The UKHospitality association called for a shift in the burden of business rates from high street to online businesses yesterday as it outlined a series of demands on government and warned ministers: “Ignore us at your peril.”

Kate Nicholls, UKHospitality chief executive, told the association’s conference in London: “Hospitality is the country’s third-largest employer. It creates one in eight new jobs.

“We’re twice the size of the financial services sector. We touch the lives of people in every constituency at every skill level.

“One third of our £130-billion turnover goes to the government – the equivalent of the social care budget or the cost of Brexit.”

She added: “The sector is forecast to double [in size] if we get the right conditions for growth, [but] we can’t do it while we face significant headwinds because of government policy.”

Nicholls outlined three demands of ministers: “Secure a Brexit deal that delivers our future workforce and supply needs.

“Champion the high street through a root-and-branch reform of business rates. And boost productivity by doubling the National Insurance Contribution threshold to take the lowest-paid out of tax and support job creation.”

She said: “We need a fair and level playing field with digital businesses.

“We want a freeze on business rates for the next two years, and we want the government to look at new digital taxes to take the burden off business rates and put it on the digital economy.”

The conference on Monday was UKHospitality’s first since its formation by the merger of the British Hospitality Association (BHA) and Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) in March this year.

Nicholls said: “Our organisations came together against the backdrop of real and significant threats to our industry, amid a great deal of uncertainty and a trainload of regulation and toxic headwinds.”

The aim of the merger was to gain greater “political recognition of the role UK hospitality plays in the economic life of this country”, she said.

The association’s lobbying efforts have “already had a transformational effect in the way ministers see us”, she told the conference.

Nicholls said: “We have a vision of a dynamic, vibrant sector touching the lives of everybody – a sector the government needs to care about.”

But she insisted: “We need to reduce the costs of doing business. The imposition of unnecessary regulation and cost pressures are crippling our sector.”

Nicholls also called on the government to endorse a sector deal for tourism and hospitality “to develop home-grown skills and reduce unnecessary costs”.