By Fiona Jeffery OBE, former chairwoman of World Travel Market
It’s not often I go to an industry conference and get genuinely inspired.
That’s what happened last week though when I attended the British Hospitality and Tourism Summit, the brainchild of BHA chief executive Ufi Ibrahim, now only in its second year.
Years serving the tourism industry at WTTC and moving to the hospitality sector inspired Ufi and others to bring the two sectors closer together here in the UK.
There is no other forum like it and it's good to see the senior players in both arenas networking and developing cross-industry initiatives.
The morning involved strategic business insight from major players including Willie Walsh, chief executive of BA parent IAG and president of the London Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Simon Vincent, Hilton chief executive, Ning Ning Yu, president of China International Travel Service and Lance Batchelor, chief executive of Dominos Pizza Group.
There was even a genuine attempt to identify four key initiatives that would help generate future growth and ‘greatness’ within the tourism sector led by Gordon Innes, of London and Partners.
Having set the industry scene in the morning, the climax came in the afternoon when for the first time I witnessed real leadership and commitment from our industry in its aim to address youth employment and the need to support the growth and expansion of our industry with vocational training tailored to the sector.
The entire afternoon was moderated by young people who took centre stage, supported by industry leaders who publicly pledged the creation of over 30,000 jobs in the hospitality and tourism sectors.
The initiative is known as the “Big Hospitality Conversation” and is supported by Springboard, the charity set up to support youth employment in the sector by Stephen Moss and driven by Patrick Dempsey, managing director of Whitbread Hotels and Restaurants.
Leanne, a 22-year-old girl who had been given a two week internship with Marriott, described how the opportunity had propelled her after five years of depression and lack of self worth and confidence to having hope and belief she had a future.
Her appreciation of the opportunity offered to her by Springboard and Marriot was an inspiration to everyone in the room. At the same time Marriott is developing a motivated, impassioned young person who revels in the opportunity to work for the company.
How often do we hear tourism is a force for good – and yet how often do we see the industry really stepping up to the plate and doing something about it?
Sadly not often enough, but all credit to leading companies such as Whitbread, Sodexo, Accor, Domino’s Pizza and Premier Inn – they did and in front of young aspiring girls and boys and senior industry executives.
The biggest disappointment having heard earlier from research company TNS we should listen to our customers more, was that both the secretary of state for culture, media and sport and minister of state for employment, made their speeches and left.
This is the future, the generation to whom they should listen – and, above all, seek to help.
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