Rural firms are facing closure as they struggle to find staff, says leading businesswoman

The rural economy could benefit from improved public transport connections, according to campaigners.
The rural economy could benefit from improved public transport connections, according to campaigners.
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GROWING numbers of rural businesses are facing closure due to staff shortages, according to a Yorkshire business woman who has provided marketing advice to thousands of tourism-related companies.

Susan Briggs, the director of The Tourism Network, said that Brexit, a lack of public transport, a shortage of trained staff and the industry’s poor reputation were all factors pushing some rural firms to the brink of closure.

Ms Briggs, who is based in Masham, North Yorkshire, said: “As you drive around places like the Dales, you’ll see signs in windows, saying: ‘Sorry due to unforeseen circumstances we are closed today.’

“Some of that is due to lack of staff. Some restaurants are really struggling. I know of a couple of businesses that have closed. I know of one four star hotel in the Dales that is massively under threat due to lack of staff. Brexit is definitely having an impact, because tourism and hospitality has always benefited from people working here from overseas.”

Ms Briggs believes that many people want to work in the Dales, but can’t get to potential employers because of failures in the public transport system.

She added: “You have settlements like Masham, with people who could work a few miles higher up the Dales, but they can’t get there.”

Ms Briggs has worked in tourism marketing for 30 years. She also runs two tourism networks which have a combined membership of more than 1,000 businesses.

She said: “At this time of year, we always see lots of job adverts as businesses gear up for the summer season but it’s getting so hard to fill some vacancies that some businesses are in danger of closing or running on reduced hours. “

She said some businesses, such as Grantley Hall, near Ripon, are investing in their own training schools and staff accommodation.

Ms Briggs also fears that the shortage could be partially caused by a widespread lack of knowledge about the opportunities available in tourism businesses. She said some employers offered incredible career opportunities.

David Kerfoot, the chairman of York, North Yorkshire & East Riding LEP (local enterprise partnership), said: “The health of our regional economy is never defined by isolated factors.

“Tourism should be our strongest sector, we have all the natural capital that we desire and the strength of the Yorkshire brand to go with it.

“But tourism businesses depend on strengths and connectivity of our road networks, the right skills and training provision for employees, and affordable housing so that young people can choose to stay local.

He added: “With large businesses leaving small towns in droves, we need to support small businesses with the people and infrastructure they need to thrive. That means investing at a local level to meet the specific needs of our distinctive places.

“Place is vital to the success of our economy and we must do all we can to secure it for the future.”