UK travel recovery ‘at risk’ over 128,000 unfilled vacancies

Travel recovery is at “serious risk” as 128,000 jobs go unfilled across the UK, the World Travel & Tourism Council has warned.

The hotel, entertainment and aviation industries are forecast to be the worst affected, facing unfulfilled vacancies of 18% (one in six), 12% (one in eight), and 11% (one in nine), respectively.

But the government, unlike countries like Portugal, is refusing to allow temporary workers in from overseas to help cope with the post-pandemic travel demand.

As many as 1.8 million people were employed in travel and tourism in the UK before the pandemic in 2019 but by 2020 more than 200,000 had lost their jobs, according to the WTTC.

Data indicates that labour supply will continue to fall short of demand in the remainder of the year – with the gap projected to further increase in the third quarter as demand approaches pre-pandemic levels.

The WTTC last week revealed that up to 1.2 million jobs across the EU will remain unfilled, with hospitality, air transport and travel agencies being the most affected.

President and chief executive Julia Simpson said: “The UK recovery is at risk. The government is not using the flexibility in the visa system to attract workers to the UK.

“Travel and tourism contributed nearly £235 billion to the economy and employed almost two million people.

“Now visitors are arriving to find restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues without staff, and we will lose these travellers and their dollars to other countries.

“Big brands cannot understand why countries in Europe are bringing in skilled workers like chefs, but the UK Home Office is not deploying the flexible ‘point system’ visas they promised.

“The sector was one of the hardest hit in the pandemic, losing 50% of its value, it needs government action now.”

She added: “In retail, UK stores are still reeling from the decision by the UK government to axe VAT refunds for visitors. It means tourists can save 20% on goods by choosing Paris instead of London. The chancellor of the exchequer needs to look at this urgently.”

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