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Tourism and hospitality must take a collaborative approach in 2011

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2010 has been a heady rollercoaster of a year for the UK's hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism sector. Government policy changes that have led to reduced immigration and cuts to Train to Gain and other funding for skills development (eg support for the new school diplomas) have taken their toll. Yet the industry has moved on from surviving a major economic downturn last year to preparing for growth, as major events provide a global platform to showcase Britain's warm welcome and customer service.

 

Within his first 100 days in office prime minister David Cameron acknowledged the critical role that the tourism and hospitality industry will play in driving the UK’s economic recovery. He highlighted the importance of attracting talent and acknowledged that this industry is one of the best and fastest ways of generating jobs the country desperately needs. No government prior to this has acknowledged our industry in such a manner and, collectively, throughout 2011 we should capitalise on this window of opportunity to attract new talent.

November heralded the launch of the government’s new skills strategy, which focused on employability training to help people find jobs, as well as apprenticeships and work-based learning as the best way to upskill and secure retention. Such emphasis on training is crucial to the future success of our industry, especially in areas such as management, where challenges in the year ahead will require effective leadership. It is therefore critical for training companies to understand our industry’s requirements and develop programmes that encompass the best management and leadership techniques.

Hospitality and tourism have made great advances in the past five years, but only by embracing such an approach and investing in training and development will we be able to minimise the reliance on sourcing skilled people from other countries that some businesses have.

Of course this is easier said than done. Often with very limited resources, SMEs have struggled to invest in training and development, hampering their opportunity to grow. Tax incentives would certainly provide an attractive proposition, so perhaps it is time for government to look at incentivising employers to home-grow talent. Despite the economic challenges businesses have faced this year, 2011 is set to be much more promising, with SMEs playing a critical role. Yet how do you effectively engage with this significant group? This is one of the key challenges that our industry faces next year.

Moving forward, I cannot stress enough the importance of collaboration. Given the limited resources available within our industry, we need to consider the greater good and pool our existing resources and expertise to maximise the superb growth opportunities that we face in 2011 and beyond. We have a diverse range of industry bodies and stakeholders making a positive contribution to businesses in our sector, which puts us in great stead. As 2010 heralded the creation of a coalition government, surely 2011 has to be the year in which our industry experiences a much more collaborative way of working.

As this sector grows, a critical priority is to ensure a better provision of advice, information and guidance in a single place so that individuals and employers are aware of the progression routes for the numerous roles within this vibrant industry.

A joined-up approach will also help us attract, foster and develop talent within the UK. Let’s not forget the unsung heroes in businesses such as travel agencies, B&Bs, hotels, pubs and restaurants - ultimately it is their talent and ability that will be the driving force behind the economic recovery.

Brian Wisdom is chief executive of People 1st