In recent months two of the largest UK hospitality trade associations, the British Hospitality Association (BHA) and the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR), merged to create UKHospitality, a new body which will represent 700 operators across 65,000 sites.
The new body will bring together businesses from all aspects of hospitality – pubs, restaurants, nightclubs, hotels, leisure parks, contract caterers, entertainment and visitor attractions. In a statement shortly after the announcement, UKHospitality named its objectives as: “Firstly, creating a tax system which is fit for purpose, one which reflects the realities of business in the 21st Century and allows a level playing field for traditional high street and community-based businesses which now compete with online companies; secondly, a regulatory regime which allows the hospitality sector to focus on growth rather than red tape; and finally, developing the hospitality workforce of the future.”
So who’s managing the new outfit? The board of UKHospitality will be led by CEO Kate Nicholls, who is joined by chair Nick Varney of Merlin Entertainments and deputy chair Steve Richards of Casual Dining Group. Ufi Ibrahim, former chief executive of the British Hospitality Association (BHA) has decided to step down, though it had unclear when the merger was announced back in January whether Ibrahim, who has been chief executive of the BHA since July 2010, would have a role in UKHospitality. Now it has been confirmed that she is to leave the organisation ‘to pursue other interests’.
A consolidation of voices from this sector is welcome. The sector as a whole is worth some £130 billion per year to the UK economy, employs 10% of the workforce, and generates about £38 billion for the Treasury. It is one of the largest sectors in Britain, but one which was not sufficiently unified to provide the kind of lobbying welly needed for government to take notice. Here’s hoping the new body is successful in its aims and the industry can flourish with its support.