Bob Cotton will be a hard act to follow at the BHA

24 June 2010 by
Bob Cotton will be a hard act to follow at the BHA

BHA chief executive Bob Cotton will be a tough act to follow, says Peter Hancock, chief executive of Pride of Britain Hotels, who is grateful for all the things that didn't happen under his stewardship.

He hasn't gone yet but we'll soon be getting used to the new face at the head of the British Hospitality Association when Ufi Ibrahim replaces the legend that is Bob Cotton.

Unlike most organisations, the BHA's greatest triumphs involve stopping things from happening rather than causing them to. Stopping irresponsible tax changes, unfair licensing rules, greedy performing right fees, unaffordable employment legislation and so on. That legal encyclopaedia on legs, deputy CEO Martin Couchman, must have devoted months of his life to these battles yet still comes out smiling, as do the rest of the team at Queens House.

And Bob Cotton seems never to tire of the struggle, whether it is with trades unions, the Government, the European Union or the tourist boards. He has taken the cause of hospitality to his heart and has fought effectively for the industry that adopted him. He is the ultimate fixer. He seems to know everybody and has twisted more arms than Hulk Hogan.

Some readers will remember the difficulties Robin Lees faced when the association had too little money, a problem solved brilliantly by Jeremy Logie when he took over. But it was Cotton who made the great strides in building up the membership and getting key figures involved on the various committees. Today the BHA really is representative of the industry and is recognised in the corridors of power. Just look at the roll-call of guest speakers at their annual lunches for proof of that.

But perhaps his most remarkable achievement has been keeping so many stakeholders on side for so long. On a much smaller scale my own job involves serving the needs of a number of people, each with different ideas about what they expect from our consortium, so I am especially conscious of the skill with which he operates. As others have said, Ufi has "a hard act to follow". But surely that's better than following a lame act with the audience heading for the door.

So here's a big "thank you" to Bob and the BHA for all the things that never happened because of you.

Bob Cotton looks back at his decade at the helm of the BHA >>

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