European tourism association Etoa is seeking assurances that hiring non-UK EU workers after Brexit remains free from bureaucratic burdens.
Productivity in the inbound travel industry will be damaged unless Brexit is handled carefully, the government is being told today.
The Tourism Alliance is calling for government to develop a tourism employment strategy to tackle a current shortage of workers with the skills required by the sector.
The strategy proposes initiatives to encourage UK nationals to pursue careers in tourism and reforms to various UK immigration rules that would enable EU workers to still be employed post-Brexit.
Etoa issued the results of a survey of more than 100 inbound tour operators and their suppliers collectively employing more than 35,000 staff to establish the impact of any restriction on the employment of non-UK EU nationals among those based in the UK.
One third of their employees would be classified as “non-UK EU nationals”. And more than three quarters (80%) of companies said it would be “difficult to impossible” to replace these workers with UK nationals.
Only 16% of companies have used the “tier two visa mechanism” which is required to recruit workers from outside the EU. Of those that have, 85% found the process “difficult to impossible”.
If this system was to be extended to EU workers – a possible option post-Brexit – then nearly 80% of companies predicted a substantial detrimental impact on productivity.
Not only are the skills of EU workers difficult to obtain within the UK, but these workers have proved that they are willing to travel long distances to work, and they are prepared to adapt, the organisation claims.
Language skills are highlighted as being particularly important.
Etoa is presenting the findings today at a meeting between the Migration Advisory Committee, the Home Office-sponsored public body that advises the government on migration issues, and the travel industry.
Etoa chief executive Tom Jenkins said: “It is particularly unhelpful that the definition of ‘skills’, for the purposes of immigration, does not include languages.
“The strongest part of our economy is services: inbound tourism is a vital export. You must deliver excellence in the language of the customer if overseas money is to be spent in the UK. Foreign workers are a vital component in our product and our productivity.”
Jenkins added: “People are the most important asset of any organisation. We must not reduce the available talent pool from 500 million to 60 million, particularly when non-UK EU workers have skills that cannot be replicated domestically.
“Post-Brexit, we need the government to implement a new tourism employment strategy that will enable the industry to hire non-UK EU nationals almost as easily as it can at present.
“That strategy, to prevent an increase in red tape, has already been drawn up by the industry. It is on the table. We need the government to adopt it.”
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