Opinion: The impact of Brexit on travel and tourism recruitment

Opinion: The impact of Brexit on travel and tourism recruitment

No one knows what the future holds so lets get our heads down and drive business forward, says Jayne Peirce, managing director Jayne Peirce Recruitment

The vote to leave the European Union initially plunged the country and EU into a state of crisis but a few weeks on, we have a new prime minister and people are settling down to business as usual.

Whilst negotiations over the UK’s departure are supposed to take two years under Article 50, we don’t yet know when that will be triggered and the implication to the vast number of EU nationals working in travel and tourism.

Freedom of movement has allowed our industry to recruit skills which may not be necessarily available with British nationals, e.g. multiple language skills. Whilst our schools teach languages the standard is not high enough for our clients.

We continuously hire native German, Italian, French and Spanish speakers for our clients, particularly for the inbound tourism sector, but also within the leisure outbound sector of travel. These positions include operations, reservations, online marketing, product and purchasing.

So how will the referendum result affect the 1.89 million EU citizens currently living in the UK who work in the industry?

According to a recent report by Abta and Deloitte ‘The UK economy benefits notably from the employment opportunities the travel and tourism sector offers. In 2014, the sector contributed 4.23 million jobs in total, with 1.89 million people being directly employed in the industry’. At that point the contribution was forecast to continue to grow.

Looking at our own data we identified the following;

• 13% are EU Nationals of which 80% are living and working in the UK
• In the last 24 months alone 20% of our hires have been those who are EU Nationals, mainly where the role requires languages.
• The largest numbers of EU nationals from our data are Italian, French, Spanish and German nationals.
• Almost 30% of our registered candidates are non-British nationals.

No one likes uncertainty, yet the travel industry continuously faces challenges and always seems resilient in finding ways to overcome these challenges.

We have heard from clients who say June and July have been up and down, but generally are on par with last year. What has been positive for now is that these EU nationals are still in the job market and our clients are busy recruiting for native speakers.

Clearly businesses are getting on with life. In the world of recruitment September and October will be the test, seeing if there is a reluctance to recruit or if the industry will continue to hire at the rate as previous years. Based on current recruitment trends and levels all the positive signs are there.

What we have seen is a slight nervousness from candidates about what their future career prospects are as an EU national in the UK might be.

We have also seen a slight surge of EU nationals returning from the rest of the world to get a few years under the belt working in the UK, with the aim that they can remain down the line.

During the campaign, it was indicated that introducing a points-based system would be the solution but that would be focused on skilled workers.

If you have been living in the UK for over five years you can apply for residency and naturalization, likewise anyone under this period but by the time Article 50 has been applied would also be applicable, we believe. A huge positive for the industry.

Abta also reported that it isn’t known as yet if the travel sector could be faced with higher costs in recruiting and retaining staff from other EU countries. The industry could also lose some of the longer term investment it has made if employees working rights are restricted or they are forced to leave.

Whatever outcome is agreed with the European Union, it needs to reflect the needs of employers and the labour market for the travel and tourism industry. The tourism industry is huge for the British economy and this could have major consequences to travel businesses with a potential lack of talent.

Who knows what the future holds but for now, it's a case of getting heads down and driving business, as until Article 50 is evoked nothing can change.

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