As Cumbria’s tourism and hospitality businesses reopen their doors this week, some for the first time this year, many find themselves faced with a new challenge which threatens to undermine their recovery – a major staffing shortage.
Although Cumbria’s recruitment challenge is not a new issue the problem is now acute due to a number of factors including:
- Staff moving on during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Post-Brexit immigration policy changes removing many overseas workers’ rights to work in the UK.
- Current travel restrictions preventing those who can legally work in the country being able to return.
- Many businesses hiring at the same time.
Research from the county’s official Destination Management Organisation (DMO) highlights that in April 34% of businesses were concerned about recruiting staff. Over the last month this issue has escalated sharply across all business types throughout the county. Many have been forced to turn to agency staff, and the additional financial burden this brings, at a time when they can least afford it, a vicious cycle.
As the county’s official Destination Management Organisation, Cumbria Tourism has long been at the forefront of this issue, supporting businesses through the Brexit transition period, campaigning vigorously for hospitality workers to be afforded the same recognition as agricultural labourers, whose designation as skilled removes multiple barriers from the new ‘Australian-style’ points-based system.
Whilst the last year has necessarily been focussed on the impact of the pandemic, it was clear that this huge issue would return. The DMO recently presented to the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Migration on anticipated impacts arising from the introduction of new immigration rules. The outcome of the event, chaired by Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron, was to undertake an inquiry into the impacts of the new rules on a wide range of organisations, employees, and the wider economy and communities.
This lobbying activity continues, with recruitment at the top of the agenda not only for Tourism Minister Nigel Huddleston MP’s visit in April, but also for the upcoming English Tourism Week, where all six of Cumbria’s MPs have been invited to meet and speak with industry representatives.
Cumbria Tourism has also been working hard to showcase the sector as a viable and fulfilling long-term career choice. Its jobs section is one of the most viewed pages on its website and is growing with a range of exciting opportunities from businesses across the county. Alongside partners the DMO is also exploring options to better connect the visitor economy and the unemployed and has recently become a Kickstart Gateway, providing support and assistance to businesses by facilitating Government-funded work placements for under 25s.
Commenting, Managing Director Gill Haigh said: “It’s really frustrating that at a time when businesses have done everything they can to reopen safely and start the long road to recovery, they are finding themselves up against another hurdle. I’m already hearing of businesses having to close midweek due to a lack of staff and we do need Government to listen.
“And yet it is a brilliant career opportunity for many local people – of every age – who might be seeking work, a career change, full or part time role, in a world class environment. One of the best things about the tourism and hospitality sector is that if you work hard, have the right attitude and are prepared to learn, then the sky is the limit. It’s also so very diverse, from catering to marketing, customer service to outdoors leader, spa therapist to HR professional.”