Tuesday 22 December 2020 4:45 am

Wanted: A minister for hospitality

Robert Lancaster-Gaye is co-founder of Tradelinens

The hospitality industry — which provided work to more than 3.2m people before the pandemic struck — has been hit harder than virtually any other sector by Covid-19.

But while the latest ONS figures show that a staggering 78 per cent of businesses in the accommodation and food services industry have been impacted, there is still no minister in Whitehall to speak for them.

That’s despite lockdown after lockdown forcing businesses to close, reopen, close and reopen; the cost of new safety measures; limits to customer numbers when open; curfews imposed; and the rise and fall of one the highest profile campaigns of the summer, Eat Out to Help Out.

It is no secret that the hospitality industry is a major contributing driver to the British economy: worth £130bn in economic activity and £39bn in tax revenue, and the third largest private sector employer, responsible for 10 per cent of UK employment. It is long overdue a real voice in parliament — someone who can adequately represent it, with a solid understanding of the complexity of the industry.

Our hotels, our restaurants, our beleaguered pubs and bars need a dedicated minister — now. 

That is why we are campaigning for change. We are backed by industry leaders from across the hotel, pub and restaurant trade, and joined by high-profile business figures such as Robin Hutson, founder of The Pig hotels.

From the people who are making the beds at some of the world’s leading hotels in the UK to those serving you your morning coffee (when restrictions are lifted), these workers need to be not only heard, but protected. 

From the enjoyment of such simple pleasures as being able to travel for family holidays or relaxing over a nice meal out, to the wider benefits to the economy of people taking business trips to London or fuelling the UK’s tourist trade, these do not happen by accident.

And that’s before we factor in the fun and memories created by special birthday dinners, meeting friends for after work drinks, romantic nights out — all of it made possible by the nation’s hospitality workers and businesses. 

So why has it taken so long to ensure that these people are represented? 

With so many losing their income, jobs and even employers outright, when the industry is able to fully reopen it needs to do so with a stronger and more expert voice among the people making the rules it has worked so hard to abide by.

The current representation of the hospitality industry in parliament is split between two already jam-packed government behemoths: the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and the Department for Digital Culture, Media and Sport. It’s not hard to see how hospitality can fall between the cracks, or why there is such an urgent need to get a dedicated minister.

So when ministers debate this on the 11 January, let’s hope that they do the right thing. Hospitality workers need a champion in parliament. They deserve to finally have that #SeatAtTheTable.

Main image credit: Getty

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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