That was the overriding message from the speakers at the second British Hospitality & Tourism Summit, which took place at the InterContinental Park Lane yesterday.
The hospitality and tourism sector now represents 10 per cent of the gross domestic product and according to Andrew Sentence of PricewaterhouseCoopers, has almost twice the export potential of IT and communications and four times the importance of music, media and fashion.
However, those delivering speeches at the event held by the British Hospitality Association said the sector was still not considered as important as finance, manufacturing or creative industries by the Government.
"The fact that our industry created 150,000 jobs in a two year period is remarkable," said BaxterStorey chairman Alastair Storey, "We are now one of the largest employers in the UK. Our industry is massively important to the UK economy, but do we get the recognition for this?
"We do have a Government in the UK that understands business better than other countries, but we are not getting the recognition and support that our industry deserves. My plea to the Government is that they start to recognise the gem that they have in this industry and they work with us and understand how they could help."
While three MPS – Maria Miller Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport; Employment Minister Mark Hoban and Financial Secretary Greg Clark – were keynote speakers at the event, other speakers and attendees still felt the need to have greater representation within Government and called for a single minister to be responsible for the sector.
The opening to Miller's speech saw her recognise the 'important' role that tourism and hospitality played in delivering economic growth for the UK, but failed to show how the industry would be supported in the future and said we would need to 'keep raising our game' to remain competitive with other countries.
"As I’m sure you’ll know, within Government, Ministers are currently in negotiations with the Treasury regarding the forthcoming Spending Review," she said.
"Those negotiations are ongoing – and I am afraid I am not in a position today to give you the inside track – but what I can say is that I, like all Secretaries of State, am having to make the case for every pound of public money that we propose to spend."
Hoban, who unveiled the industry's pledge for jobs and Greg Clark both recognised the contribution the industry was making with regards to job creation, but gave no indication that the industry would be given more support in the future.
In opening the summit, Richard Solomons, chief executive of InterContinental Hotels Group said: "We need joined up Government to help make the right decisions, so that we can place hospitality and tourism right at the heart of generating economic growth.
“Every job created in hospitality creates another four jobs elsewhere. We have proved we can work together with the Olympics last year. People saw Britain at its very best, they saw genuine hospitality. Now we need the Government to take notice.”
The difficult visa process for international visitors and a non-competitive VAT rate compared with other European countries together were also seen as difficulties for the industry.
Summit talk - what some of the industry's leaders have to say:
Alan Parker, chairman, BHA
"The strength from our industry comes from world class brands and independents. It is the collective effort of smaller businesses and global brands that drive the power of the BHA and as an organisation we are not content to rest on our laurels. This industry has the potential to grow significantly and can provide jobs - the BHA target is the creation of 300,000 new jobs by 2020. We must be unified as an industry and our further success depends on the commitment of the Government."
Dermot King, director, Bourne Leisure:
"Lower VAT for this industry and give us a chance to compete with Europe. It's a national scandal that UK families are being taxed more to go on holiday here than they are in France, Germany or Italy. But if the Government isn't listening whose fault is it? It's all our faults because we haven't made them listen."
Angela Brav, chief executive Europe, InterContinental Hotels Group
"We need to be more demanding as an organisation and find our voice and force our Government to listen. How much more has this industry got to do before they take notice? This approach of talking to ourselves in this room and hoping that the media picks up the pieces may not be enough."