Visitor Economy Minutes 6 February 2024

Visitor Economy Minutes 6 February 2024

Meeting details

Minutes of Visitor and Cultural Economy Task Group

On Tuesday 06 February 2024, 14:30-16:00

Bexhill College, Penland Road, Bexhill, TN40 2JG and Online

Attendees and apologies




Organisation and Role


Julie Barker

Task Group CHAIR, Independent Consultant


Andrew Pritchard

Bexhill College, Assistant Principal, Lead on Employer Engagement


Councillor Christine Bayliss

Rother District Council


Debby Anderson

Hastings Voluntary Action, Community Development Worker


Emma Hartup

East Sussex College Group, Head of Curriculum Eastbourne


Gary Barton

East Sussex County Council, Team Leader Steps to Work, Employer Engagement


Hannah Brookshaw

East Sussex County Council, Partnerships and Projects Manager


Jack Scott

East Sussex County Council, East Sussex Careers Hub


Katie Parris

East Sussex College Group – Lewes, Account Manager


Rebecca Morris-Smith

East Sussex County Council, Steps to Work, Employment Coordinator


Sarah Brooks

Bexhill College, Teacher Hospitality


Stephen King

Sussex Council of Training Providers, Moving on Up Project


Stewart Drew

De La Warr Pavilion


Vanessa Potter

Sussex Council of Training Providers, Executive Director


Matt Callard

ESCC, Senior Business Administrator



Anna Salmon

Eastbourne and Lewes Councils, Funding Programme Delivery Manager


Caroline Bragg

East Sussex County Council, Skills East Sussex Lead


Christina Ewbank

Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce


Elaine Remon

East Sussex College Group, Employability Operations Manager


Hend Moussa

The Beacon Eastbourne, Community Manager


Mark Ashton

Institute of Hospitality Sussex Branch, Sussex Education Liaison Officer


Martin Blincow

Mermaid Inn, Rye Deputy Mayor/Lead Councillor


Sara Taylor

Eastbourne and Lewes Councils


Yvette Cowedry

Eastbourne Hospitality Association

Actions arising from this meeting

Actions arising from this meeting, 6th February 2024




Action 1: Discussion to be fed through to Sills East Sussex board


End of Feb

Action 2: HB and JB to consider projects and suggestions noted in the Celebrity Chef item to agree next steps


Next meeting

Action 3: An update on the engagement and subsequent actions for the Hastings hospitality spotlight action to be discussed at the next meeting.


Next meeting

Action 4: Action plan to be finalised and shared with the Task Group.


By next meeting

Action 5: Agenda items for the next meeting to be sent through to the SES mailbox –


By 3 weeks prior to the next meeting

1) Welcome

JB welcomed all in attendance.

2) Review of previous minutes and actions

Review of previous minutes with no amendments.

Previous actions:

  • Meeting with Eastbourne Hospitality Association – this has taken place
  • Results of RDC skills gap audit – to be presented at the next meeting, subject to the results being available.
  • Sally Staples will update on the Visit England restructure and its impact as the next meeting as it is not yet in a position to be discussed.
  • Develop priority action plan – this is on today’s agenda
  • Actions relating to celebrity chef, career hub opportunities, trader/shopping area association engagement - are on today’s agenda

3) Future Skills – what are they/what is the impact to the sector – discussion item

HB shared an item presented at the most recent Skills East Sussex (SES) board around Future Skills research and recent thought leaders thinking on future skills needs, particularly around AI and automation. (presentation shared with the minutes). Key questions:

  • Do we have a good understanding of future skills need?
  • Are we able to change and adapt (at pace)?
  • What are the obstacles?
  • What do we need to do for our local communities?


Research suggests that 23% of jobs will change in the next 5 years due to automation. Traditional jobs such as clerks and admin roles are likely to be automated but new roles will emerge. Part-time workers are most likely to be affected by automation.

It includes predictions on the impact of future skills on different sectors. Of particular relevance to this group – a predicted significant growth in hospitality. The impact of AI will increase the automation of entry level jobs, but some jobs will be ‘insulated’ against AI, especially those with human interaction, and there is therefore the potential for the Visitor & Cultural sector to attract people from other sectors. Young people are more likely to be able to adapt to a digital future. Skills and competencies are likely to be prioritised over qualifications.

