UK: Following a 90 minute debate in Westminster Hall on the creation of a Minister of Hospitality, MPs have voted in support of the motion.
The hospitality sector is the third largest UK employer, supporting 300 million jobs and contributing £130 billion to the economy. There is not however a dedicated industry representative in the UK government, with responsibility currently shared by ministers in the departments for business, energy and industrial strategy, as well as digital, culture, media and sport.
As a result of the challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, a petition was created calling for the creation of a Minister for Hospitality. It has been signed by over 207,000 people (at the time of writing), and debated by MPs yesterday afternoon.
In an effort to drive signatories and raise awareness of the petition, Robin Hutson, CEO of Limewood Hotel Group, encouraged his staff to spearhead the SeatAtTheTable campaign. Hutson confirmed on Twitter that the question will now be raised in the House of Lords next month: “This was never going to be a quick fix, it’s just the start. We will plot next steps, but a question being asked in the Lords on 3rd Feb to HMG on progress so that’s the next date for your diary.”
Trade association UKHospitality also posted on Twitter: “Important to recognise the need for proper representation of hospitality in government. As the third-largest sector in the UK’s economy, hospitality should be represented in cabinet. We are proud to have supported SeatAtTheTable in calling for the creation of this position.”
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “It was incredibly positive to hear so many MPs being vocal advocates of the hospitality sector. There was unanimous recognition of our importance economically and socially. It was particularly pleasing to hear parts of the sector like nightclubs, wedding venues and conference centres being lauded – businesses that have not grabbed headlines in the way that other sectors have, but are no less important, as the debate recognised. There was also welcome recognition for our critical supply chain.”
Peter Ducker, chief executive at the Institute of Hospitality, said: “Great to hear parliament discussing the crisis in hospitality and the need for a minister for our Industry. At last! Fingers crossed they see sense and think big.”
Neil Pattison, director at Caterer.com, said: “Parliamentary debate around creating a Minister for Hospitality is long overdue and very welcome. The sector now needs these positive conversations to result in action. The UK’s latest national lockdown has dealt yet another blow to the hospitality industry, one of the biggest employers in the UK and a significant contributor to the health of the economy. The prolonged business closures are causing significant damage to the strength and confidence of hospitality businesses and also to the millions of talented staff employed by them.
“Since March last year, Caterer.com has received more than three million applications to jobs on the site and in November alone over 17,000 new CVs were added to the database. Our data shows clear indication of the rising level of uncertainty and unemployment in the sector, but also of the desire for hospitality employees to remain working within it. There is also a strong desire among the public for hospitality services to reopen as soon as possible, and we’re confident that with the right levels of support from government, the sector will return with strength. The appointment of a Minister for Hospitality is crucial to this success.”
According to Sky News, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) officially labelled the hospitality sector as one of the hardest hit in terms of job losses. At the time of writing, over 157,800 jobs have been lost due to coronavirus, with more than 38,650 of these coming from within hospitality.
Writing on LinkedIn before the debate, John Philipson, COO at Cheval Collection, said: “As the third largest industry in the United Kingdom we have for far too long been marginalised in comparison to others while providing careers and employment to 4.5 million direct and indirect employees generating millions in revenues and taxes for the government. Never before has there been a greater need to ensure our voice is heard and have representation at the heart of government with a minister of hospitality. I am 100 per cent behind getting us a seat at the table.”
Sally Beck, general manager, Royal Lancaster London, said: “The third largest employer in the UK needs a seat at the table permanently to ensure that our vital industry is understood. There is huge risk now for 30,000 businesses and over two million jobs across tourism, hospitality and the supply chain. The government needs a Minister of Hospitality as much as we do.”
Michael Warren, managing director, Harbour Hotels Collection, said: “There are three reasons why I’m supporting the petition for a Minister for Hospitality. One, we’re such a large employer – in excess of three million people plus hundreds of thousands of indirect employees in our support businesses and suppliers. Secondly, we are a local employer. Local pubs, local restaurants, local hotels. We are not virtual companies, we’re not online companies. We employ people locally, we pay taxes locally, we pay rates locally and we support our local communities. And thirdly, and perhaps more importantly, we all know someone – including many of ourselves – who got their first employment opportunity in hospitality.”