Hospitality sector is facing a 'perfect storm', Allica Bank roundtable event is told

Policymakers have been warned that the hospitality sector is facing a “perfect storm” during a period of political uncertainty.

The comments were made during a roundtable event hosted by The Yorkshire Post and Allica Bank which assessed how an agile approach to delivering financial support can help SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) create jobs and unleash economic growth in our region.

Mark Casci, Head of Policy and Representation at West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, told the roundtable that data in the chamber’s Quarterly Economic Survey throughout 2023 had been largely positive.

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However, for the final quarter of the year, there had been a marked decline in optimism on profit growth or investment appetite, all despite the fact inflation was falling, Mr Casci added.

Niv Subramanian of Allica Bank. (Picture by Allan McKenzie/ Subramanian of Allica Bank. (Picture by Allan McKenzie/
Niv Subramanian of Allica Bank. (Picture by Allan McKenzie/

He said: "Recruitment still seems to be an issue; although there are no signs companies in general are planning to cut staff. Around 100,000 people nationally have not returned to work since the end of the pandemic. It's really tough for some businesses; particularly hospitality which is a really important sector.

"Hospitality was the first to close during the pandemic and the last to re-open. It's facing a perfect storm; it's a sector that really needs support."

He said York and North Yorkshire Chamber had created a new Hospitality Forum to lobby on the sector's behalf.

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Mr Casci said that many businesses wanted a General Election as soon as possible to eliminate damaging political uncertainty, adding: "We need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable."

Mark Casci from the West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce. (Picture by Allan McKenzie/ Casci from the West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce. (Picture by Allan McKenzie/
Mark Casci from the West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce. (Picture by Allan McKenzie/

In a recent survey, around one in three businesses said they were concerned about the growth of AI (Artificial Intelligence), he added.

Mr Casci said: "At the moment, people don't know where to start. It's akin to the period when the internet first emerged and created a huge amount of change."

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Matt Richards, the managing director of independent television production company Air TV, highlighted the fact that the Yorkshire brand was still very popular at a time when viewing habits were changing, with consumers in general moving away from linear content, towards streaming and on-demand services.

Matt Richards of Air TV. (Picture by Allan McKenzie/ Richards of Air TV. (Picture by Allan McKenzie/
Matt Richards of Air TV. (Picture by Allan McKenzie/

"The funding model is changing and you need to build content around that,’’ he told the roundtable.

"You can't continue doing the same old thing although shows like ‘Bangers and Cash’ (a documentary series about a classic car auctioneers) do appeal to an older male demographic who often like their shows to appear at the same time on the same channels.”

He said the Yorkshire brand works “really well” on TV as demonstrated by the success of Air TV's series about Yorkshire Air Ambulance.

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Yorkshire is seen as a trustworthy brand with a big heart, so having “Yorkshire” in the title of any show could be seen as an asset, he said.

He believed that few people wanted to watch TV shows created by AI and new systems like ChatGPT, a free to use AI system, were unlikely to provide original drama and documentary ideas because the content was likely to be derivative.

He added: "It's been said that AI won't steal your job, but somebody using AI will."

This is the second in a series of articles about the roundtable, which was chaired by deputy business editor Greg Wright.

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The roundtable, which was co-hosted by The Yorkshire Post and Allica Bank, was held at the Doubletree by Hilton hotel in Leeds.

During the debate, Andy Castle, Relationship Manager at Allica Bank said that issues related to staff were very much a focus for many SMEs, at a time of rising prices and a cost of living crisis.

He highlighted the fact that many banks had retreated from the high street which had reduced personal contact between the banking sector and customers. He added: “Although Allica doesn't have a branch network, we employ local people to talk to local businesses and forge relationships with them. Personal contact is still very much in demand. AI can speed up lending decisions but it's important we don't lose the human touch and its development is not a substitute for being able to speak to a person."