A major staffing shortage is threatening Cumbria’s hospitality businesses, the county’s tourism leaders have warned.
Cumbria Tourism said although the county’s recruitment challenge was 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.
Its research in April found that 34 per cent of businesses were concerned about recruiting staff.
Over the last month this issue has escalated sharply across all business types throughout the county.
It said: “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 said it had 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 focused on the impact of the pandemic, it was clear that this huge issue would return.
Cumbria Tourism recently presented to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Migration, chaired by Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron, on impacts arising from the introduction of new immigration rules.
The outcome 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.
Cumbria Tourism said it has continued to lobby.
It put recruitment at the top of the agenda for Tourism Minister Nigel Huddleston MP’s visit last month and has invited Cumbria’s MPs to meet with industry representatives as part of English Tourism Week.
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.”