Industry trade associations reveal surprise plans to merge

Two of the industry’s most high-profile and largest trade bodies are planning to merge their businesses in a bid to get the sector’s voice “better heard by government”.

The British Hospitality Association (BHA) and the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) intend to put their proposed merger to a vote next month, according to today’s Daily Telegraph.

If members agree with the plans then the duo will form a new body called UKHospitality.

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Kate Nicholls, CEO of ALMR, is the proposed chief executive, with Nick Varney, chief executive of Merlin Entertainments expected to the new chair.

The report did not say what role BHA chief executive Ufi Ibrahim would take in the combined organisation.

The ALMR represents the eating and drinking out sector including pubs, restaurants and cafes, and includes JD Wetherspoon, Casual Dining Group, Carluccio’s and Wagamama as members. The BHA is aimed more at hotels, restaurants and visitor attractions.

Ms Nicholls told the paper that the two organisations had secured “big lobbying wins” by working together on issues such as business rates, where they attained additional relief for parts of the leisure industry, and in preventing knee-jerk environmental taxes upon their members.

She said if the two organisations combined, they would boast more than 700 members with 65,000 outlets between them and nearly three million employees across the broader leisure sector.

“We would have a single voice for the first time for a sector which is the third largest private sector employer and the fourth largest industrial sector in the UK,” she said.

The Telegraph reported that if UKHospitality was created, it would seek to secure a sector deal with Government to help support the industry’s skillbase, work to ensure the hospitality sector has access to the labour it needs if restrictions are put on EU workers as part of Brexit discussions and lobby for a tax regime which recognises that a greater burden needs to be put onto online businesses.

“We would have a single voice for the first time for a sector which is the third largest private sector employer and the fourth largest industrial sector in the UK,” Ms Nicholls said.

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