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  • Lawrence Bailey

Keeping hospitality on the menu

Firstly, a big thank-you to everyone who participated in Delivering the Deal last week.

It was a sizeable crowd that turned up to the business engagement event at the Village Hotel, SA1 Waterfront.

And the message that came over on the night is that the Swansea Bay City Deal will fall short unless it matches the needs and expectations of local businesses.

The fact that the same point was made both by those on the podium and among audience members, says a lot.

It was only as we organisers were packing up our equipment that it occurred to me how little mention and been made of a sector that stands to gain significantly.

I’m talking about the hospitality business.

The industry, which includes enterprises that provide accommodation, meals and drinks in paying venues presently contributes around £2.6 billion a year to the Welsh economy. A best guess is that this will rise by at least a third as capital investment projects take off.

​Worryingly, all this growth is forecast for a time when the sector has warned it faces a shortfall of 60,000 workers a year if immigration from the European Union is too tightly controlled.

The British Hospitality Association (BHA) recently stated that thousands of businesses will struggle to drastically reduce their dependence on EU workers.

The hospitality industry represents three million workers and about a tenth of the UK's economic wealth. Overseas staff comprise nearly a quarter of all jobs in the sector.

With the economy signalling fuller employment, according to government statistics, recruitment agencies say that there are no easy pools of labour to exploit.

Consequently, EU nationals will still need to make up a large part of the workforce.

While immigration remains part of Theresa May’s Brexit agenda, studies confirm that EU immigrants make a net £1.7bn contribution to the UK economy in terms of taxes paid versus services used.

There were some scary growth ambitions outlined in last week’s presentations. They will impact on business, regardless of size or sector.

That means that we’re going to have to think very seriously about how we make sure hospitality stays on the economic menu.

Whose convenience are we talking about?

I used to be quite taken with the self-service tills you find in supermarkets. Now I’m not so sure.

My doubts stem from an unsettling experience gained in a local store. No names, no pack drill; but they once had an advert where people patted their back pockets.

Anyway, the damn machine insisted on asking me whether I wanted to bag each item after I’d scanned it. Finally it stopped working altogether.

The nice assistant came over and sorted things. Then it happened twice more.

Eventually the assistant scanned my remaining half-dozen items herself and then explained that the machine was timing-out because I was “a bit slow”.

Not the sort of thing to say to a former Co-op grocery Saturday boy, I can tell you. I was so mortified that I almost forgot my cash-back.

I’m all for convenience shopping. I just wonder whose convenience we’re talking about.

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