Abta is calling on the government to reconsider elements of its new immigration policy while issuing a stark warning that up to 15,000 UK travel jobs overseas could also be at risk.
The plea follows last week’s announcement of the government’s new post-Brexit immigration policy, due into force in January 2021.
Its jobs warning relates to separate, upcoming EU negotiations and raises fears that the business model for many UK travel companies to employ UK workers in holiday resorts overseas, could be undermined.
Under the new immigration rules, migrants will have to meet set criteria to qualify for a UK work visa, including specific qualification levels, English language skills and a job offer with a minimum salary of £25,600.
In a new report, on the back of research commissioned from the Centre for Economic and Business Research, Abta has urged the government to closely review the salary threshold. The average full-time salary for employees in the UK tourism industry, according to the research, is £22,585, compared with the country’s average salary of £28,759.
Abta has also called on government to reconsider a temporary entry route for ‘low skilled’ workers to come to the UK. This was previously planned and would have phased out entry over a period of time, but has been scrapped under the new immigration policy.
The association also said it wants foreign language skills to be added to the new points-based immigration system.
The new research shows that 13% of the travel and tourism workforce is made up of non-UK workers. Of the total workforce, 9% of staff come from the EU.
Abta warned businesses would have “serious difficulties” retaining and recruiting staff without a temporary entry route in place for low-skilled workers, particularly as the UK is currently enjoying record high rates of employment.
In relation to the outbound market, Abta called for new mobility arrangements and a youth mobility deal to be negotiated in EU trade talks.
Its report showed that if an alternative agreement is not reached to replace existing arrangements under the current EU Posted Workers Directive, up to 15,000 UK jobs – such as seasonal staff in UK ski and summer resorts – will be at risk in the outbound travel industry.
It warned the lack of a reciprocal deal with the EU could impact the existing business model of many UK travel companies. Already, since the 2016 referendum on Brexit, the number of UK workers under this scheme has fallen by 30%.
Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer 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 ger the right solution.”
The new research also highlighted that the travel and tourism industry is a key employer of young people, with 27% of tourism workers under 30, compared with the UK average of 17%. Women make up 52% of the industry workforce, compared with the UK average of 47%. Currently, 16% of all tourism businesses report to have a skills shortage.
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