High employment rates means UK travel industry faces a serious recruitment challenge

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New research from ABTA, commissioned from the Centre for Economic and Business Research (Cebr), shows that 13% of the travel and tourism industry workforce is made up of non-UK workers, with 9% of all travel and tourism workers coming from EU countries.

This means, with the UK enjoying record high rates of employment, businesses will face serious difficulties in retaining and recruiting staff in the absence of any temporary entry-route for so-called low-skilled workers. The need to fill skills shortages and include foreign languages within the points-based immigration system is also highlighted.

“The Government has a responsibility to ensure that the right policies are in place”

With the imminent trade talks with the EU, ABTA is also asking the Government to agree a reciprocal youth mobility deal with the EU and underlines the importance of replacing existing mobility arrangements contained within the EU Posted Workers Directive. The report shows that if an alternative agreement is not secured, up to 15,000 UK-based jobs will be at risk within the outbound travel industry, undermining the business model of many UK travel companies. Due to the recent political uncertainty since the referendum in 2016 the number of UK workers under this scheme has already fallen by 30%.

Mark Tanzer, ABTA’s chief executive, said: “Tourism is one of the UK’s major success stories and jobs are at stake. The prosperity of the tourism industry doesn’t happen by accident, and the Government has a responsibility to ensure that the right policies are in place to ensure our industry continues to have access to the talent it needs to succeed.

“Europe is the UK’s primary destination and market for tourists, business travellers and workers, and the future trade talks, as well as the UK’s new immigration system, will shape the travel and tourism industry for years to come. The Government must listen and engage with our industry; we need to work together to get the right solution.”

Mark Tanzer

As part of the report, ABTA commissioned research on the travel and tourism industry’s labour market revealing:

  • The average full-time salary for employees in the tourism industry is £22,585 (UK average £28,759)
  • The UK travel and tourism industry is a key employer of young people – 27% of tourism workers are under 30 (UK average 17%)
  • Women make up 52% of the industry workforce (UK average 47%)
  • 16% of all tourism businesses currently report a skills shortage 
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