SOUTH Warwickshire’s tourism chief is calling for a paradigm shift in the government’s outlook on the tourism industry.
Helen Peters, chief executive at Shakespeare’s England, is urging the government to launch a department dedicated to tourism – equivalent to DCMS, BEIS and DfT – rather than a standalone tourism minister, in order to strengthen lobbying efforts on behalf of the industry.
Her comments come at a time when recent figures from ABTA and UKinbound have underlined tourism’s significance to the UK economy, with international inbound tourism worth approximately £31billion a year to the nation, supporting 1.5 million jobs.
Yet there are still around 152,000 national vacancies in the hospitality industry, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Helen said: “A combination of the King’s upcoming Coronation and the weak British pound has created the perfect environment for our region’s businesses to capitalise on trade from international travellers wanting to sample a piece of history – but we need more support at government level.
“Businesses that survived Covid, and are now trying to thrive, need a long-term road map for growth in what is still a challenging economic climate.
“The best chance they have of achieving that is if we have a government department dedicated to tourism to support the dedicated work that is already being done by trade associations such as UKinbound to lobby for matters that can help to unlock growth.
“That way, there would be a greater government focus on addressing tourism issues, which will in turn help destinations and their businesses to capitalise on not only mainstream events, but moments in time when the eyes of the world will be on our country.”
Helen continued that the biggest issue threatening the long-term futures of many hospitality businesses was the difficulty in recruiting staff at supervisor level – where 50 per cent of interviewees do not show up for an interview.
She said: “Not being able to fill vacancies appears to be an emerging theme across various sectors, but unlike some industries, this isn’t a skills issue for the tourism and hospitality industry, but more to do with foreign workers who would have filled these roles no longer there to do so, and a lack of appetite from home-grown talent to take up the opportunities.
“A credible solution for hospitality and tourism specifically would be to re-look at visa restrictions to open up the talent pool available to businesses.
“This suggestion comes at a time when the government is trying to halt immigration numbers with no tourism voice around the table to stress how this could impact industries such as ours.”
She added: “If this recruitment crisis continues, then the alternative is that hospitality businesses will begin limiting their opening hours, or even shutting up shop altogether – which we are already starting to see in some places due to rising energy costs.”