While our industry is called on to lay the foundations of a successful double transition – sustainable and digital – our restaurants, hotels and cafés are still suffering. Beyond the need to pay back their COVID loans, our establishments are currently facing unprecedented labour shortages and skyrocketing food and energy prices in Europe. The profitability of our Small and Medium Enterprises is at stake.
That being said, it’s not all doom and gloom. According to the UNWTO’s forward-looking scenarios for 2023, 585 million tourists travelled to Europe in 2022, nearly 80% of the pre-pandemic level, Europe could reach up to 95% of its pre-pandemic levels this year. Representing 1,9 million SMEs and 10% of the EU GDP (Tourism), tourism and hospitality greatly contribute to the European economy.
Hospitality is a people industry, made of women and men helping people connect with others – whether professionally or for leisure. Hospitality is also about creating positive impressions and the pleasures in life: a holiday, a night out, a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Let’s deep dive into the life of these women and men and appreciate how they carry out this transition.
1. Attracting and retaining the workforce
Despite some optimistic projections for the year ahead, many businesses are still dealing with unprecedented labour shortages and lack of skills. How can you provide a high-quality and tailored service, which is the essence of Hospitality, when you don’t have enough staff and when you fail to recruit suitable talent?
The hospitality workforce is one of the most diverse. It provides many opportunities to marginalised populations including the youth. 2023 has been declared the European Year of Skills. It gives hope to help fix issues around training, up-skilling and re-skilling.
We believe that promoting different forms of work, improving the image of the sector, developing education and training programmes, revamping the hospitality skills passport, promoting digitalised procedures and enhancing legal migration could help solve this crisis. We are determined to work towards and implement these solutions.
2. Think sustainable first
Businesses today aim to operate considering the future of younger generations, the impact of climate change and the necessity to innovate. As an industry, we support the European Green Deal objectives to transform the EU into a modern, resource-efficient, and competitive economy.
The pressure is intense as Hospitality operators are asked to act on many fronts at the same time: decrease their carbon emissions, promote eco-label schemes in establishments, monitor and reduce their waste in kitchens, switch to reusable packaging and keep the cleaning to a minimum in hotel rooms…
For our establishments, reflecting on this new mindset brings a set of challenges: financial and systemic. Businesses need support and guidance to implement the necessary infrastructural changes towards more sustainable and circular practices.
Offering premium hotel and restaurant standards while manoeuvring all these required transformations is challenging, in particular for SMEs.
3. Keeping up with the platforms
Online accommodation and food services – commonly referred to as ‘platforms’ – have taken a huge place in everybody’s life and large market shares specifically in our industry. Whether you use an app to book your next trip, a room, a table or a meal.
Although the emergence of new consumer behaviours brings opportunities, the way the market is answering that demand raises concerns. The emergence of Short-Term Rentals (STR) for instance, while shaking the accommodation market, results in unfair competition and exposes consumers to safety hazards and unreported tax income among other things. We believe that the EU law in the making should be solid and comprehensive enough to level the playing field among different accommodation providers.
On another scale, for several years now, hoteliers have felt that major Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) exercise ‘gatekeeper power’ over them and engage in unfair and at times, reprehensible behaviour. On 1 November 2022, the Digital Markets Act (DMA) entered into force. In line with HOTREC’s recommendations, the DMA set new rules targeting digital gatekeepers that exercise disproportionate power towards their business users and consumers. This win for the sector at the European level is just the tip of the iceberg.
We’ll continue this year to defend the interests of our industry and help hospitality SMEs navigate through implementing EU legislations into their operations while ensuring they have enough tools, finance and time to do so.
Building up and accompanying the resilience of our sector is key. That’s why we are asking EU lawmakers to consider the impact of upcoming measures on our businesses, the need for transition periods to adapt and the context in which we operate: a complex ecosystem of clients and suppliers highly subject to external shocks and trends.