Abta welcomes the Tourism Sector Deal, recently announced by the government as part of the UK’s Industrial Strategy. We are particularly pleased with the strong focus on skills development, with the industry agreeing to create 10,000 new tourism-related apprenticeships each year by 2025.
Skills policy was a big topic at Abta’s Travel Matters conference. We also shared insights into our new research, Understanding the Travel and Tourism Labour Market, commissioned by the Centre for Economic and Business Research.
The report finds travel and tourism sustains more than 1.52 million jobs across the UK (nearly 5% of all employment) and contributes nearly £68 billion each year to the economy. We will be releasing the full findings in autumn to support our lobbying work on skills-related issues, especially the immigration white paper.
The white paper sets out the government’s proposals for the UK’s post-Brexit immigration regime – including the end of freedom of movement. It was launched last December and is under consultation until the end of this year.
Abta is concerned an overly restrictive approach will mean travel businesses are less able to attract the talent needed to work in the UK, and there could be serious consequences for travel companies who rely on the ability to send support staff overseas for temporary periods.
Abta is encouraged by the proposals to lower the level of qualifications required to obtain “high-skilled” visas, create an extended youth mobility system similar to the one we currently have with Australia and deliver a temporary system for low-skilled workers. In combination, and with minor tweaks, these regimes could be part of the long-term solution for travel companies – but they wouldn’t fill all of the gaps created by the loss of the Posted Workers Directive (PWD), and we continue to raise this with the government.
One element of the white paper is creating widespread consternation – the proposed £30,000 salary threshold. The imposition of this salary limit would cause serious problems for travel businesses.
Currently 9% of travel and tourism workers are EU nationals, with a further 4% coming to work here from non-EU countries. With the UK unemployment rate at less than 4%, it is important to recognise there is not a huge pool of untapped native talent waiting to be discovered. Companies are already facing an extremely competitive environment for recruitment and retention of talent, and it is vital the UK government does not create a migration framework that is too narrow to enable pragmatic solutions.
Home secretary Sajid Javid recently announced a further review of salary thresholds – this is very welcome.
Abta will continue to work closely with a number of industry stakeholders, including colleagues within the Tourism Alliance, to present the strongest possible case for a skills environment that works for all of UK tourism: inbound, outbound or domestic.
Luke Petherbridge is head of public affairs at Abta