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Stepping Up

HOSPA CEO Jane Pendlebury looks forward with hope and hails the sector’s efforts to do good in the face of the pandemic.

We can surely look forward to 2021 with an element of optimism even if we know we are not quite where we would like to be, just yet. 2020 turned out to be hospitality’s annus horribilis – despite always trying to keep a sunny disposition, there is no point in pretending otherwise.

There have been days when I sat at my desk (where else would I be? I couldn’t be out and about as had been the norm for so many years!) taking call after call from bewildered and disoriented hoteliers and hospitality business owners. We all became experts in new processes, new regulations, new technologies and a new way of living. I made it my personal mission to keep an eye out for good news, and I wasn’t disappointed. There were hotels housing key workers, others hosting the homeless. Many adapted their operations to feed their hardworking local communities and switched their food delivery from fine dining to take-aways.

The creativity of hospitality people shone through as we all tried to keep our heads above water. At times, the Government seemed really aware of hospitality as a valuable industry, as we benefitted from the furlough job retention scheme, business rate holidays, loans and the VAT cut. At times we felt ignored and taken aback by some of the restrictions that did not seem to take into consideration the effort and hard work that went into making our establishments COVID safe and sparkly clean.

Everyone now knows who Kate Nicholls is! Kate and her team at UK Hospitality have worked tirelessly on behalf of our industry and we should all be forever grateful to them for continuing to give us a voice in parliament. Perhaps the next step will be that hospitality has its own minister rather than being lost in BEIS and DCMS. We shall watch the debate with interest.

There were some though who, despite the Government’s supportive measures, have endured a truly horrendous year. Some, tragically lost family members and friends, others their jobs and some their whole businesses. Thankfully our industry charities stepped up – notably Hospitality Action which was able to offer some immediate support to those who needed it most.

I fear the path back to normality is not going to be an easy one. I suspect there will be more casualties along the way. However, those who survive this desperate time should come back stronger. We will hopefully all benefit from pent up demand to socialise and network. So, we must keep our heads held high and our smiles firmly smiling. Together we can pull through! We will emerge with dignity and a deep desire to bring the people of the UK (and beyond) back out to our establishments, encouraging them to enjoy all that we – as fabulous hospitality professionals – can deliver.


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