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With Election Year upon us the hospitality industry must assert a powerful and united voice, says Ufi Ibrahim, CEO of the British Hospitality Association…

David Cameron and Ed Miliband have both described this – Election Year – as the most important for a generation, and it’s true that there are significant factors surrounding the 2015 General Election.  Notably, it is the first election in recent history when it is widely anticipated that no party will win an overall majority; it is the first Westminster election where the Scottish National Party stands a good chance of winning in Scotland – which could ultimately hasten the fragmentation of the United Kingdom; and there’s a strong possibility that the Conservatives, Labour and Liberals will secure less than 85% of the votes, with other parties securing more than 20% of the vote – which ultimately means a gradual progression towards the break-up of a two-party system.  What’s more, whoever takes office will inherit an ageing population and significant national debt.

With such political uncertainty right at the very heart of Westminster it is crucial that now, more than ever, our industry continues to raise its profile and make its voice heard.  With the prospect of fewer taxpayers and less public funds in the coffers for several years to come, indications are that the incoming government will aim to continue to transfer more financial burden from the state to the private sector.

Against this backdrop, the BHA, together with hospitality and tourism businesses across the board is buckling up to champion even more assertively policies including National Minimum Wage, skills shortages and taxation.  What’s more, we need to make sure that the economic and social importance of the hospitality and tourism sector is understood by all political parties and representatives at both a national and local level; and that our issues are on their agenda for the future.

Here’s what’s top of the BHA’s agenda for 2015:

  • The development of a robust skills agenda to ensure this industry is able to attract the right people to achieve our growth potential
  • The need for enlightened employment legislation that does not jeopardise industry growth and jobs
  • Price competitiveness.  UK VAT at 20% means we are not operating on a level playing field with the rest of the world.  Join the Cut Tourism VAT Campaign, which asks government to make the UK more competitive in Europe with a lower tourism tax
  • The UK is failing to gain its fair share of visitors from international markets like China, and visa policies must be improved
  • Managing our industry’s reputation on food sourcing, security, nutrition and health matters
  • The need for a more efficient planning process, which encourages rather than restricts further development

The tourism and hospitality industry has vast growth potential, already employing 1 in 10 of the UK workforce.  Now, more than ever, we must assert a powerful and united voice, in a bid to compete with other industry lobbies such as manufacturing and engineering, where the government has historically tended to focus its investment. It has been predicted that the sector could grow at an annual rate of almost 4% over the next 10 years, significantly faster than forecasts for the UK economy as a whole and quicker than sectors such as manufacturing, construction and retail. To maximise our industry’s potential, the BHA, as the voice of hospitality in the UK, continues to work collaboratively with organisations. And we are looking for new members who can support our mission to positively raise the profile of our industry and champion our growth in both job creation and economic terms.  The future of our industry depends on it.

Click here to find out more about the BHA.