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2022 has been ‘a bit of a slog’ but – we must all admit – a corner turned from which hospitality can hopefully push on, Sue Bromley reports.
They say time flies when you’re having fun, and much of this one, yet another extraordinary chapter in the 2020s, is coming to a close with at least a few smiles along the way. But while some things – such as guests confidently returning to hotels and UKHA members getting to meet up in person, including with us at Hospitality Expo – feel like ‘The Norm’, plenty of those smiles are anxious ones as we look to the future. Nearly every piece of national and international news this year has seemed to be some sort of looming crisis, and we’ll probably miss some out in this list… but here goes. Supply chain tangles, environmental issues and protests, the NHS, cost of living, employee shortages (particularly in our industry), industrial action by rail workers and others, and the ongoing war in Ukraine. And all before we add the latest major ingredients of the rocketing energy bills crisis (and gloomy predictions of black-outs) plus a government where you’re never quite sure who’ll be sitting in the fanciest seats, or for how long, let alone how their shifting policies might impact on our sector.
Deep breath, because for all of that 2022 has been, for most, far better than the preceding two years with the pandemic’s tragedies, restrictions, lockdowns, job losses and business closures only partially mitigated by initiatives like the furlough scheme. Not forgetting how the ‘combo’ of Brexit swiftly followed by Covid-19 saw many hospitality staff head home to the European mainland, some never to return. The best bits have included the staycation boom (long may that continue) and the return of international guests to our hotels, particularly in the cities. But business travel and wining and dining continues to suffer, probably because of cost-cutting, work from home and online virtual meetings becoming standard practice during the pandemic.
We must also put on ‘the good news pile’ that new hotels have opened, mostly on schedule, new jobs have been created, including in housekeeping management, and that major hotel groups are announcing or confirming expansion plans. Another side effect of all the drama is that employers are now far more aware of how hard their staff work and their extraordinary commitment, no more so than in housekeeping. Staff welfare, the physical, mental and financial aspects, have all risen up the management agenda. The voices of executive housekeepers are essential in all this, and they need to keep speaking out to those at the top table and sharing new ideas and best practice on training, recruitment and staff retention. This is just one example of how the support of fellow UKHA members is essential. Lovely as it is to meet up for a chat and refreshments, it’s the exchange of knowledge and support that counts. Some industry experts were openly having their say on all this from the very start of 2022, including our forthright Delia Cannings who, having returned from the Covid-19 frontline, was swift to pick up on what would be the next challenge alongside an increase in mental health problems, anxiety and depression.
She wrote in January: ‘We are heading for a crisis in cleaning, as the work force is becoming diminished. Staff, some of many years standing, are now choosing to change occupations and move into areas of work which are deemed as having less risk. These people have often contributed to creating safe environments, the very same people that government did not recognise as key workers or even place value on their significant contribution to the pandemic recovery process.’ Together with the British Cleaning Council, she supported direct approaches to Westminster politicians on issues including job recognition for cleaning, hygiene, and hospitality colleagues, key worker status, funded training and greater focus on health and wellbeing.
There’s no doubt that many hoteliers are aware of these issues and aiming to improve, even where practices are already good. For instance, early in 2022 Rocco Forte Hotels launched a new employee engagement and happiness programme, in conjunction with The Happiness Index, across their global portfolio. Sir Rocco Forte said: “To my mind, how we succeed is as important as what we achieve. We believe it is important to treat your people, partners and suppliers as well as you treat your guests. Not only is it the fair and correct thing to do, but it also makes business sense.” By February it was possible to count another cost of the pandemic, with UKH (UKHospitality) revealing the financial damage to the sector: a massive and devastating £115bn loss, mostly caused by 45 full weeks of lost sales since March 2020. They, and other champions of the sector, continue to do battle, and will once again take their message on the acute challenges hospitality is battling and the solutions that can help overcome them to Westminster on 22 November when a UKH parliamentary reception is held on the House of Commons terrace.
This has been a year of resilience and it’s important to recognise that more determination will be needed in 2023 as we face demanding existing issues as well as those that will arise. But we know we can do it, thanks to the high spots of 2022. We’ll be thinking of those smiling faces at Hospitality Expo in April at Ascot. There are hurdles to jump but the winning post could be in sight with one more lap of the track.
Institute of Hospitality
We believe it is important to treat your people, partners and suppliers as well as you treat your guests. Not only is it the fair and correct thing to do, but it also makes business sense.This year has seen The Master Innholders (MI) able to meet again and events included welcoming IoH CEO Robert Richardson MI FIH as an ‘Honorary Master Innholder’, a position held by only a handful of members. He’s pictured below (centre) with David Brann, the next Master, and Viscount Thurso, Master of the Worshipful Company of Innholders. All Honorary Master Innholders are prominent past or current hoteliers, dedicated and committed to promoting best practices across the industry.