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Is the UK hospitality industry ready for the 2012 Olympics?

With around 14 million meals expected to be served during the London 2012 Olympic Games, and 1 million extra visitors to the UK per year in need of hotel rooms, the UK hospitality industry is going to be under more pressure than ever before. With less than a year to go until the Games begin, the question needs to be asked: is the UK’s hospitality industry really ready for the challenge?

In this, the first of a series looking at various aspects of the industry in the run up to the Olympics, we’ll look to explore some of the key pressures and needs that its professionals and businesses are facing.

 

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People power: can the hospitality workforce cope during the Olympics?

Judging by the growing number of applications – over 800,000 last quarter (36% more than in the same period last year) – the UK hospitality industry looks on the surface at least to be in fairly healthy shape. The good news for all those applicants is that there are more jobs available than there have been in two years. It’s anticipated that businesses are going to need an extra 100,000 contract staff, in various roles, to cope with the work created by the Games. In total, 36% of London hospitality businesses expect to take on extra staff during this time.

But when we look a bit deeper into the data, things don’t look quite so rosy. Our research has shown a high number of applications for front of house roles – for instance, for every porter job advertised there are an incredible 63 applicants. But for more skilled roles, such as chefs or management positions – especially restaurant management – there is a hefty skill gap. Some chef roles are seeing as few as 4 applicants for each position advertised, and there are real concerns about finding enough people with the right credentials for top management posts. With the large numbers of extra staff being taken on, and the huge increase in demand from the 1 million extra visitors expected to visit the UK during the Olympics, this shortage of people applying for skilled roles could cause serious problems.

Despite these worries, 87% of businesses in the hospitality sector say that they haven’t taken any steps to prepare for the Olympics – and 63% don’t plan to prepare at all.

Where will everyone sleep?

Aside from the people power issues, there are major concerns about the level of accommodation that will be needed during the Olympics – 42% of London hotels are worried about their ability to provide short term accommodation, while 22% of hospitality businesses in London are worried about coping with the higher demand the event will create.These seem like valid concerns considering the expected 350,000 foreign visitors a day in London at this time, with only a little over 100,000 hotel rooms currently available.

Looking to the future: the Olympic legacy

Beyond the immediate concerns about resources, the hospitality industry also needs to think longer term about the possible future benefits the Olympics will bring.

90% of those surveyed in the hospitality sector think that the Olympics will be a good thing for the industry as a whole, while 78% think that it is an opportunity to secure custom from tourism for years to come.

Olympic stadium
Photo by EG Focus

In concrete terms, it’s estimated that 591,000 hospitality jobs, including an additional 166,000 managers – some of which are associated with the boost from the Olympics – will be created by 2017. The Olympic Legacy Company, tasked with ensuring the Olympic Park remains a source of positive renewal to the local community for years to come, claims that the Park alone will provide thousands of jobs after the Olympic Games have finished. This includes a number of hospitality businesses, including restaurants and cafés.

The legacy looks promising, but that shouldn’t make us complacent: those in the hospitality sector need to make sure that their businesses are well prepared in order for the the Olympic legacy to be realised.

Are you going for gold? Tell us about your Olympic preparation strategy

Do you think the UK hospitality sector is prepared for the Olympics? Will the UK benefit from a strong Olympic legacy? We’re interested in talking to hospitality professionals to hear about what you’re doing to get ready. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below, or drop us a line via @caterernews. And stay tuned for more Olympic insights, including tips on how to prepare, in the coming weeks.

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