What does the recent spate of economic good news mean for the UK hospitality industry? Peter Ducker FIH, chief executive of the Institute of Hospitality, shares his thoughts.
After nearly eight years in recession the UK is now passing from recovery to bona fide growth. Instead of the 1.5% it gave us a few months ago, the IMF now expects the UK to grow 2.4% this year, higher than any other European country.
Of course, such positive news is hugely welcome, but it is not without challenges for our industry. In an even more fiercely competitive labour market, how will economic growth affect our ability to recruit and retain capable and talented employees?
Undoubtedly, hospitality was one of the success stories of the recession. While the public sector, manufacturing and engineering shrank, the hospitality industry created 153,000 new jobs between 2010 and 2012 – a quarter of all new jobs, according to the British Hospitality Association.
Yet despite such facts, many parents, teachers and careers advisors continue to regard hospitality as a career of last resort. Trying to attract school leavers to our industry is leaving it too late. That is why a number of schemes are aiming to educate and influence primary school children about the variety of opportunities that hospitality offers.
Of course we need chefs, waiters and receptionists, but we also need professionally-qualified employees in IT, online distribution, revenue management, web-analytics, interior design, property and acquisitions, branding, sales and marketing.
Coming out of recession does not mean that we are returning to a pre-2008 world. The environment has changed significantly, and in many respects, conditions are ripe for us to promote hospitality as a more attractive career choice than ever before.
Firstly, the growth is set to continue. Long-term employment projections suggest that by 2020 hospitality’s UK workforce will have grown by 6%. This includes plenty of management roles, which gives hospitality a real advantage over other sectors where senior roles may not be available.
Secondly, more and more hospitality firms are being recognised as employers of choice. In the latest Sunday Times list of the UK’s 25 Best Big Companies to Work For, for example, there is a higher number of hospitality and leisure organisations than from any other sector.
Thirdly, hospitality is not badly paid. At IHG UK, 11% of employees earn £35,000 or more compared to 3% or 4% for most retail companies. In a recent comparison of corporate and management roles across the UK by remuneration experts MHR Global, hospitality pay was higher than the general labour market in 30% of cases.
Finally, studying at an English university has now become extremely costly, meaning that many young people are looking at alternative routes. Hospitality’s low barriers to entry mean that there are roles for everyone, with or without qualifications, and for those with ambition and talent, the career paths are very clear.