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HOSPACE showcases a limber sector - Ed's letter

This year’s HOSPACE was a case in point for proof that there is demand out there for events and that, for the right event, people are prepared to get out of bed and brush their hair.

The attendees at the Royal Lancaster were filling the room from the get go, with a vibrant exhibitor space outside and all of it was most heartening for a sector which has a tendency to get battered from every side possible and what feels like some from as-yet-undiscovered dimensions.

There was pressure to keep it positive, on a day when the UK was about to get its fourth Budget in a year. A year which is far from over. There was speculation about what the sector might want from the Budget, from a government which tends to overlook hospitality and UKHospitality CEO Kate Nicholls’ wish list was “stability”. We would all like to be able to take a breath and, well, plan our next move.

So on the one hand, energy support for the sector which is good, while on the other, an increase in NLW, which is not going to do much to address what Andrew Stembridge from Iconic Luxury Hotels referred to as the elephant in the room: margins.

The repeated theme here is that the sector will have to do what it is used to doing: find its own path. But that positive message was there to be seen. As Nicholls pointed out, the various segments of hospitality under her auspices have faced their own pressure points and found a way through. First pubs, then casual dining, then hotels.

Piling on the pressure has been the growth of these markets as asset classes. Our pubs, restaurants and hotels are so successful that the likes of pension funds now want a piece of them. And with that, comes the need to be accountable. If you’re owned by a private equity group, there will be a requirement for data to prove what you’re up to. Data which can be analysed for efficiencies.

Nicholls said that the sector had enjoyed a period of ease where it didn’t have to fret too much about staffing and costs and margins. That time is now past, but as Bespoke’s Thomas Greenall pointed out, once you get into the numbers, you can find where operations can work better. Knowledge is power.

So there was good news to be had and that news was that the sector need not pay too much attention to what happens with the rotating door at No.10. It can lead itself.

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