Published on Friday, January 31, 2020

Hospitality industry 'cautiously optimistic' over Brexit

Brexit is creating business opportunities as well as recruitment problems for the hospitality and events industry, according to members of trade body HBAA.

The association released details of members' views ahead of the UK officially leaving the EU at 11pm tonight.

In the hour before the UK leaves, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will address the nation. His speech will describe Brexit as the 'dawn of a new era', adding Brexit marks 'not an end but a beginning'.

More meetings have taken place to discuss the consequences and opportunities of Brexit over the past 12 months, according to HBAA member Tiernan Redmond, sales manager at etc. venues.

"Reviewing the titles of events on our schedule in the coming months, we have many more bookings that are likely to address it," he said.

However, demand for events dropped by around 20% around the December snap general election, Andrew Deakin, director of Conference Care, reveals.

Steve Jones, managing director of Wyboston Lakes Resort, said: "The combination of Brexit and rising costs is a challenging prospect for our industry. The devaluation of the pound, trade tariffs and delays with supplies due to border disruption could all occur after 31 January, so we have to be as ready as possible and quick to respond depending on what happens."

On prospects for 2020 and beyond, the industry is cautiously optimistic.

Nick Scott, managing director of arrangeMY, said: "Brexit has been a huge concern over the last three years mainly due to the uncertainty and fear mongering in the national press. As Brexit now appears to be coming to a conclusion, there is a noticeable feel-good factor and positivity.

"Looking ahead, the general consensus is we will experience some short-term pain for long-term gain. At the risk of sounding too optimistic, the reduction in red tape, rules and bad policy dictated from Brussels/Strasbourg may be a really good thing for our industry and provide new opportunities."

Tiernan Redmond, sales manager at etc.venues, said: "We believe international markets will continue to offer good opportunities for UK businesses."

Andrew Deakin added: "Of course, there will be challenges ahead, but people will still need events, and business will find a way."

Recruitment is an ongoing challenge for the industry, which has been exacerbated by Brexit.

According to the 2019 HBAA annual Brexit survey, 18.7% of the industry had seen a major impact on recruitment as a result of Brexit, and 19.3% had changed their recruitment policies.

Andrew Deakin said: "Employees are nervous and reluctant to move elsewhere because the economic market conditions are quite volatile. Recruitment is an ongoing challenge in our industry. There is a skills shortage and, as an industry, we do not do enough to attract top quality graduates."

One aspect of the industry that will not change immediately is the Tour Operators Margin Scheme (TOMS), although what will happen at the end of the transition remains to be seen.

HBAA chair Lex Butler said: "After more than three years of uncertainty, we now hope that the greater clarity will help everyone to move forward more positively. While recruitment will remain an issue, the recent announcement that the £30,000 salary threshold for migrants might be reduced is encouraging."

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