The Brexit Boom?
In our most recent Independent Thought Series piece, we discuss how the value of the pound may've been damaged by the EU Referendum, but that a weak pound is attracting holidaymakers from the UK and abroad. We hear from two leading voices from the city and country, The Gallivant's Harry Cragoe and Red Carnation's Jonathan Raggett, about Brexit's impact on guests, trends, and workers.
2.5 million more Brits will vacation in the UK this year than in 2015, claimed The Guardian news-paper's travel section on 9th July 2016. At first glance, Brexit augurs well for the hotel sector – mostly as it's thought hospitality will profit from the drop in the value of sterling. Holiday makers' spending money will go much further, says the data from vouchercodes.co.uk. Bookings placed in the USA and China are also said to be rocketing, with one York hotel claiming that American book-ings went up by 236% in the week after Brexit alone. The Guardian piece also quotes search en-gine Cheapflights, which says searches for journeys to Britain from America doubled, with further increases of 61% from China, 49% from Canada and 31% from continental Europe itself.
Former PJ smoothies entrepreneur Harry Cragoe, owner of Camber's The Gallivant, believes the financial impact “Will be a positive one, yes. Due to the currency changes, people will be more in-clined to spend their money in the UK.”
The majority of weekend guests at Harry's multiple award-winning seaside bolthole come from London, only ninety minutes or less away.
“They're short stay customers, and the weather is less important for a weekend away. You're not lying on the beach, you're thinking about the food,” he explains. Prudent young professionals might well decide upon a stay at The Gallivant over a city break in Barcelona, say.
A weaker pound and the possibility of simplified trading laws also favour the British suppliers that The Gallivant uses almost exclusively.
“Ninety-five percent of all our fresh ingredients come from within ten miles,” Harry says, “We buy nothing from overseas, food-wise. We now have 22 English sparkling wines but we are surrounded by the very best, and that aligns to our food offer. We buy directly from fishermen and farmers. Those guys are supplying local businesses, and there are more and more of us. We did it to support the local suppliers as they make inspiring produce. We try and buy spirits and wine from the UK as much as we can, too. It's down to quality, and to reduce our carbon footprint. There was no political motive. It's fresher, and if you're running a business you want to support other businesses around you.”
Local provenance then, it seems, is an industry trend that Brexit could catalyse. Another is the revival in levels of British personnel. “The majority of staff here are UK nationals,” says Harry, “but we cast a very wide net. Brexit's impact on immigration won't be felt for a few years. I suspect the eventual entry requirements will not be as draconian as some imagine, so I don't think recruitment will be a worry.”
Attracting British workers though is a sign of success, believes Harry. “It's a very challenging, very stressful, very hard industry,” he says, “Working for a brand that you have confidence in, that's going places, is perhaps more important in this industry than any other. The better businesses attract better people. The quality of applicant that we're talking to now is significantly higher than three years ago.”
It seems that the progressive regional But Britain of regenerated seaside resorts, sustainable ingredients and hip hospitality careers fits neatly into the post-Brexit world. At Red Carnation, a ‘family owned and run' group of more traditional five star hotels in London, Dorset, The Channel Islands and abroad, managing director Jonathan Raggett is also hopeful – but with acute reservations.“The economic factors do stack up positively,” he says, “But the summer months are always strong, so the picture will be a lot more interesting in ninety days or so. China is an increasing market. London is such a phenomenal city: the eateries, the hotels… I don't know a capital city that has more going on. There are 7000 more rooms in central London than there were a year ago, and next year there'll be another 7000.”
Jonathan warns that hospitality, and the UK as a whole, will have to focus its energy on creativity to keep its leading status. “We're kidding ourselves if we think that the industry will be as great without the cosmopolitan aspects of the EU,” he says.
Expressing the compassion that saw Red Carnation achieve third place in The Sunday Times' ‘Best Companies To Work For 2016', Jonathan is concerned about his EU staff. “It's created great uncertainty and unhappiness… a feeling that they are not wanted. I can't promise the fantastic Portuguese waitress, for example, that she can stay as long as she likes.”
While finding British staff might be possible by using a certain approach out-of-town, it's exceptionally difficult in central London says Jonathan.
“I've got vacancies across the board,” he continues, “we will always prefer to take on a local person, with no accommodation needs. And if people visit they prefer to have a local serving. But they are not there. We simply cannot find them. We are not taking a job off a British person. Hospitality is not for everyone, you have to have a work ethic and be caring.”
Ultimately though there is one timeless aspect to our industry that no amount of uncertainty will change. Jonathan nails it down: “The art of hospitality is making sure that you're generous and kind. Standards and details must be correct – care for each and every guest.”
So get that right, and even surprise referendum votes that shock the world shouldn't cause too many tremors in the boardroom.
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