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Brexit ‘impacting seasonal workers in travel while hindering pandemic recovery’

The future of the UK outbound travel sector is at risk due to Brexit restrictions, a session of the UK Trade and Business Commission was told.

Concerns were raised if the government fails to agree a youth mobility visa with EU partners enabling young people to develop the skills and experience needed for the industry in future years.

European Pubs Limited which owns and operates bars, restaurants and hotels in French resorts, previously hired 95% of its employees from the UK for summer and winter seasons.

However, this has dropped substantially post-Brexit as it is more risky, more costly and more time consuming to give young people from the UK the opportunities they had enjoyed previously.

Travel industry leaders told the commission that this increase in lengthy admin to employ UK workers to work seasons in the EU has has resulted in jobs cuts for mostly young people.

And the increased costs associated with visas and work permits is putting pressure on holiday prices, potentially restricting the recovery of the travel sector from the pandemic.

Charles Owen, managing director of European Pubs Limited and director of Seasonal Business in Travel, said: “When people talk about labour shortages they usually think about empty shelves in the UK, but the outbound tourist industry has been severely impacted by these new barriers to hiring UK workers in European resorts, and this could lead to less choice and higher costs for UK holidaymakers.

“Not only will this dent our GDP, but it severely reduces opportunities for young people, for employment, experience and skills training. The government must make changes to the EU-UK trade deal to address this.”

Industry surveys indicate that the number of UK workers they hire to work in France alone has been reduced by around 75% since January compared to 2018-19 from approximately 8,000 workers a season to just 2,000 with many posts now being filled by EU workers. In Austria, surveys suggest the fall is as high as 95%.

As well as indicating a loss of capacity for UK tour operators, which will mean a loss of competitiveness compared to EU travel companies, such reduced economies of scale and negotiating power will force costs higher and put more pressure on prices for UK holidaymakers.

Data site Statista recorded a marked increase in operating costs for seasonal holiday providers after the vote to leave the EU, with a steep increase projected following the government’s Brexit deal. This was mirrored by an increase in the cost of holidays.

The sector has also warned that many of those who had worked overseas return to take jobs selling and running the very holidays they helped to run when overseas.

Labour MP Paul Blomfield, who chaired the UK Trade and Business Commission session, said: “While the government is falling over itself to offer emergency visas to address domestic labour shortages created by their Brexit deal, they are neglecting the interests of British workers who want to take up jobs in other European countries.

“An estimated 25,000 British workers used to work across the EU each year, largely young workers who played an important role.

“Ministers must listen to industry experts, and offer workable changes to the problems they caused for the tourism sector and those working in it.”

The Commission was launched in April to provide independent scrutiny of the UK’s trade deals with Europe and the rest of the world.

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