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Immigration alert

Brexit migrant rules threaten two in three tourism businesses

Wagamama, service, hospitality, restaurant

Scotland’s tourism business relies on overseas labour (pic: Terry Murden)

New rules on post-Brexit immigration could jeopardise the viability of two in every three tourism businesses, according to startling new research.

Tourism trade association UKinbound and Canterbury Christ Church University shows that the Government’s proposed post-Brexit immigration reforms have the potential to severely destabilise the tourism industry in the UK, putting at risk an industry that contributes £11 billion to the Scottish economy.

The study, undertaken with Qa Research, highlights the critical impact that the Government’s proposed immigration reforms could have on the sector post-Brexit. The survey of Scottish tourism and hospitality businesses shows that:

  • 69% said that the proposals would impact negatively on their ability to continue to operate
  • 80% believe that the proposals would impact negatively on their ability to expand
  • 80% believe that the proposals would impact negatively on their ability to remain competitive
  • 70% of tourism businesses cited the limited domestic labour market as the key reason for the continued need for EU workers

The research will help the tourism and hospitality sector to respond to consultations about immigration policy when the UK leaves the European Union and free movement ends.

It draws from a wide review of evidence, analysis of national workforce datasets and primary research with UK businesses through an online survey and in-depth interviews.

Those behind the survey says that estimates of the hospitality and tourism sectors’s reliance on EU workers are “extremely conservative”, adding that they “mask the realities of many tourism organisations”.

It adds that nearly half of Scottish businesses reported that EU workers made up more than half their workforce. The proposed salary threshold of £30,000 is significantly above the sector’s average salary of £23,000 for full time workers.

Joss Croft, chief executive of UKinbound, commented: “This timely research shows that the Government must listen to the tourism industry before committing to an immigration system that runs the risk of forcing businesses to close throughout the UK.

“Our tourism industry is vital to the UK economy and EU workers are crucial to ensuring that this success story continues.  We have a skills shortage in the UK, caused not least by low levels of language skills and a lack of interest amongst UK nationals in the sector.

“The Government must, as a first step, ensure that language skills are recognised as a key skills shortage and ensure that any future immigration system is rooted in what actually works and not in populist soundbites.”

UKinbound is leading industry calls for:

  • Language skills to be added to the occupation shortage list and be exempt from immigration restrictions
  • If any salary threshold is proposed that it be regionally set to take into account lower salaries in key tourism hotspots
  • Quarterly independent reviews to ensure tourism sectors are not adversely affected


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