Jane Pendlebury is the CEO of HOSPA, the UK’s Hospitality Professionals Association. HOSPA’s CEO since 2016, she was already a force to contend with in hospitality long before. Jane has been working in the industry since 1985, in both chain and independent hotels, with an impressive resumé that covers everything from property to revenue management.
We recently talked with Jane about the challenges hospitality is facing at the moment. The pandemic and travel disruptions have been undeniably challenging, and the sector is in troubled waters worldwide. Besides, UK businesses have been navigating these challenges amid Brexit, giving them an extra layer of uncertainty. What are her expectations for the future? And will hospitality recover in 2022?
Jane, thanks for your time. With Brexit, the pandemic, and global shortages hitting the UK all at once, it’s not a secret that hospitality has been through a rough patch. You even called 2020 an “annus horribilis”. Will 2022 finally offer some relief?
The challenges for hospitality have already been making headlines this year – and they won’t be going away anytime soon.
Staffing is a major issue. While it’s not just hospitality that’s suffering, we are one of the hardest hit. I’ve lost count of the hoteliers and restaurateurs commenting on mass no-shows having set up interviews – that’s if they even manage to get candidates that far in the first place! Sadly, I don’t think this is a flash in the pan. The situation is likely to get worse before it gets any better. It’s a problem that’s just one amongst many at this point too.
Supply chain issues, particularly in the run up to Christmas, added to the managerial pressures. At the same time, previously rewarding forms of income, such as international business travellers, continue to be impacted by both the pandemic and the ongoing popularity of video conferencing.
There are many winds buffeting us at present, and I don’t see 2022 offering any imminent relief in the short-term.
“We will be able to overcome the latest challenges with resilience and agility.”
You’re painting quite a dim scenario for the industry right now. Do you think hospitality will be able to rise above the tide?
One thing that I think hospitality has always been is resilient. It’s an industry that’s quick to adapt, and the agility that has been on display over the last 18 months or so has been breathtaking at times. I’m fully confident that the latest challenges will prove to be hurdles we’re able to overcome as we march onwards as an industry – albeit with some of the hurdles being painful at times.
One of the things you mentioned, and that we want to go back to, is the staffing issue. It’s estimated that 92.000 EU workers have left the hospitality industry just in the last year. The number of EU workers dropped by 26% in two years. If this staff shortage is brought about by external factors such as Brexit, what can hoteliers do to overcome the challenges?
The staffing issue, whilst impacted by external factors such as Brexit and others, is causing us to look hard at what we stand for as an industry and what we can offer those working within it. It’s going to take some analysis and self-reflection to work out what makes us an attractive option, and then we’re going to need to champion those elements – while also working to improve the elements that are putting people off.
For me, personally, I know just how wonderful hospitality is as a career path. But, as an industry, we do too little to celebrate that fact, which, in times when we’re competing with other sectors to recruit staff, can lead to us being overlooked as a simple stopgap. I think the key is to focus on just what makes hospitality so great and then trumpet those aspects for all we’re worth.
Other [external] factors, such as the supply chain issues, international business travel disruption and more, are somewhat out of our control – but I have complete faith that our renowned durability as an industry will see us through these difficulties in the long run.
“I truly think we’re an exciting, evolving industry that there will always be a need for.”
Despite all the challenges, you seem very confident they will be no more than hurdles to jump over. So, if you had to pick a word to describe the future of hospitality, what would it be?
As touched upon, our agility as a sector is phenomenal. Blessed with a wealth of sharp minds and entrepreneurial spirit, there’s always something exciting happening, and we’re an industry that doesn’t stand still. From operators to suppliers, we’re always looking to innovate, so, regardless of the challenges, I truly do think we’re an exciting, evolving industry that there’ll always be a need for. The future, in my book, is bright even amidst a raft of challenges.
Someone who has been in hospitality for over 35 years must know a thing or two about resilience and durability. So, even if the future looks challenging and perilous, we’ll take Jane’s word for it. Agility and adaptability have allowed the sector to withstand many storms, and it won’t last forever. In the meantime, don’t forget to check out our roundup about hospitality’s trends and chalenges.