The UK travel sector has made no secret of the fact that they believe Brexit would be hugely damaging to the industry as a whole, and large companies almost unanimously support remaining in the EU. Peter Long, former TUI boss, said that remaining in the EU is essential to ‘protect the security of our holidaymakers’, while EasyJet CEO Carolyn McCall said that Brexit would see flying once again ‘reserved for the elite’.
And they’re right to be concerned – 29 million holidays are taken by Brits to EU countries each year, and 68% of all UK business trips are to EU countries. Obviously this won’t immediately stop, but the ‘open skies’ could be withdrawn, meaning airfares will increase. Mobile roaming costs abroad could rise, the access to healthcare in EU countries could stop, and financial protection for package holidays is at risk.
What has been less well documented, but is at least a big a problem, is the ability of travel companies to recruit freely from EU member states.
A Deloitte report commissioned by ABTA on the effect of Brexit states ‘The travel and tourism sectors employ a significant number of immigrants. Any changes limiting the sector’s ability to recruit or employ foreign nationals, including those from the EU, could challenge many travel and hospitality businesses in filling a number of roles, especially given the current levels of UK employment and existing skills shortages.’
From my involvement in the market as a specialist travel recruitment company, this is all too true.
UK based companies rely heavily on top talent from Europe for Head Office roles, with international talent particularly required for technology based jobs, of which there are more and more every year.
The UK travel technology market is vast and with my 15 years’ experience recruiting in this market, it is always short on candidates with the array of skills needed for key positions that set the global travel trends.
We are also seeing more and more commercial roles requiring candidates with multiple languages and experience of doing business in different cultures.
We are frequently headhunting individuals with rare skillsets to the UK from EU countries, and candidates are keen to come to the UK. The idea of this becoming an impossibility makes the outlook for growth in UK companies look fairly bleak.
We are also seeing American companies hiring EU candidates with multiple languages to export their products to Europe from a UK base – which generates jobs and revenue for the UK economy. This, again, would likely cease.
Ultimately, the influx of talent from the EU enriches the talent pool in the UK for professionals with technical and travel industry knowledge, and we need it to continue.
Currently the UK travel sector is an exciting place to work, always pushing the boundaries to develop groundbreaking travel technology for B2B & B2C travellers - and this is all down to the growing talent pool here. Without free movement the UK market risks becoming stagnant.
I certainly know which way I will be voting come June 23rd.