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Brexit is already causing a recruitment crisis in UK tourism

There is just over one year to go now until the UK takes leave of the European Union on Friday, 29th March 2019. What form this Brexit will take – whether ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ – nobody yet knows until negotiations have been finally concluded and agreed upon, let alone the consequences for tourism of such game-changing decisions.

Tom Jenkins, CEO of ETOA – the European Tourism Association (EACT member and RDA partner federation) – has, however, warned UK MPs at a recent EU Internal Market Sub-Committee hearing in Westminster that Brexit is already harming Britain’s inbound travel industry.

He stated that the UK inbound industry is experiencing a recruitment crisis. It needed to recruit poly-lingual graduates, a group of people the UK is not good at producing but other EU countries are. Recruitment of these graduates is already being hit both by current Brexit speculation and by a sinking pound – which is having a depressing effect on UK tourism industry wages.

An ETOA survey of major UK inbound tour operators and suppliers in 2017 found out that one third of the more than 35,000 staff employed were “non-UK EU nationals”, and 80 % of company respondents reported it would be “difficult to impossible” to replace these workers with UK nationals.

Language skills are particularly important if you are buying from or selling to people in continental Europe. ETOA members, broadly, need to recruit poly-lingual graduates who are happy to work in the UK. They may only represent 30 % of their workforce, but the jobs of the remaining 70 % are contingent on their roles.

Jenkins told MPs that it was particularly unhelpful that the UK government’s definition of ‘skills’, for the purposes of immigration, does not include languages. Excellence has to be delivered in the language of the customer. The available talent pool should not be reduced from 500 million to 60 million, particularly when non-UK EU workers have skills that cannot be replicated domestically.

Mr. Jenkins recommended that the UK government should implement a new tourism employment strategy that would enable the industry to hire non-UK EU nationals post-Brexit almost as easily as at present.

Further information:


Annette Heinemann
Phone: +49 2244 90 33 33
Facsimile: +49 2244 87 74 22

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