The need for a clear and cohesive post-Brexit visa strategy has been highlighted as the main issue facing tourism and hospitality in the UK and Ireland.
Two in five (40%) hospitality sector leaders believe the visa situation needs to be clarified by the next UK government, according to research by Amaris Hospitality, which runs more than 70 hotels across seven brands.
A further one in four (26%) underlined the damage to the UK’s reputation in Europe, while two thirds (65%) are concerned that without a pro-tourism and hospitality strategy, the long-term effects of the devalued pound could increase costs, outweighing a boost to visitor numbers.
Mounting concerns around Brexit are intensifying as the industry faces the possibility of a talent crisis over its reliance on an EU migrant workforce, according to the research.
Restricted access to foreign talent pools and insufficient UK talent is already putting pressure on the sector’s ability to recruit.
Apart from the Brexit concerns, the report had a positive outlook as it identified several areas of potential growth and opportunities. These included new technologies; ‘silver tourism’ and multi-generational travel; regional growth; and special interest groups, such as the emerging food tourist scene.
John Brennan (pictured), Amaris Hospitality chief executive, said: “Tourism is a crucial driver of the UK economy and the lifeblood of the hospitality industry.
“As one of the UK’s leading hospitality investment and management companies, we’ve seen first-hand the benefits of this thriving industry as its continued growth has brought significant economic prosperity to the whole of the UK.
“It’s evident from our research that we are at a crossroads. Do we invest for the future and put in place a clear pro-tourism and hospitality strategy that will accelerate the growth of both UK tourism and hospitality, creating new opportunities for hospitality companies to pursue; or will we continue to leave ourselves exposed to consequences of Brexit that threaten to derail the industry?
“That is why we are calling on the next government to sharpen the industries’ competitive edge so that we can play our part in making a success of Brexit.”
Ufi Ibrahim, British Hospitality Association chief executive, added: “Current political uncertainty, with possible restrictions to the movement of people, has already begun to have a negative impact on the industry as many of our concerns around the impact of Brexit could quickly turn into a perfect storm, especially in terms of the costs of operating [with] such a high tourism VAT and business rate increases.
“We have to take steps today to create a pro-tourism and hospitality strategy to ensure we navigate past these headwinds and continue to see our industry thrive in 2017 and beyond.”
Jason Carruthers, managing director of Amaris brand Jurys Inn, commented: “With hospitality companies up and down the UK now looking to the UK government for answers on the uncertainties for Brexit, we need a response that will breathe a collective sigh of relief across the industry so we can have the confidence to play our part in driving growth and building for the future.”