The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) and the British Hospitality Association (BHA) were given the go ahead from members at two EGMs to merge, creating the biggest trade body for the UK’s hospitality sector.
In its first act as a newly formed body, UKHospitality will call for a dedicated minister to represent the hospitality sector, said new deputy chair Steve Richards.
Plans to fuse the organisations were announced last month, following much speculation and years of questions on whether they would be better together rather than apart.
In a statement today (22 February), the new organisation that will be headed by current ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls claimed it would provide an authoritative voice to more than 700 UK member companies and their 65,000 venues.
Third largest private employer
The new association will “spearhead hospitality’s representation on the strategic, structural and regulatory issues it faces”, read the statement.
There will be a focus on campaigns for policies to help the sector achieve further growth as a key driver of the UK economy, within which it is the third largest private sector employer.
“UKHospitality will ensure that the Government has a full understanding of the social and economic impacts of policies such as the national living wage, business rates and Brexit on the third largest private sector employer in the UK,” it said.
The new board will be led by Kate Nicholls as CEO and Nick Varney of Merlin Entertainments as chair. Casual Dining Group’s Richards will be deputy chair.
It has also been announced that Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the BHA, has decided to pursue other interests after eight years with the organisation.
Following the group's creation, Nicholls said: “The incredible member support for creating UKHospitality demonstrates our ambition to reshape the future of an industry, which represents 10% of UK employment and generates £38bn of tax for the exchequer.
“I look forward to working closely with all members to achieve our vision and to give a sector of huge economic, cultural and social importance the voice it deserves within Government, and to deliver the much-needed policies that will support its strong growth trajectory.”
The launch was described as a “significant moment” for hospitality by Varney, who added: “Our vibrant and dynamic sector has been overlooked in policy decisions over recent years, which has had a direct impact on jobs and value creation.”
On the reiterated calls for a dedicated sector minister, Richards added: “We are today reiterating our call for a dedicated minister to represent an industry that is the third largest private sector employer in the UK; double the size of financial services and bigger than automotive, pharmaceuticals and aerospace combined.
“The sector’s tax contribution is as big as the defence budget, and warrants focused attention from Government. Kate and the team have an ambitious plan to secure the future of our industry and will be actively engaging on behalf of the sector at home and abroad.”
Meanwhile, All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group chair and MP for Dudley South Mike Woods, along with former pubs minister Marcus Jones, said: “Such a significant part of the UK’s economy deserves a trade body with the capacity to promote the fantastic work being done across the UK.”
The pair also applauded Nicholls' appointment, saying the CEO is a “great champion” for the hospitality sector.