UKHospitality is the national trade body that represents the breadth of the hospitality businesses in UK, including pubs, bars, restaurants, coffee shops, hotels, and holiday accommodation. As CEO I was pleased to be invited to share with the Forum my expertise and experience of the COVID-19 pandemic on the industry.
It is no surprise that the impact of COVID-19 on the hospitality industry has been a devastating one. Before the pandemic hospitality was the third-largest employer in the UK accounting for 3.2 million jobs and a further 1.5 million jobs in supply chains. Turnover was £130 billion. The industry has some very large brands however, 80 per cent is made up of thousands of SMEs. Currently, 250,000 of hospitality employees are on furlough. Many have been furloughed, and as many as 15 per cent will not return. Turnover is down by two-thirds. It is a testament to the incredible work of employers since the start of the pandemic that redundancies have been kept down to 330,000. For 18 months apprenticeships, and other training opportunities have stalled, affecting individuals’ progression, and creating acute labour shortages.
The impact on access to labour and jobs, and access to training, has disproportionally affected women and, in many areas of hospitality, young women. 60 per cent of the workforce is female. On average, 60 per cent are also aged 18-to-24. Hospitality is the nation's best first job. These flexible employment opportunities, the skills and confidence they allow young people to develop, and the progression paths they can provide, have been devastated over 15 months of closure. And even before the pandemic hit, we were working to address the issue of fewer women in the top jobs in the sector.
So what can be done? We need to ensure the industry is supported through the recovery period. One of the key elements that has helped is the lower rate of VAT. It has helped the industry to create more jobs, to invest on training, to bounce back more strongly, more rapidly, and support jobs in the most deprived parts of the country, particularly our coastal communities. This needs to be maintained. In the longer-term we need a focus on education and skills strategies for the sector. There are a breadth of opportunities in the industry. Without clear progression paths we will be failing a generation of young people for whom vocational education and work-based training is a golden opportunity.