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New Year, New Opportunities, says Ufi Ibrahim, CEO of the British Hospitality Association

2015 promises to bring with it opportunity aplenty for both the industry and the BHA. New Year, new opportunities as well as the inevitable period of reflection and retrospection.    In January, Nick Varney from Merlin Entertainments will become the new BHA Chairman, bringing with him a wealth of experience and new resolve which will strengthen our remit to focus on building the hospitality and tourism community beyond expectation.

The past 12 months has been pivotal for the hospitality and tourism industry, and the BHA has seen greater involvement from its members than ever before.  Reflecting on 2014, a particular high point was the launch of the Tourism Council at the 2014 Hospitality & Tourism Summit. A partnership between Government and industry to focus on improving skills, increasing the quality and quantity of jobs and boosting enterprise, the Council is a demonstrable commitment from both parties that hospitality and tourism are important to the economic and social foundation of our society. What’s more, it demonstrates an evolutionary march of industry leaders towards a united ‘one voice’ which sees us taking our partnership with Government to new levels. This collaborative partnership will surely provide fresh impetus and gravitas for our work in the New Year, especially important with the general election just around the corner.

Cementing the relationship with UK Government is just the start, though, and actions surely speak louder than words. 2014 has seen real progress in job creation thanks to the proactive and collaborative actions of industry leaders, and underpinning all our work is the need and desire to inspire the next generation and attract talent towards hospitality and tourism careers. Now in its second year, the BHA’s Big Hospitality Conversation continues to establish hospitality and tourism as the driver of growth, and 2014 has seen the creation of over 35,000 work placements, apprenticeships and jobs across 22 regional events. With a target of 60,000 by 2016, there is still some way to go but our industry knows that proactive action is a necessity for the growth of our industry. It is no longer enough to expect that young people will naturally gravitate towards a career in hospitality and tourism; we have to find ways to demonstrate career paths which develop these stars of the future.

Patrick Dempsey OBE, Chairman of the Big Hospitality Conversation and MD Premier Inn said: “Hospitality is a vibrant, growing industry with a lot to offer. There is a huge pool of talent in the 16-24 age group and we are committed to helping raise awareness amongst young people that are unemployed, not in education or training, offering significant opportunities for them to join and develop their careers within the hospitality industry. We will train young people, provide them with qualifications and long term prospects within a sustainable and thriving industry.”

Beyond the UK, the BHA continues to champion global competitiveness. While 2013 focused on helping to simplify tourist visa applications for Chinese visitors, 2014 has proactively and fiercely lobbied to cut VAT on hotel accommodation and tourist attractions to 5%.

The Sun, Britain’s best selling daily newspaper, backed the cause with gusto with its ‘Give Us a Break’ campaign highlighting how Chancellor George Osborne can give Britain’s hard pressed regions a bolster that will benefit everyone over the long term. The campaign continues to attract thousands of industry supporters, encompassing industry bodies such as the BHA and BALPPA, to small B&BS, family run attractions, zoos and major international brands. It also highlighted to the British public the importance of hospitality, not just for job creation but for economic contribution to the national economy.

These successes are just a snapshot of the ambition, passion and commitment rooted in our industry. We know that successful relationships are imperative, and with the 2015 general election just around the corner and Nick Varney’s appointment as new BHA Chairman, now is the time to build on our political capital for the important year ahead to ensure that hospitality and tourism continues to be judged by Government and policy makers, as well as real people, as a visionary, cohesive, economic powerhouse in the UK which builds careers, shapes communities and generates income for the regions and the UK as a whole.

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