Half of tourism bosses believe post-Brexit immigration reforms will negatively impact their business’s ability to continue to operate, it is claimed today.
Research from trade association UKinbound and Canterbury Christ Church University shows that the Government’s proposals have the potential to severely destabilise the tourism industry in the UK, putting at risk an industry that contributes £145 billion to the UK economy, 7.2 per cent of GDP, and £7.4 billion to Yorkshire’s economy.
The research also shows that 75 per cent believe that the proposals would impact negatively on their ability to expand, with the same percentage saying the proposals would impact negatively on their ability to remain competitive.
Almost two-thirds of Yorkshire and Humberside businesses reported that EU workers account for up to a quarter of their workforce and more than half of tourism businesses cited the limited domestic labour market as the key reason for the continued need for EU workers.
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The research looked specifically at how the tourism and hospitality sector would respond to future immigration policy when the UK leaves the European Union and free movement ends.
Joss Croft, chief executive of UKinbound, said: “This timely research shows that the Government must listen to the tourism industry before committing to an immigration system that runs the risk of forcing businesses to close throughout the UK.
“Our tourism industry is vital to the UK economy and EU workers are crucial to ensuring that this success story continues. We have a skills shortage in the UK, caused not least by low levels of language skills and a lack of interest amongst UK nationals in the sector.
“The Government must, as a first step, ensure that language skills are recognised as a key skills shortage and ensure that any future immigration system is rooted in what actually works and not in populist soundbites.”
The tourism sector has a higher than average reliance on EU workers than other British sectors.
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Although the figure is put at approximately 10 per cent, UKinbound said it considers this level as “extremely conservative” and said such national averages mask the realities of many tourism organisations.
A spokesperson for Canterbury Christ Church University said that shortages of ‘low-skilled’ labour were as damaging to the industry as ‘high-skilled’ and the distinction between ‘high-level’ and ‘low-level’ skills at the centre of the Immigration White Paper appears to have little relevance to the reality of skills gaps and skills shortages across tourism and hospitality.
It added that the proposed salary threshold of £30,000 was significantly above the sector’s average salary of £23,000 for a full time worker.
Dr Karen Thomas, director of the Tourism and Events Hub, Canterbury Christ Church University said: “The uncertainties surrounding the Brexit negotiations and the consultation over the Immigration White Paper with the emphasis prioritising ‘highly skilled’ and ‘skilled’ labour migration, have intensified the concerns over the likely shape of the UK’s immigration system after the end of Free Movement.
“EU workers constitute a vital labour pool for tourism and hospitality businesses. Our research demonstrates that national reporting of the reliance of the sector on EU nationals masks the realities of many tourism and hospitality businesses in terms of the scale of reliance, and the significant variations in sub-sectoral, occupational and regional experiences.
“We have identified a wide range of factors which together with a higher than average reliance on EU workers places the industry in an extremely vulnerable position when faced with the end of Free Movement post-Brexit.”
Following on from the publication of the research, UKinbound and other industry associations are calling for a number of recommendations.
Specifically they have asked for the following to be implemented:
- Language skills to be added to the occupation shortage list and be exempt from immigration restrictions
- If any salary threshold is proposed that it be regionally set to take into account lower salaries in key tourism hotspots
- Quarterly independent reviews to ensure tourism sectors are not adversely affected by turbulence in the aftermath of a no deal Brexit.