Brexit is already harming the UK’s inbound travel industry, according to Tom Jenkins, CEO of the European Tourism Association (ETOA).
Speaking to the EU Internal Market Sub-Committee in the UK Houses of Parliament, Jenkins asserted that the sector is suffering a ‘recruitment crisis’ due to the lack of poly-lingual UK graduates. He asserted that while the UK is poor at developing these skills in its students, other EU countries are good at it – but the threat of a harsh Brexit means that graduates from the continent no longer consider the UK a viable option. “Before the Brexit vote, the UK was seen as the place for young graduates to go, but since then the atmosphere has soured, and owing to the fall in the value of Sterling, pay has dropped,” said Jenkins.
ETOA recently conducted a survey, asking over 100 major inbound tour operators and their suppliers about the impact that the lack of non-UK EU nationals may have on their business. More than one-third of respondents claimed to be a non-UK EU national, while 80 per cent of companies claimed it would be ‘difficult to impossible’ to replace these workers with UK nationals.
Around 19 per cent of companies have recruited staff from outside the EU, using the ‘tier two visa mechanism’. Eighty-five per cent of those that have tried to employ from outside the EU have found this system difficult, and if this kind of system was implemented for all non-UK workers, then 80 per cent of companies believe it will have a substantial detrimental impact on productivity.
The ETOA found that while only 30 per cent of staff in the tourism sector need to be multi-lingual, the remaining 70 per cent rely on them to buy and sell to people in continental Europe. It is also unhelpful, Jenkins asserted, that languages are not considered a skill for potential immigrants.
“People are the most important asset of any organisation,” he concluded. “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. Introducing TIER 2 controls on these people will involve a huge increase in expense and bureaucracy.”