Major trade associations from the hospitality and travel sector have joined forces to launch the Hospitality and Tourism Action Group to pressure the government to modify its new points-based immigration bill to avoid staff shortages.
As part of the new pan-industry alliance, bodies including UKHospitality, ABTA, UKInbound, the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), Tourism Alliance and the European Tour Operators Association (ETOA) have written an open letter to the Prime Minister. It warns that the sector's growth, which it reports is growing faster than the rest of the UK economy, is at risk if the workforce does not keep up with global demand.
The open letter reads: "It is vitally important the Government avoids disrupting the hospitality and tourism workforce in a way that risks deterring planned investments and limiting future growth. The reality is that the hospitality and tourism sector is already dealing with staff shortages. These are particularly acute in certain sectors. For example, in hospitality, at any given time there are an estimated 128,000 unfilled job vacancies, and certain regions and nations of the UK also face particularly challenging circumstances when seeking to attract and retain staff."
The action group asks that foreign languages are included as a tradeable asset on the points-based system and that regional points variations to match differences in the UK labour market be allowed. It also petitions for the Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS), which allows foreign nationals to study and work in the UK, to include EU countries on a reciprocal basis.
It wants mandatory regular reviews of the ‘shortage occupation list', which tracks workforce shortages, to enable a responsive approach to regional labour needs. The group is also asking the Government to lower qualification requirements for sectors where there is a skills shortage, for firm guidance for business and SMEs on how to initiate tier-2 visa sponsorship at reduced costs and that the application process be digitised for efficiency and cost savings.
Kate Nicholls (pictured), spokesperson for the action group and chief executive of UKHospitality, said: "The hospitality and tourism industry is uniquely placed to support the UK's goals – developing 'global Britain'; ‘levelling up' across the whole country; and building an industrial strategy with increasing productivity levels.
"The industry is already making significant investment into skills training, recruitment and retention of staff, with commitments to create 30,000 new apprenticeships and 10,000 mentoring places every year by 2025. But the sector is already suffering from staffing shortages. That's why we're calling on Government to give businesses support and time to adapt to the new immigration regime. The future immigration policy could exacerbate existing shortage further, particularly in tourism hot spots."