Discussion on the presentation:

JB agreed that there is an element of automation in hospitality, but the sector is largely people based.

SD commented that we’re still in a position of recovery from Covid, in a phase of trying to attract the best people, and to pay them properly. It’s important to think about getting the people right first, then you can use technology to improve efficiencies, improve the business, and make use of AI. For example, data management skills of people would need to improve, before being able to use technology to assist.

JB commented that it’s interesting to see that reading/writing/maths were showing with declining importance on the presentation.  SD commented that it’s good to see that because some creative sector students have this as a barrier.  JB – this is the same for agriculture. But it’s alarming that this bucks the government’s direction of travel over recent years. It’s pleasing to see that some of the top 10 skills mentioned include people skills that can often be under-played.  RMS agreed that it’s good to see these skills being given higher priority for the clients that she works with too.

CllrCB stated that there is a real worry about students coming through – for example, Year 9s who didn’t do SATs tests and really suffered. They missed a whole chunk of schooling and are lacking communication skills, which are key skills in hospitality.

AP commented that reading/writing/maths are still important, but other skills are now being given equal priority. This is in line with current practice at the college where communication skills and problem-solving skills have a high priority.  SB commented that she works with students with jobs in hospitality, but they can lack initiative and communication skills, possibly due to Covid. We need to start with these skills earlier – for example, in primary school.

HB asked if AI is on people’s radars?

JB responded that it is in parts – for example, kitchen research & development are looking at equipment technology. There is a lot of change at that level, but there hasn’t been a cascade to other levels yet, or education of future professionals in this area. It’s an ever-changing field. Need to be on top of where technology is changing and engaged in the change. Government agenda on food and farming has a technology aspect to it, with a lot of conversation about the need for skills, AI, and equipment.

SD commented that ticketing technology for the theatre environment is coming through. Companies like Booksy may develop that technology / box offices systems to perform certain tasks. Need to understand how things may develop – for example, technology to order from your table (and the practical elements that come with that).

JB commented on the need for communication skills – some of that is due to Covid, some is from the technology that young people use.  SB – for example, people can now order food/drink from an app and don’t need to use a phone, or don’t need to speak to someone at a travel agent. It would be useful to have a focus on young people’s communication skills to bridge the gaps.

SB commented that job applications via Indeed that don’t get a reply aren’t helping, versus taking a CV into somewhere face-to-face. We encourage young people to get bar jobs, and other face-to-face jobs.  JB – most young people start their careers in this industry through fast food restaurants, cafes, bars, etc. They gain people skills even if it’s not their preferred future careers.  SB - students love doing the events at the college, learning practical skills to take to other employers.

JB commented that if Indeed moved forward with AI it would be more effective, because employers don’t necessarily look at it due to how the information comes through. Big employers need to change their employment criteria to allow young people to get through the first phases – for example, NHS and local government need to modernise, to show other skills currently not specified.

HB commented that Covid recovery links into communication skills, and AI is coming through slowly. Feels like it’s not as far forward compared with other sectors, where there are more obvious tangible benefits.  SD – need people to understand it before it can be used effectively.

JB commented that tech teams are expanding to support with business development, with regards to tech, as well as front end. Is there a need for support for businesses in how they engage with young people?

AP commented that we did some research last year with hospitality businesses with regards to language young people should use (not using text speak, responding in a measured way to negative online feedback, etc).  SB – we get really good feedback regarding our students – for example, we have an 18-year-old who is now running an events company.

SD asked if live restaurants can be used instead of college restaurants?  SB – we prefer that for our students, as this also involves event planning, etc. Though it’s difficult for some businesses as their priority is to run the business.  AP – employers main focus is understandably to run their business, but industry buy-in is also needed to upskill students for the future of the industry. Can’t replicate real-life experience - interacting with unfamiliar adults, etc.

JB commented that employers can have an issue with using different students, with consistency/reputation being key elements for the business, but it can work if the relationship is right.

CllrCB asked about older people re-training in catering/hospitality. Is it possible for older people to re-train at colleges?  AP – there are opportunities, but not necessarily at every college.

Action 1: Discussion to be fed through to Skills East Sussex board.

