The Restaurant Association has called on the next Government to work collaboratively to create a concise pathway for rebuilding and repositioning the sector for the future.
Restaurant Association CEO, Marisa Bidois said that the hospitality sector contributes more than $14 billion to the economy, and is one of New Zealand’s largest industries.
“Despite being an enduring powerhouse of the New Zealand economy, policy made for the sector, in particular for hospitality, is fragmented, impractical and often devoid of the everyday realities of operations,” said Bidois.
The hospitality industry has continued to achieve record sales of over $14 billion in the year ending December 2022 representing a sales increase of 14.5 percent over the previous year.
Skills shortages have continued to plague the industry. While 2022 employee numbers reversed the decline that was seen in 2021 to reach 135 thousand employees, at the current statistic of 0.37 per cent, this is the lowest growth level in more than 10 years.
Although unemployment rates have reached record lows, hospitality industry staffing challenges have peaked. The constraints of operating with a deficit of workers are often referred to by operators as their biggest ongoing challenge.
Bidois said that this means there needs to be more investment in hospitality apprenticeships and further training fit for purpose whilst also refining immigration policy needs.
“A one size fits all approach to immigration settings does not meet the unique needs of the sector which needs a clear roadmap from the government pertaining to short, medium and long-term immigration plans that is responsive to our sector’s unique needs and reflective of the realities of operating a hospitality business,” said Bidois.
“We also need to see increased training for New Zealanders to meet the skills shortage needs, both in terms of availability and quality.”
Bidois has also called on the government for greater recognition and better oversight from the tourism minister and the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment for the significant role that hospitality plays in the tourist experience.
“The current approach to Hospitality and Tourism has not adequately addressed the needs of our industry in recent years. While they are inherently linked, Hospitality is often lost by the Government in conversations about the Tourism industry,” added Bidois.
“We believe that seeing a more concentrated focus on Hospitality within the Government, either through a ministerial portfolio or a specialised unit with MBIE, would be a game changer for our sector. We would like to see something as simple as the name of the portfolio being extended to Hospitality and Tourism as a starting point.”
Resourcing and capacity have meant the Government often lacks proactive measures to get ahead of worker relations and safety issues.
A key priority for the industry is to address perception issues by lifting employment standards and tackling exploitative working conditions. While we welcome efforts to increase transparency and awareness of employment standards within the hospitality and tourism Sectors.
Bidois noted that government can use the sector as a collective force by collaborating and supporting industry-led initiatives.
“We would like to see the Government invest in and expand the RA’s industry accreditation platform, HospoCred, in order to create a clearer picture for consumers, businesses and current and prospective employees about what it means to be a responsible and transparent hospitality business,” said Bidois.
“We have started this process with the recognition of Hospocred within the Hospitality Accord as part of the Better Work Plan.”
Within the hospitality sector, employers are predominantly small business owner-operators, who are intimately involved in the day-to-day running of their business, which means their access to time and resources is often limited.
While regulatory change is inevitable, the sheer number and scale of enacted and proposed legislative changes to New Zealand’s employment, industrial relations, and immigration frameworks in the last 24 months, particularly with the Fair Pay Agreements, and Immigration Reset, has severely impacted our confidence as a sector. This coupled with all of the processes and changes businesses had to manage as part of the pandemic has a difficult road to navigate for business.
Ensuring the regulatory environment is conducive to productivity and business growth while still prioritizing the well-being of employees and consumers remain a top priority.