As many as 25,000 seasonal holiday jobs are under threat due to changes to European legislation that could raise the cost of ski holidays, a new report claims.
The UK tourism industry can currently employ British staff as part of the European Union to work in places such as the French Alps under the European Single Market’s rules on free movement of labour.
But when Britain leaves the EU in 2019, new laws and regulations are created that make it costly or impossible for UK staff to carry out these roles, the cost of ski holidays may rise and thousands of jobs could be lost.
As many as 25,000 UK citizens are estimated to work in Europe, supporting seasonal tourism each year under the Single Market rules. They range from reps who meet holidaymakers at airports to chalet hosts and resort guides.
A new assessment, carried out by the Seasonal Business in Travel (SBIT) association, made up of more than 100 British-owned businesses, and endorsed by more than 50 independent UK travel companies, including Scott Dunn, Neilson Holidays and Le Ski, argues these 25,000 British jobs could either be replaced by EU citizens or lost altogether post-Brexit.
Companies gain a number of benefits from employing UK nationals to run their European-based holidays, the report argues.
Among these advantages is the non-existence of language barriers between British staff and guests, as well as an easy recruitment process for youngsters wanting to take a gap year in the mountains and looking for seasonal work.
While the UK is within the Single Market, its businesses and citizens can live and work anywhere in Europe, without the need for visas or work permits. This helps lower the cost of running a business and keep holiday prices low.
For staff employed in resorts, ‘seasonaire’ jobs are often their first role, providing transferable skills, experience of other cultures, language skills and networking opportunities for youngsters starting out on the career ladder.
Paul Carter, chief executive of Hotelplan, which operates Inghams, Ski Total and Esprit Ski, told The Telegraph: “In having the opportunity to work overseas, it’s not just the way of life they fall in love with.
“They acquire logistics and language skills and see different cultures and learn the ropes of how a hospitality business operates. In my experience, our teams work extremely hard and have the opportunity to progress quickly within the company.
“We must not lose these jobs and the training and experience these people in the hospitality sector bring back into the UK economy.
“We therefore need the government to urgently address the issue of visa-free movement for our staff in Europe.”
The report suggests that if the freedom of movement of labour is lost post-Brexit and UK citizens are unable to work in Europe, or are required to get through a lengthy visa process, many companies, particularly in the ski industry, will see their business models challenged and their costs increased.
The report comes five months after Brexit was blamed for causing three ski operators to collapse – Evasion Travel in Courchevel, Rude Chalets in Morzine, and Green Rides based in La Rosiere and Val d’Isere.
It is feared that this possible increase in staffing costs, combined with the fall in the value of the pound, will push holiday prices to Europe skyward, leaving many skiers and snowboarders with little option but to cancel their holiday plans.
SBIT suggests all this will have a knock-on effect, damaging other businesses such as travel agents, property owners, equipment hire companies and transfer providers, as well as local shops and services in resorts.
The assessment by SBIT has been carried out to create solutions for the problems facing the industry.
It suggests an agreement with the EU to continue the Single Market freedom of labour movement as well as a fast-track work permit process for UK citizens wanting to work in Europe, as well as efforts to retain the ability for workers posted abroad temporarily to remain in the social security system of their home nation.
“If we don’t soon have clarity on our ability to move staff around Europe during and after March 2019 there will be significant and possibly irreversible long-term impacts on the industry,” said Sarah Searson, managing director of Skiworld.
SBIT and its members have written to MPs with its suggestions, calling on the government to develop arrangements to preserve their ability to operate their businesses, employ UK staff and continue the success of the British tourism industry in Europe.
The activity holiday sector, which includes ski holidays, is heavily reliant on the use of seasonally employed staff. It is responsible for an estimated £9 billion contribution to the UK’s economy, more than half of the total £16.5 billion contributed by British tourism in Europe each year, according to the Centre of Economics and Business Research.
The UK economy benefits from £1 billion in tax revenues from British tourism staff working in Europe, and this could also be lost if the jobs are cut.