4) Hospitality sector recruitment and perception issues – spotlight on Hastings

  1. Celebrity chef support

Action from last meeting – JB has spoken with contacts and will hold this over. What support would we want from a celebrity chef? – we’ve talked about videos, because in-person engagement would be a lot (e.g. to visit every college, etc). That’s the question they would ask.

AP responded that it’s important to get to the students as young as possible (e.g. Year 9) to inspire them. Educate the parents that this is a good career to go into. 

SB commented that a lot of schools do food technology but not hospitality and catering. It needs to be taught at secondary school. Also, a lot of students don’t do cooking in primary school due to a lack of facilities. It needs to be taught earlier.

SD - is there an option of doing ‘500 words’ for food? – as an equivalent of literacy.

CllrCB commented that in Rye, to sustain the fishing fleet, they’ve bought a mobile kitchen to showcase the fish they’ve caught. They have a celebrity chef and take the mobile kitchen out to schools. Could be an interesting case study to look at.

VP commented that Plumpton College are doing work with primary schools – it would be worth speaking with them. Doing work on changing perspectives, with links to sustainability and veganism to attract interest.  JB responded that this reminds her of a Brighton & Hove Food Partnership competition, to create a vegetarian food pack, to engage young people by linking with current trends. Plumpton College are organising an all day event first week in March.

DA commented that food-related education is a key focus area for the Hastings Food Network. Chartwells contract caterers will be working with families with cookery. It would be worth speaking with them to tie in with events.

JS commented that local smaller employers would also be good to be involved, especially younger employers that students will relate to.

VP commented that nutrition linked to sport is also a way to engage. This can apply to many areas – what to eat during exam pressure, sport science related, etc. Generating video content showing ‘cool’ people having aspirational outlooks can also engage.

Action 2: HB and JB to consider projects and suggestions noted above to agree next steps.

  1. Trader/shopping association engagement


HB confirmed that she is in the middle of engaging with hospitality businesses, to map what challenge the sector is having in respect of recruitment/retention skill issue to ensure the actions match the needs of the sector.


JS commented that one support offer could be Open Doors and offer it in a way that suits the sector them – for example, Jan – March when it might be quietest. The Industry Champion network (volunteering to go into schools) is also adapting to suit businesses – for example, at more convenient times, using online video, etc. It’s very flexible and open to suggestions.


Action 3: An update on the engagement and subsequent actions to be discussed at the next meeting.


  1. Careers hub opportunities


Covered in the above item.

5) Skills East Sussex January meeting update

The main items discussed were:

  • Defunding vocational qualifications – discussion item on the impact of the defunding of BTECs and roll out of T Levels, impact for different priority sectors in East Sussex.
  • Update on DESNZ Retrofit Skills Plan funding bid, which was recently secured to support tutor recruitment and business to access training. Final approval on the Retrofit Skills Plan awaited.
  • Update on future skills research in East Sussex – compared East Sussex research with current national/international thought leaders thinking – item to be covered under agenda item 3.
  • Forward plan items include: DWP will present on current migration from tax credit to Universal Credit, which will lead to a great number of clients being available for work/jobs, Integrated Care Board – NHS skills and employment, health and wellbeing - anchor institution role – Dee Humphries.

6) Task Group action plan

HB presented a proposed action plan:

  1. Increasing the visibility of the sector as a career choice for young people or those re-entering industry, through campaigns and the Careers Hub
  2. AI/automation/new technology
  3. Employer engagement – for example, Hastings Hospitality spotlight project, celebrity chef, mapping of gaps
  4. Defunding of vocational pathways
  5. Visit England restructure

Should there be any others? Are there any gaps? Following the conversation on communication skills, do we need more of a focus on that?

SK suggested that there could be a focus on the differentiation between front of house and chefing, as there are distinct skills required for both.

Action 4: Action plan to be finalised and shared with the Task Group.

7) AOB/Date of Next Meeting

SD promoted the jobs fair that is taking place on 15th March at De La Warr Pavilion.

Items already for inclusion at the next meeting: Visit England Restructure, action plan items update/discussion, Rother Skills survey.

Action 5: Action 5: Agenda items for the next meeting to be sent through to the SES mailbox –

Next meeting will be 7th May 2024, 14:30 to 16.00 – online only via Teams.