifying as the industry faces the possibility of a talent crisis over its reliance on an EU migrant workforce. Restricted access to foreign talent pools and insufficient UK talent is already beginning to put pressure on the sectors ability to recruit. With no clear strategy to move the industry forward, this substantial sectorial shift presents a threat that could drastically reduce the UK’s edge as one of the most competitive tourism and hospitality markets in the world, according to the report findings.
As a consequence, the hospitality sector is calling on the next UK Government to avoid this scenario by setting out a clear and holistic visa framework that will put the UK on the front foot with the PostBrexit world. Providing medium-term relief to the industry as it transitions away from a reliance on EU workers, as suggested by the BHA’s report “Labour migration in the hospitality sector”, could be one part of the solution. However, as part of the roundtable discussion that validated the research, industry leaders said this must be part of a wider pro-tourism & hospitality strategy that considers immigration quotas, fixed-term working visas (e.g. Barista visas), student visas and general tourism visas that should seek to open the UK up to new markets.
At the same time, the UK Government and hospitality leaders should work together to champion the abundant career opportunities in the sector by repositioning its image. In fact, two in three (63%) hospitality leaders surveyed report that they experience “outdated” perceptions of careers in hospitality, a sign that an urgent need for improved communications to reframe the industry’s image and to focus on improving the UK’s service culture is required.
Further recommendations from the roundtable included addressing tourism VAT (as the UK currently has the highest level in Europe), supporting regional and hub airports with post-Brexit subsidies to incentivise travel to the UK and solving the UK’s capacity conundrum when it comes to conferencing and events space.
With half (50%) of experts saying the hospitality sector is under appreciated and needs more support from the UK Government, Amaris Hospitality is calling for the next government to put forward a clear pro-tourism & hospitality strategy to keep the UK at the forefront of the global hospitality industry.
Commenting on the findings of the report, Amaris Hospitality CEO John Brennan said: “Tourism is a crucial driver of the UK economy and the lifeblood of the hospitality industry. As one of the UK’s leading hospitality investment and management companies we’ve seen first-hand the benefits of this thriving industry as its continued growth has brought significant economic prosperity to the whole of the UK.
“It’s evident from our research that we are at a crossroads; do we invest for the future and put in place a clear pro-tourism & hospitality strategy that will accelerate the growth of both UK tourism and hospitality, creating new opportunities for hospitality companies to pursue; or will we continue to leave ourselves exposed to consequences of Brexit that threaten to derail the industry. That is why we are calling on the next Government to sharpen the industries competitive edge so that we can play our part in making a success of Brexit.”
On the need for a pro-tourism strategy Ufi Ibrahim, Chief Executive of British Hospitality Association said: “Current political uncertainty, with possible restrictions to the movement of people, has already begun to have a negative impact on the industry as many of our concerns around the impact of Brexit could quickly turn into a perfect storm, especially in terms of the costs of operating – such a high Tourism VAT and Business Rate increases. We have to take steps today to create a pro-tourism & hospitality strategy to ensure we navigate past these headwinds and continue to see our industry thrive in 2017 and beyond.”
Jurys Inn MD, Jason Carruthers added: “This report highlights what we have seen across Jurys Inn; a thriving industry with ample opportunities ahead of it. It’s why we have invested over £55m in the past two years across our portfolio, curated new experiences for our customers and continue to invest in growing the next generation of hospitality leaders.”
“With hospitality companies up and down the UK now looking to the UK Government for answers on the uncertainties for Brexit, we need a response that will breathe a collective sigh of relief across the industry so we can have the confidence to play our part in driving growth and building for the future.”
Whilst there is still much work to be done, Amaris Hospitality and Jurys Inn is committed to keeping the conversation going and continuing to champion the cause of hospitality in the future.