For the second time running, the Joint Hospitality Industry Congress (JHIC) has been let down by a Government minister failing to turn up.
Culture Secretary Chris Smith was due to address the audience at the Millennium Gloucester hotel in London last week. But he withdrew because of unexpected Government commitments.
At the last JHIC conference two years ago, Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown cancelled his speech at the last minute (Caterer, 9 July 1998, page 8).
At the conference, entitled "Consumerism has arrived - let's face it!", JHIC chairman Jeremy Logie told delegates: "He [Smith] received a three-line whip to take part in a strategy meeting with other MPs.
"He rang me to apologise and I made him grovel a bit. He offered another senior figure. I turned down the first but finally we came to an agreement."
Smith was replaced by Patricia Hewitt, the Department of Trade & Industry's minister for small businesses.
She told the audience: "Your success matters. Not just to all of you but to everyone in our country." And she asked: "What can we [the Government] do to help? We have to help to create the conditions in which you [hospitality businesses] can succeed."
She said: "We need to work together to improve quality and thus build a better brand for tourism and leisure, because the brand image of individual companies and our cities and regions is absolutely crucial. That needs to be a focus over the next year."
Before it was announced that Smith had cancelled his appearance, Neil Goulden, chief executive of Allied Leisure, said: "The Government must recognise the importance of leisure in the modern economy."
by Louise Bozec