CEOs positive about UK Growth prospects, but consumer confidence still fragileThe British Hospitality Association, the private sector forum for the Hospitality and Tourism industry, today publishes a report called Leading Through Uncertainty with Heidrick and Struggles, a premier provider of senior-level executive search, culture shaping and leadership consulting.
The report captures the views of 42 UK-based hospitality CEOs and leaders from companies including, Domino's Pizza, Elior Holdings, Fullers, Marriott, Spirit Pub Company, Tragus, TUI Travel, Travelodge, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Whitbread and YO! Sushi.
The CEOs who participated in face-to-face interviews in late February to mid April with Heidrick and Struggles for the British Hospitality Association represent £35 billion in sales and over 900,000 employees.
The report reveals concern over the negative impact the results of the General Election could have on consumer confidence and business this year. CEOs were vocal about politicians treating hospitality as the 'Cinderella' sector with a massive disconnect between Westminster and an industry that delivers over £40 billion in tax revenues and is the UK's fourth largest employer.
Setting aside the uncertainty of the general election, more than two thirds of executives (72%) were positive about the UK’s economic growth outlook while nearly the same predicted moderate or significant growth for their own company (67%). More than half reported that their business was performing better this year when compared to the previous year.
Consumer confidence was the top issue executives cited as the key challenge facing the next Government. Over half of hospitality leaders were optimistic that consumers would continue to spend money over the next 12 months. Executives raised their fears on how the fragility of consumer confidence could be affected by any incoming Government that hurried through “rash” policy initiatives.
When asked what keeps executives awake at night, the top issue running through their minds, especially those CEOs with significant operations in central London was fears about possible terrorist attacks and their impact (22%), followed equally by national political issues and commercial performance (17%) and the pipeline of talent management (13%). Leaders talked about the potential threats in London and the Charlie Hebdo attack earlier this year in Paris and their commercial impact. Several executives cited a decreasing number of visitors this year, particularly in London, suggesting a link to security concerns.
Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association said: “As the country's fourth largest employer, biggest contributor to new jobs over the past five years, and one of the greatest conduits to spreading wealth across the entire country, the incoming government needs to step up to the plate and effectively serve our 3 million strong workforce. Ensuring a conducive policy environment to support the hospitality and tourism industry is not 'rocket science'. It just needs commitment, leadership and a government that works with our private sector, rather than against it.”
Ben Twynam, report author and Head of Practice UK, Travel, Leisure & Hospitality at Heidrick & Struggles, said: “As a firm we work with leaders based all over the world and we’ve found that hospitality, as a sector, still doesn’t appear as respected in the UK as it is in the US, the Middle East or in Asia. In those regions the industry is recognised and respected as a major growth driver for the economy.”