LAST week marked a turning point for the hospitality industry as all remaining restrictions were lifted, allowing businesses to embark on the long road to recovery.
Over the past two years, the hospitality industry has faced incalculable pressure with severe restrictions and closing times.
Now the concern is shifting to the huge debt burden – caused by these closures and restrictions – as well as increases in energy costs, labor shortages, tariffs and rising costs. of the supply chain at a time when we should be making the most of the newfound freedom.
But we cannot let these issues, some of which are beyond the industry’s control, hold us back any longer. Now we are looking for the light at the end of the tunnel and must seize new opportunities and use this time to revitalize ourselves.
Last year, in the midst of one of the lockdown periods, we presented an industry-led change and recovery plan for the hospitality sector, which set out policy levers that could be used to help the industry retain its position as one of the main economic drivers for Northern Ireland. An essential part of this plan is a dedicated strategy to rebuild and grow our hospitality industry.
As we emerge from two years of restrictions, hospitality businesses have taken the time to take stock and realize that guest and consumer trends have changed since 2019.
This means businesses need to be innovative in their offering, which can mean improving the customer experience, changing food and drink menus, and expanding the entertainment offering. All this requires investment and creativity to succeed. It also takes good people.
We also need to focus on retaining staff and promoting hospitality as an exciting career for people of all ages.
As representatives of the industry, Hospitality Ulster has recently developed the Hospitality Employers’ Charter so that companies can demonstrate their commitment to training and developing their staff.
The charter, which many of Northern Ireland’s leading hospitality businesses have signed, shows the industry’s commitment to focusing on the people who make hospitality the thriving industry it was before the pandemic.
Our industry is determined to move forward, through change and innovation, and to build on the success we once enjoyed. It is undeniable that we are in the very early stages of this renaissance, but the sector is resilient and adaptable.
We are committed to these changes, and to our staff, and this next chapter will show the industry’s resolve to move beyond the past years of devastation.
Colin Neill is Managing Director of Hospitality Ulster