Recent research released by leading tourism trade association UKinbound and Canterbury Christ Church University shows that the Government’s proposed post-Brexit immigration reforms have the potential to severely destabilise the tourism industry in the UK, putting at risk an industry that contributes £145 billion (7.2% of UK GDP) to the UK economy.
The research includes a survey of UK tourism and hospitality businesses, undertaken by Canterbury Christ Church University with Qa Research, which highlights the critical impact that the Government’s proposed immigration reforms could have on the sector post-Brexit. The survey shows that:
• 65% said that the proposals would impact negatively on their ability to continue to operate
• 71% believe that the proposals would impact negatively on their ability to expand
• 75% believe that the proposals would impact negatively on their ability to remain competitive
• 68% of tourism businesses cited the limited domestic labour market as the key reason for the continued need for EU workers
• 80% of tour operators and destination management businesses cited the lack of home-grown talent with foreign language skills as the driving force behind the need for EU workers.
The survey also highlights how the reporting of the reliance of the sector on EU workers (approx. 10%) is extremely conservative and such national averages mask the realities of many tourism organisations. Nearly one-third of businesses reported that EU workers made up more than half their workforce. Set against the results of the survey, the study shows that:
• Shortages of ‘low-skilled’ labour are as damaging to the industry as ‘high-skilled.’
• The picture of skills needs is complex 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.
• The proposed salary threshold of £30k is significantly above the sector’s average salary of £23k for full time workers
• Some locations in the UK will be more vulnerable than others, depending on local labour supply, regional salary levels, significance of the sector to the regional economy and level of reliance on EU nationals.
Joss Croft, Chief Executive of UKinbound commented: “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.”