The head of Etoa, the European Tourism Association, warned MPs last week that Brexit “is already harming” Britain’s inbound travel industry.
Tom Jenkins, Etoa chief executive, told MPs: “The inbound industry is experiencing a recruitment crisis.
“The industry needs to recruit poly-lingual graduates, a group of people the UK is not good at producing but other EU countries are.”
Giving evidence to the EU Internal Market Sub-Committee of MPs at Westminster, Jenkins said: “Before the Brexit vote, the UK was seen as the place for young graduates to go.
“Since then the atmosphere has soured and, owing to the fall in the value of sterling, pay has dropped.
“If you want to set up an English-speaking office, you don’t need to do it in the UK anymore. There are excellent multi-lingual companies all over the EU.
“We are starting to see a borderless market in Europe for travel, and the UK will be left out.”
An Etoa survey of major inbound tour operators and suppliers at the end of last year found one third of the more than 35,000 staff employed were “non-UK EU nationals”, and 80% of company respondents reported it would be “difficult to impossible” to replace these workers with UK nationals.
Jenkins told MPs: “It is particularly unhelpful that the [UK government’s] definition of ‘skills’, for the purposes of immigration, does not include languages.
“We must deliver excellence in the language of the customer.
“We must not reduce the available talent pool from 500 million to 60 million, particularly when non-UK EU workers have skills that cannot be replicated domestically.
“We need the government to implement a new tourism employment strategy that will enable the industry to hire non-UK EU nationals almost as easily as at present.”