Why Brexit isn’t as bad as it seems

Have you noticed how often good news is prefaced with the words “despite Brexit”? The assumption behind this phrase – fast becoming a habit among some journalists – is that our impending departure from the European Union (EU) can only do harm to our economy and therefore to our businesses.

This is not the place, and I am not the person, to start a political rant on the merits of either side of the debate, but I do believe we are at risk of talking ourselves into unnecessary difficulties by adopting a negative approach to a decision that has been democratically made.

Let’s look firstly at perhaps the greatest concern of hoteliers today, the recruitment of staff. It seems inconceivable to me that our government will seek to deport EU citizens currently living and working in the UK. Nobody has expressed a desire to do this and indeed we have received reassurance from David Davis that they have nothing to worry about. He went further on TV recently suggesting that the numbers coming here may even increase in some years according to the needs of business.

There is no denying we have a problem in finding sufficient people to fill vacancies in hospitality but this was true before the referendum and it arguably owes more to the negative perceptions of a life in hotel and catering work peddled by parents and teachers than any other factor.

High on the list of worries is inflation especially in regard to imported goods, and while it is true that a weaker pound buys you fewer Spanish oranges the currency will continue to fluctuate endlessly. My own suspicion is that consumers will actively look for British grown produce in the quest for better value and will expect hoteliers and restaurateurs to do the same. Caterers can be amazingly flexible with their menus according to supply and demand.

For our customers, confidence is critical to their willingness to spend on discretionary items such as meals out and hotel stays. That confidence should be boosted whenever strong GDP growth is revealed or when the unemployment figure drops and in my view reporters ought to resist the temptation to justify their own surprise (at good news) by adding speculative warnings of worse to come when the full horror of our mistake takes hold. Am I alone in missing the days when news was all about telling us what happened today rather than guessing what might happen tomorrow?

The fact is that Britain is still one of the safest places on earth and will go on attracting inbound and domestic visitors for as long as its unique qualities last. So what are they? Here’s my personal list in no particular order:

  • A language understood by 25% of the world’s population
  • The Royal family and attendant ceremonial events
  • Stately homes, castles and historic sites
  • Black taxis, red pillar-boxes and white cliffs
  • Jaw dropping scenery in almost every region
  • Outstanding food served by friendly professionals
  • Hotels to suit all budgets, from basic to the frankly ludicrous
  • Freedom of speech
  • Makers of luxury goods
  • Tolerance of diverse faiths and customs
  • Great British wit
  • Weather

Yes you did read that last one correctly. Years ago my family received guests from California who were terribly excited by the prospect of wearing their gloves and scarves, instruments of torture in sunny Beverly Hills – the very thing we try to escape when heading for the Mediterranean ourselves may actually be an advantage too. For golfers it is certainly nicer to be cool than sweltering and as anyone who has been to Scotland out of season will know there’s nothing quite as comforting as a glass of whisky in front of a roaring fire after a period of exertion outdoors. We’ve coped with bigger challenges than Brexit. So let’s be optimistic and see if it rubs off on our customers.

Peter Hancock is the chief executive of Pride of Britain Hotels. This feature first appeared in the April 2017 issue of Jewellery Focus. 

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