We were a nation of shopkeepers, now we’re a nation of hoteliers  

Did you know that the hospitality and tourism industry is a ‘lynchpin of the UK economy’, employing 4.49 million people and so making it the country’s fourth largest industry? We at Explorer Travel Insurance didn’t either, but we were mightily impressed by the statistics that the British Hospitality Association (BHA) pulled together and  reproduced in a new report, entitled  ‘Backing the Future for Hospitality and Tourism’.

The BHA commissioned the report from the independent research group Oxford Economics and used it as part of its first Hospitality and Tourism Lobby Day. The Lobby Day took place last month at Westminster and was attended by 33 MPs.

(In our view, a  reasonably healthy number given it was the first time they had organised the event but still only representing 5% of the total number of MPs in Parliament so a way to go yet).

The BHA (quite rightly) wants the government to recognise tourism as an ‘economic priority’ and give the industry more support.  Amongst its list of requests  is a plea to cut  the VAT on ‘tourist accommodation and attractions to 5%’ and create an ‘apprenticeship training academy for hospitality and tourism’.

Their argument regarding upskilling seems a valid  one. The hospitality industry is the second biggest contributor to new job creation – after business services – creating 331,000 new jobs since 2010.  Those 4.6 million jobs now represent 14% of the UK’s total employment who between them represent 10% of our GDP. And as over 80% of these jobs are found in small to  medium sized enterprises, its not surprising that training sometimes gets overlooked.

A quick flick through the report reminds us just how important hospitality and tourism is to some regions. The industry accounts for 10% of all jobs in the South West and  9% in Scotland. And the industry employs over half a million (517,000) people in London. (No wonder London seems to have a coffee shop on every corner).

The chances are that a good proportion of those 4.49 million people will have served a Chinese tourist. The  report states that 358,000 Chinese visitor visa applications were made to March 2015 and that number is expected to grow by 5% each year over the next decade, making China the world’s largest source of international travel spending.

We think the BHA should be applauded for its efforts here.

Napoleon once  dismissed us as a nation of shopkeepers. I wonder what he would make of us now?


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