With the impact of Brexit on the British hospitality industry well documented and increasing pressure on staffing levels, more must be done to attract new talent from within the UK, according to Harry Murray MBE, President of hotel association, HOSPA.
Mr Murray, who was elected to the role in January, said the number of EU workers leaving the UK as a result of the referendum poses a “serious problem”, so it is vital that organisations like HOSPA take the opportunity to educate and re-educate people on the wide range of opportunities a career in hospitality offers.
Having worked in the hospitality industry for over 50 years, Mr Murray, the chairman of Luckman Park Hotel and Spa and a Master Innholder, said particular focus should be placed on targeting both students and those looking to return to work after a career break.
He said: “We’ve very fortunate in this country that thanks to the Olympics, the Royal Wedding, the Diamond Jubilee, the Rugby World Cup, the Ryder Cup, we had an enormous amount of publicity overseas, which brought an enormous amount of tourists. But of course, this put a lot of pressure on staffing.
“On average, they say the number of EU workers in hotels is between 12.5 to 25 per cent, but in some hotels and restaurants that can be as high as 35 – 40 per cent. With less EU workers coming into the country, this poses a serious problem. We need to find solutions. Our biggest challenge now is to attract more people to join the industry.”
According to statistics from the British Hospitality Association (BHA) – now UK Hospitality – an estimated 700,000 (15%) of the 4.5 million people that currently work in the British hospitality sector are from the European Union. Between 2011 and 2015, the number of migrant workers increased by 22 per cent, with the majority of these coming from EU countries.
However, due to Britain’s decision to leave the EU, the number of people from overseas applying for new jobs within the industry is falling. In addition, recent statistics from the Office of National Statistics estimate that 130,000 EU nationals emigrated in the year to September – the highest level in a decade.
Mr Murray added: “We need to attract more people to join our industry. This is a growth industry, where you can start at the bottom and rise to the top and we have to get that message across. We all have a role to play in promoting hospitality in this country as a worthwhile industry.
“We need to start with parents and teachers – parents have a huge influence on what their children do. There’s also an opportunity for the over 55s, which is what the BHA and its recent report is about; attracting people back into work and HOSPA can play a role in this, re-educating people who want to work. We must also make sure we retain the people we’ve got.”
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