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The UK hospitality sector needs a strong, unified voice now more than ever

Article by Nick Varney, Chief Executive Officer at Merlin Entertainments

Our sector contributed £40bn to the Exchequer last year; bigger than the UK’s transport budget and similar to the entire defence budget. As the third largest private sector employer in the UK; double the size of financial services and bigger than automotive, pharmaceuticals and aerospace combined, we deserve dedicated ministerial support which recognises the industry’s contribution to the economy.

It’s hard to think of a more turbulent period than we have seen over the past year. With Brexit and a challenging commercial environment, the trading environment has been volatile and the future remains unpredictable. Yet, the hospitality sector in the UK has seen a growth of 5.8% on average p.a. since 2010 and is now worth £130bn. It does raise the question as to why this hasn’t resonated much with the government in the past.

Hospitality is the 3rd largest private sector employer in the UK; double the size of financial services and bigger than automotive, pharmaceuticals and aerospace combined.

On 23 January, the boards of ALMR and the BHA announced proposals to form a single, authoritative body to represent the entire hospitality industry, as UKHospitality, and on 21 February the members of both associations will vote on the proposed merger.

We would benefit enormously from a single, unified association that can actively speak for this vibrant sector on strategic, structural and regulatory issues and deliver policies to support its strong growth. UKHospitality would provide just that – a dramatic difference to the challenging environment we operate in to promote, protect and develop what is one of the fastest growing and most productive sectors in the UK. The BHA and ALMR have offered huge advantages to the SMEs which make up the majority of the hospitality sector, and a new voice would build on the specialist knowledge, negotiations with suppliers and advice on regulatory issues which the 700 members across the length of the country require.