WTM 2017: Brexit fears loom over UK hospitality sector

WTM 2017: Brexit fears loom over UK hospitality sector

About two in five UK-based holiday companies expect Brexit will have an impact on their ability to recruit staff from overseas, according to research by World Travel Market London.

A travel trade survey found that just over 40 per cent of UK firms who employ foreign workers anticipate that recruitment will be affected when the UK leaves the European Union.

The World Travel Market London 2017 Industry Report also found that more than half (53 per cent) of all travel trade respondents believe Brexit has already had a negative impact on the UK’s reputation as a holiday destination, and a similar proportion (55 per cent) feel the British exit from the EU will have a negative impact on their company or organisation.

Furthermore, 16 per cent anticipate they will have to increase prices because of Brexit.

The findings reflect those in other recent trade surveys, such as UKinbound’s poll of its members, who are tour operators and attractions catering for tourists visiting the UK.

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Some UKinbound members reported that more than 20 per cent of their EU national employees have already left the UK “because of the long-term uncertainty over their status”, and almost 50 per cent of respondents are having difficulties recruiting EU staff because of Brexit.

ETOA, the European tourism organisation, surveyed its members about EU staff and found that about 20 per cent of companies are “actively contemplating” relocation because of the problems of Brexit.

Research for the British Hospitality Association warned there could be a shortfall of up one million workers after ten years if EU migration is curtailed completely.

The trade associations highlighted how crucial EU workers are to UK firms, especially because of their language and service skills – and warned there are not enough Brits with the right expertise who can fill the gap.

The WTM London researchers also quizzed UK consumers about their holiday habits and found that 83 per cent of respondents said Brexit did not affect their choice of destination this year.

A similar proportion (81 per cent) said they had not felt unpopular as a Brit abroad this year, following the referendum vote in 2016 – but 11 per cent said they had.

World Travel Market London spokesman, Paul Nelson, said: “Brexit is already having a profound impact on the travel industry – the fall in sterling since the referendum has been one very visible consequence, but the ramifications of the vote go much deeper.

“Research reveals how UK companies are now finding it increasingly difficult to recruit and retain skilled and valuable European Union employees, and there is a great deal of uncertainty about the freedom of movement for workers in the future.

“Our programme at this year’s WTM London will help delegates understand the implications more clearly – for example, our World Travel Leaders and aviation sessions will discuss the impact of Brexit, and our Leaders’ Lunch will feature the European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt.”

For the industry report, there were 1,622 respondents, drawn from the trade around the world.

For the consumer report, there were 1,025 respondents, who were representative of the UK population, and who had taken at least one holiday this year.