The hospitality sector has a fundamental role to play in rebuilding communities, the economy and the health and wellbeing of the nation – “but we need government help to allow us to do that”, according to Kate Nicholls, chief executive, UKHospitality.

While she believes the next 18 months will be as much of a struggle for businesses as the past year and a half, Nicholls told MCA’s The Conversation that the pandemic has at least resulted in two useful documents from government: the Tourism Recovery Plan and the Hospitality Strategy.

“We now need to put the flesh on the bones for that but they give us two really strong hooks to go back and ask for the support we need because clearly this crisis has gone on for far longer than the government anticipated when they put in place the financial support measures for the sector,” she said.

Nicholls noted that many businesses will be very heavily indebted coming out of the pandemic and “we will need to rebuild financial resilience”.

Despite this the sector has an opportunity to take some positives from the situation because there is “a great deal more goodwill from the general public towards hospitality” as well as a better understanding of what the sector does.

“You have a newfound appreciation about what our sector does and how important it is, not just economically […] but socially, culturally and for our mental health and wellbeing,” she said.

There is also an opportunity to build upon this viewpoint in terms of promoting hospitality as a career of choice. Not least because there are many young people who have suffered prolonged disruption to their education and social lives – with recent research suggesting three out of five GCSE students will struggle to gain five passes – and the sector can help them rebuild their lives, added Nicholls.