Impression sat down with Kate Nicholls, CEO UK Hospitality, to dig deeper into the opportunities, challenges and trends.
What is the greatest opportunity ahead for the UK Hospitality industry?
Hospitality businesses have been the engines of growth and job creation on the UK’s high streets, revitalising town and city centres since the economic downturn. The sector has added £72 billion to the UK’s economy since the financial crisis and has been the fastest growing sector. There is an opportunity for the sector to achieve even more and to strengthen its position as one of the country’s most important economic and social assets, and be viewed around the world as the one plus ultra of hospitality.
Can you describe the biggest challenge facing hospitality right now?
Hospitality businesses are battling against a taxation system that is totally out-of-date and unfairly penalises high street businesses in favour of digital ones. The sector is overpaying rates by £1billion and some venues are struggling to cope. We need an overhaul of the tax system to take into account the realities of doing business in the 21st century, and that brings digital businesses into the tax system in a comprehensive and equitable manner. Equally, the sector desperately needs certainty regarding access to non-UK workers, to augment our British workforce while we work towards promoting hospitality careers in our sector to attract more British workers into tour venues and businesses.
What do you think are the biggest trends beginning to emerge in hospitality?
Not only are customers increasingly concerned about issues such as sustainability, the environment and health, but both national and local authorities are keen to tackle health problems and be seen to be acting decisively on environmental issues. As such, we are seeing hospitality businesses tailor their offers to address these issues.
What impact do you think hybrid hospitality will have on the market? What is the most exciting prospect of hybrid hospitality opportunities?
One of the most exciting prospects of hybrid hospitality, and indeed the wider sector, is its ability to pull brand new practices and formats out of the bag. Changing consumer tastes and legislative and financial demands have spurred innovation in the sector and some businesses have adopted dynamic and exciting models offering more. Some businesses will be forced to adapt to meet new challenges, while others will find themselves ahead of the curve, driving change on high streets. Either way, hospitality businesses on the high street have changed enormously in a very short space of time. Now, it is not exceptional for a pub to operate as a coffee shop in the morning, a meeting space for businesses or local groups during the day, and a restaurant at night; all the while remaining outwardly a pub.
If London is the second most visited destination, how could it become the top destination?
The increase in capacity at Heathrow Airport should bring a boost to hospitality businesses in the capital. Increased aviation capacity should help eliminate restrictions on growth with more and more visitors able to fly into London. There should be a knock-on benefit for the rest of the UK, too, as Heathrow acts as a hub driving tourism to the regions.