Hospace Conference 2021

9:15 - Keynote Address with an Update on COP26 & Employment
Kate Nicholls
 

Kate Nichols — Keynote address with an update on employment and COP26

  • We have a strong and united voice for the sector which has been essential in the past 18 months.

  • With 3.2 million people working within hospitality — working together as one industry, we could produce a compelling case for the government.

  • The industry is due to grow 5% year on year and we are now looking to the future with a bit more optimism.

  • In 15 major budget statements by the government — hospitality has been at the top of their priority list.

  • The government's own analysis suggests that the pandemic hit us first, hit hardest and lasted the longest.

  • We want to shift our focus specifically to COP26 (sustainability) and employment — two key industry issues.

  • We took a clear three-point plan to the government for what we want for the industry going forward.

  • We have an array of recovery plans as well as three specific ministers underlined by an overall commitment from the government.

  • We aren’t yet operating at full strength and it’s essential the government removes barriers to travel and increase consumer confidence — It’s about making sure we recover fully and rapidly.

  • The single biggest challenge getting in the way of recovery is the people challenge. Hospitality labour shortages are currently running at 10% and London hoteliers are now reporting they are turning away room bookings as they don’t have the staff to meet the demand.

  • We are working at pace to face those staffing issues that are consistent throughout the industry.

  • Finally, it’s about making sure we can recover our renaissance. We will play our role and part in putting Britain on the global stage.

  • Our message to the government is: ‘If you back us, we will level up for you and deliver your policies in action’

  • On climate change: “About 80% of our carbon emissions come from the supply chains. It's all about the small changes that we can all make and we will be putting forward quick tips and tricks to decarbonise the industry”

  • Hospitality has already proved it can host major political gatherings (such as COP26) and is a flagship for the UK government.

  • The next 18 months will be as challenging as the last 18 months, however, we have a very resilient industry.

  • Question: some parents think hospitality isn’t a great career for their kids to get into…

    • This isn't a new challenge we face. Fundamentally, we need to fund a large scale recruitment campaign that highlights the benefits of a career in hospitality. We need to remove the preconception of it being a dead-end job. No industry gives you responsibility and authority at such a young age and if you’re bright and able, you can go up into management quickly — which is very unique and should be sold to young people. I believe hospitality offers the best first job and we should make a virtue of that! The transferable skills are essential in young people and will stay with them for life.

  • Question: Do you have a comment on wages going up?

    • As an industry, I believe we need to invest in our employer brand. Wage rate inflation running at 11% and 15% for existing staff. I don’t think it’s just about pay — we need to spell out that the average rate is much higher than people think. We should make a virtue of the fact we are 24/7 and should show how we can accommodate you as opposed to you accommodating the industry.

  • Question: one of the things parents look for is qualifications. We have apprenticeships but I’ve been asked to advise on this. Front of house is very important, do you think we could persuade the government to cover this too?

    • I don't think we will be able to convince the government about the T level qualifications. Those front of house skills are learnt on the job and not in the classroom. T-levels are a replacement for A levels and I think we should focus on the business qualifications and also focus our attention on the areas we can win. It’s important to provide professional qualifications and take people through development. At a school level, it’s an uphill battle as it has to fit in within a traditional curriculum.

  • Question: In the industry, there is great variance in customer service. Are there any wider initiatives for customer services?

    • There are some really good qualifications for customer service. Welcome host programmes and qualifications that sit alongside an apprenticeship. After the pandemic, the focus shifted to hygiene and sanitation and naturally, we have lost some of the traditional customer service approaches and it’s a valid point that we need to revisit that.

  • Question: hospitality is a people industry and is less well known for technology and innovation. I’m wondering if there is anything on the radar to invest in technology and innovation?

    • There is a three-year plan from the government to support the industry and technology is a priority and something they want to invest in. The pandemic encouraged a rapid acceleration in technology where people were implementing techniques that would have taken usually taken 18 months, in just a few weeks (QR codes etc). A vending machine can give you a service but only a person can give you an experience. If we’re investing in green technology this could be incentivised and we are seeing that customers are not as scared of technology and see it as an enhancement so we should be confident about making that investment.

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