Cumbria Tourism and the Lake District Hotels Association have been delighted by countrywide support for their industry recruitment campaign and are calling on even more businesses and partners to add their voice by calling for the Government to recognise the issues affecting the sector.
Research by Cumbria Tourism has discovered that the recruitment challenge is a significant issue for 68% of businesses, a figure which has doubled in just a few weeks. With the industry supporting 65,000 pre-COVID jobs in Cumbria alone the sector is facing real difficulties just as the summer season is due to begin.
With Cumbria’s working population already limited by a super aging population, transport connectivity challenges and a lack of affordable housing, the impact of Brexit was always going to create staff shortages, but the Coronavirus pandemic has pushed this ongoing issue into outright crisis.
“After 18 months of trying to survive, businesses had been excited to get back to doing what they do best and providing fantastic Covid safe experiences for all” says Cumbria Tourism MD Gill Haigh. “It’s been heart-breaking to watch them forced to reduce their services due to a staffing crisis exacerbated by the pandemic and immigration changes.
“Businesses are running out of options following months of lockdown and now should be the time for them to begin the recovery process by welcoming visitors from across the country. Instead, we are seeing hotels, restaurants, pubs and attractions forced to turn away paying customers, limit opening hours and in some cases close completely – all due to a lack of staff.”
To draw awareness to the issue Cumbria Tourism and the Lake District Hotels Association are asking businesses to contact their MPs with three simple asks:
- To consider an immigration exemption for the industry, similar to the agricultural sector, to allow overseas workers to plug the skills shortage short-term.
- To add the role of chef to the shortage list, recognising it as a skilled position that requires training and experience.
- To dedicate Government resources to an industry recruitment drive, highlighting the wide range of available career options and dispelling negative myths.
With this issue affecting businesses nationwide both organisations are also working closely with other partners to ensure a strong, coordinated approach.
Ben Mayou, Chair of the Lake District Hotels Association, says “across our hotel association as a snapshot, we are collectively short of 270 employees of which 68 are chef positions across 19 businesses. These are all permanent positions and in addition, we are also looking for 50 seasonal employees. Never have we experienced such difficulties in recruiting staff. In the current climate however, roles are simply not being filled placing even more pressure on the existing teams.”
James Mason, Chief Executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, says “Tourism is a people industry. Businesses rely on staff to provide the top-level customer service we’re famed for and without a strong pool of front and back of house staff we’re operating with one hand tied behind our back before we even begin.”
“Put simply, if the sector doesn’t receive substantial support fast, we will see more businesses close” continues Gill Haigh.
“The industry is incredibly grateful for all the support received over the course of the pandemic, including the furlough scheme and business grants, but all this Government spending will go to waste if businesses are abandoned at this crucial stage.”
Further information on how to get involved in the campaign, as well as additional resources and advice on recruitment, can be found at www.cumbriatourism.org/recruitment. Those looking to begin or continue their career within the county’s tourism and hospitality sector and view current vacancies at www.visitlakedistrict.com/jobs.