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Survey finds Brexit likely to damage productivity of the travel industry


ETOA has surveyed its members to establish the impact of any restriction on the employment of non-UK EU nationals among those based in the UK.

Over 100 companies completed the questionnaire. Collectively, they employ a total of over 35,000 people. Of these, one third would be classified as “Non-UK EU nationals”. 80% of the companies felt it would be “difficult to impossible” to replace these workers with UK nationals.

As many job roles which are difficult to fill from the domestic workforce can be filled, without administrative burden, by EU nationals, it is hardly surprising that only 16% of the companies have tried using the Tier 2 visa mechanism which is required to recruit workers from outside the EU. Of those that have, 85% found the process “difficult to impossible”. If this system were to be extended to EU workers, then nearly 80% of companies predicted a substantial detrimental impact on productivity.

Language skills are particularly important if you are buying from or selling to people in Continental Europe. ETOA members, broadly, need to recruit poly-lingual graduates who are happy to work in the UK. They may only represent 30% of their workforce, but the jobs of the remaining 70% are contingent on their roles.

Not only are their skills difficult to obtain within the UK, but the non-UK EU workers have proved that they are willing to travel long distances to work, and are prepared to adapt. This manifest motivation and flexibility mean that non-UK EU nationals make up the most productive part of the workforce. It is hardly surprising that any curtailment of the supply of these people will be detrimental, particularly to productivity.

“People are the most important asset of any organisation and our members’ exports are founded on their ability to employ the best”, said Tom Jenkins, CEO of ETOA. “It is not merely a matter of being free to employ people, it is also a question of deployment. Tour operators carrying UK clients need the freedom to employ UK nationals as tour mangers and local representatives in Continental European destinations. Thousands of UK nationals work across Europe in all sorts of roles: the reciprocity of freedom of movement is coveted and needs to be retained in any Brexit deal.”

“But the greatest problem at the moment is uncertainty. Part of ETOA’s membership is optimistic about the situation, a greater proportion is very pessimistic, but the greatest proportion are extremely concerned. Brexit may radically affect their ability to function as a business, but they are hoping, if not for the best, at least for something which is not catastrophically bad. Currently, 20% of the companies are actively contemplating relocation.”


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