Just over half (52 per cent) of hotels, conference venues and booking agencies say that Brexit has had a noticeable impact on their businesses, with 7 per cent saying that it has had a major effect.
These are among the key findings of a survey of Hospitality Booking Agents Association (HBAA) members in the run up to the first anniversary of the referendum on European Union membership. The survey also found that 20 per cent of members felt that Brexit had had an impact on their ability to recruit staff while 80 per cent said that it had not had any effect.
Observations from members as they completed the survey give interesting insights into where the impact has been seen. They reveal a range of different issues and both positive and negative results.
Diane Waldron of the QEII Centre in London said; “We have seen an increase in enquiries from international clients as London has become a more affordable destination for their events.” LaiHa Diamond from the Kingsway Hall Hotel echoed this, reporting an increase in business from the USA, as did Jonathan Byrne of the Royal Foundation of St Katherine, also in London, attributing extra business from Europe to the weakness of the pound.
Hotel and venue members outside London did not report such benefits from the exchange rate. Instead several said that it had increased the costs of imported food and beverages. Giving an agency perspective, Penny Banyard of First Choice Conferences & Events reflected the views of many members by saying “Clients are much more cautious.”
Looking at the recruitment aspect, Sally Raith-Riches of Foxhills Country Club & Resort said; “If we can’t recruit from Europe across our Food and Beverage departments this will have a severe impact. But until this is confirmed we will continue with business as usual.” However Rajesh Vohra of Sarova Hotels commented: “Recruitment was a problem area before Brexit, but now it is a major issue, and it is getting materially worse by the day.” Philip Allsopp of Lea Marston Hotels also noted; “Recruitment has been difficult for many years, I think the Brexit debate is masking the problem. We need to look at more creative ways to engage people to want to work in our industry.”
The survey then asked whether members expected to change their recruitment policy in the near future. 12 per cent said they would while 88 per cent replied “No.”
However, looking further ahead, Mark Jones of Wyboston Lakes commented; “Whilst we have not experienced any notable changes to date, we expect recruitment to become tougher as we end 2018 and enter 2019. At that time we do expect that recruitment policies will have to change and anticipate that if we are to continue attracting sufficient talent from the UK and worldwide, we will have to provide accommodation to facilitate this.”
Summing up the overall viewpoint, several members including Sean Philby of Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group and Marc Webster of Jury’s Inn said that it is too early to know the impact of Brexit as most of the trends so far may be short term and not exclusively attributable to Brexit. Only once the post Article 50 negotiations have progressed will the effect be clearer. Louise Goalen, HBAA Chair and MD of Bela Events commented; “We all have our own different experiences and opinions about the impact of Brexit so it is valuable to have an industry wide ‘snapshot’ with which to benchmark them and to provide an overall view. As our members say, it is early days and the variety of impact even seems to vary regionally. It will be very interesting to ask again them a year and two years from now.”