Pathway to recovery provides opportunity to rethink and revitalise hospitality sector

PULLING PINTS AND PUNCHES: This the time not just to rebuild hospitality, but to rethink and revitalise the sector
Colin Neill

THE pathway to recovery for the hospitality sector after the impact of the pandemic will be by no means smooth or straight.

Whilst we are still emerging from the lockdown phase, we still truly don't know the full extent of the devastation the coronavirus has caused as elements of the sector are still to be given the green light.

We are encouraged to see that things are moving in the right direction, but we do need fresh impetus and focus on the easement of restrictions so that we have the opportunity to accelerate quicker out of the disaster zone.

It is likely that things will not return to what previously was regarded as normal. Crisis moments are often good opportunities to create change. This pandemic shone a light on our sector with everyone realising just how important it is.

It is now time to harness that support and knuckle down on a whole range of potential economic policy interventions that will create longer term sustainability and a return, ultimately, to profitability – however far away.

This is not only the time to rebuild, but time to rethink and revitalise our sector. Covid has reinforced the vital role of our hospitality sector not just to the economy but to our social fabric. A strong hospitality sector is important for creating jobs, sustaining livelihoods, community life, tourism and stimulating local spend.

We need to see dedicated government focus on the hospitality sector which pre pandemic was the fourth largest private sector employer and contributed over £2 billion to the economy each year.

At Westminster and at Stormont we are continuing to fight for our members across everything from duty on alcohol, VAT, air passenger duty, addressing outdated liquor licensing, rates and support for businesses emerging from the lockdown.

The speed, timing and flexibility of our response will be critical to recovery. Our recently published recovery plan is more than a plan to re-open the doors and try and make good the losses of 2020. The events of the last year and a half have changed everything from our values to our purchasing habits and the role hospitality plays in our economy and our lives.

The industry has time and again articulated what it needs from policy formers and legislators. The asks are clear. We now need to see greater collaborative working with our partners in government to deliver meaningful change for much need future investment, job creation and growth.

:: Colin Neill is chief executive of Hospitality Ulster

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