Speaking at a panel during the Annual Hotel Conference last week, Peter Ducker, chief executive of the Institute of Hospitality, said he was disappointed in the sector's initial response.
“When the Living Wage was announced our industry was the first to say it would mean staff cuts,” he said.
“It sends out completely the wrong message - that the industry is only ever going to pay low wages and that there’s no career path to get to a high level.”
He added that the increase presented an opportunity to combat potential staff shortages and could be used by employers to boost staff productivity.
"I worry that we are seen as an industry as a last resort," he said.
“[Hospitality] has to embrace the Living Wage and say it’s a good thing. The more you invest in people the more likely they are to stay.”
The panel – which included Hospitality Action CEO Penny Moore and People 1st executive director Martin Christian Kent – also discussed encouraging young people to view hospitality as a viable career option.
People 1st estimates that 993,000 new staff will be needed by 2022, 870,000 of which are to replace existing employees.
Kent argued that hospitality is ‘the training ground for the economy’ with skilled staff often leaving to enter other sectors.
He said: “We are seen as a job not a career. Some key skills gaps are at high levels and by failing to keep the best people we have become reliant on transient workers and the traditional career progression has gone.”
Moore added that employers needed to ‘nurture’ their staff in order to encourage young people to stay in the sector.
“Young people these days have much higher expectations of work/life balance,” she said.
“They are not willing to accept 60-70 hour weeks when there are other jobs out there. Employers need to say to staff ‘we’ll look after you and nurture you’.”