The leisure industry isn’t getting the attention it should. That is the message from Business in Sport and Leisure, the collective voice for businesses in the sector.
With revenues of £200bn a year, leisure employs 2.6m people and supports hundreds of thousands of SMEs.
BISL’s Simon Johnson told Central Lobby:
“We are an industry that has not been acknowledged in terms of our size, scale and importance. We employ 9% of the workforce, more people that the manufacturing, transport, construction or financial services sectors.”
BISL has produced a new report based on research by management consultants Oliver Wyman that outlines for the first time the true size and scale of the leisure industry and underscores its importance to the UK economy.
Mr Johnson said that it was Justin Tomlinson MP, chair of the APPG on leisure, who discovered via a parliamentary question that the government does not have a clear definition of what the leisure industry.
It encompasses “hotels, restaurants, pubs, nightclubs, betting, gaming, sport, health and fitness, visitor attractions and what is termed recreation,” he explained.
Mr Johnson said the government’s response to the report has been “very positive”. Tourism minister John Penrose attended the launch event.
“He recognised the leisure industry is under-appreciated and said we deserve a seat at the top table,” Mr Johnson said.
Mr Penrose referred to leisure’s “heft and clout”.
However, Mr Johnson said “cost, regulation and taxes” are hurting the industry.
The report found an additional £3.2 billion of tax and regulatory costs since 2010, which is estimated to rise to £3.9bn by 2014.
“We don’t believe the government is doing enough,” he said.
“The thrust of our argument is we want a change of strategy. We are controlled, regulated and taxed. We want that to change to encourage us to grow and innovate, to create both employment and entrepreneurs.”
Female, young, low-skilled, and part-time workers – demographics underrepresented in other industries – benefit heavily from the leisure industry.
44% of management positions in the industry are held by women, and it employs more than one in five of all 16-25 year olds. 46% of the industry’s workforce holds part-time or flexible working contracts.
“We offer really good career opportunities for people with low skills,” said Mr Johnson. “Case studies in the report show people who are now national directors of leisure companies who started off in menial positions.”
Leisure also supports a large number of small businesses – 66% of the industry is made up of SMEs and the business start-up rate is 20% higher than the UK average.
“Leisure should be a really important part of the growth strategy, but we been burdened with additional regulations and taxes.”
Mr Johnson has a suggestion for government.
“We want a cabinet minister to be given the brief to champion the leisure industry. In September the Department for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport is going to drop ‘Olympics’. They should replace that word with ‘Leisure.’”
Mr Johnson said leisure has the potential to generate up to 440,000 jobs by 2020, 30,000 high quality training positions over the next three years, up to £600 million annual savings for local government and a policy environment that should enable the Leisure Industry to grow and thrive.
BISL wants a new initiative to kick-start leisure industry employment amongst young people Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEETs) and increase the numbers of high quality skilled positions, as well as incentives for growth through a more progressive tax policy, specifically a reduction in VAT for visitor accommodation and attractions.
Mr Johnson has a final message for MPs.
“They will all have leisure businesses in their constituency. They should look and see how those businesses can help drive growth.”