Usually, I pride myself in being able to predict trends within our sector. Having worked, lived and breathed this industry for so many years, I have honed my ability to spot the next big thing. The hottest new talent. The best new venue. The themes, décor, music, food or service that all clients will clamber over one another to book. And my foresight often includes those overarching industry trends too. Yet, currently, I find myself in the most peculiar position. I am wondering like many, what does the future hold for the hospitality and events industry? I can’t say for certain what’s next. But here’s my thoughts.
THE POSSIBLE FROM THE IMPOSSIBLE
It’s hard to look ahead right now and ask ‘what does the future hold for the hospitality and events industry’ without feeling a sense of loss. Our industry, so vibrant, so full of passion and talent has lost a great deal this year. The economic impact of coronavirus has hit us hard.
I am an optimist at heart though and will remain so. I’ll admit that seeing the future of the hospitality and events industry through my usual rose-tinted spectacles has been trickier than usual. My lenses have been ever so slightly misted over (not just because of my face covering). Yet, there is always a flip side. A yin to the yang. A business gain to the commercial loss.
We’ve seen great businesses collapse. From hotel chains and restaurants. Carluccios, Pizza Express, Byron Burger and Azzuro Group to name some of the bigger firms suffering the impact. To pubs, event suppliers and management companies. There have already been economic casualties. Hardly surprising given figures such as those from the BBPA, showing that one in three pubs were struggling to break even after reopening. How many of the small, independent hotels, pubs and eateries are likely to fall.
We’ve lost talent. Both energetic newcomers and seasoned stalwarts that have dedicated their lives to doing what we do best – helping people to have a good time.
Colourful characters and characterful venues have said goodbye to the industry. We’ve lost jobs, money, stock – the thought of pubs having to pour beer down the drain in the UK would have been laughable before 2020. Yet, here we are!
I won’t be defeated. And remaining positive, focussed and determined is key. So, in a bid to find light at the end of the tunnel, I’ve begun to draw up a list of what we, as an industry, could also gain from this seemingly impossible situation.
Never has the saying ‘you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone’ been more fitting. One thing that coronavirus has shown the hospitality and events industry is just how much our customers and clients appreciate us. And of course, how much we appreciate them.
And the public’s support has been shown not only by the hundreds of thousands of people that have signed petitions lobbying for more support and less restrictions in the arts and hospitality sectors, but unsurprisingly pubs and restaurants were packed once they were allowed to reopen. People love and need to let their hair down, especially in hard times. Companies will want to reward, thank and motivate teams and clients. Recognition events will see a boost. Companies will want to share and show how important their human assets are. And we will help them to deliver that message.
During the first lockdown I was privileged to speak to Martin Fullard, the editorial director of Conference News for my podcast. He shared his thoughts on the event and hospitality industry coming together during the pandemic and I have to say, I echo his observations.
“We haven’t all been swimming in the same direction for years and that’s been our biggest problem,” said Martin. This crisis, if there’s any silver lining to find, has brought us in line. It has brought people together.
“I’ve never been more confident that we have as an industry made progress to get awareness.
“We have made impact on the government… I think that maybe this crisis has been the kick up the backside the industry needed.”
I couldn’t have put it better myself. From the #WeMakeEvents initiative to the stories of pubs and takeaways joining forces to offer guests ‘a substantial meal’ that allowed both to continue to operate and make profit, we’ve shown we’re better together. And a force to be reckoned with.
And as soon as the moment is right, TLC will launch ‘Hospitality Rise’. An incredible party to mark the beginning of the recovery, and uniting hospitality partners in the fight back.
Something that many of us workaholics have had a taste of during the pandemic. And something that I hope will stick. Our industry was made for flexible working. Unsociable hours, yes but late nights or early mornings should mean downtime at the other end of the day.
Yet it’s not uncommon to find those in the hospitality and events industry to work from dawn to dusk in the pursuit of perfection. Lockdown one certainly gave me a time of reflection. It allowed me to hit the reset button and focus on realising some lifelong ambitions – such as launching my own podcast. I’m very much hoping that continues.
Also, in the balance. The environment. Lockdown periods show us the impact we are all having on the world around us. Home working. Less waste. Events and marketing activities that bring green benefits to a business will become the norm, as we seek to find the ultimate balance of business profits and the environment.
For the hospitality industry, lockdown 1 saw sales in the sector plummet by 87% overnight, with an estimated £30 billion in lost revenue.
Yet as an industry we emerged, dusted ourselves down and reinvented ourselves within the difficult, new restrictions. We used every bit of our creativity to think of new ways of working. From the cosy outdoor areas that have sprung up in beer gardens all over the country, to pubs teaming up with takeaways to offer a substantial meal. We saw orchestras play Beethoven from their bedrooms, online broadcasts from the Royal Opera House. The list goes on.
Importantly, this ability to diversify will be one of our greatest long-term assets. The flexibility. Ingenuity. The creative way we can look at our business, and flex. As a consequence, whilst I am an advocate of the live event, I can see how hybrid events will now have a place in the event planning for global corporate business. ‘At home’ options a likely to remain for restaurants. Many seeing how profitable this could be. Being forced to re-evaluate commercial offerings has driven the open-minded thinking we want to continue. It’s created an industry that is prepared to push back the boundaries of what is possible (something I have been doing for years). The result will be a more exciting time.
Finally, and perhaps not a popular thought right now, but in every crisis, there are winners. Delivery companies, wine merchants and Amazon in this case! With many companies not surviving the economic downturn, there will be inevitable gaps left in the market. Opportunity for new companies, suppliers and ideas to thrive. With entrepreneurial thinking, the hospitality industry can emerge with a fresh look and new, highly energised companies. The emphasis on customer experience coming to the fore. Those who have diversified will be in prime position. Companies offering imaginative solutions will take the lead in reinvigorating the business. This really is the light at the end of this long tunnel. Whatever the future for the hospitality and events industry is – I for one plan to be leading the charge!
More thoughts. Greater discussion. Positive actions creating positive reactions. Read why.
What do you think? Comment, Share. We’re in this together!