The UK travel sector has called on the government to address difficulties employing British staff in EU holiday destinations, due to post-Brexit red tape and rising hiring costs.
Trade association ABTA’s report found that the number of UK workers in holiday roles in the European Union has dipped by 69 per cent from 11,970 to 3,700 between 2017 and 2023.
At the same time, the cost of employing tour guides, chalet hosts and other roles has risen dramatically. In France, it now costs £880 more to hire each UK seasonal worker, the report found.
Overall, 61 per cent of UK travel companies said that problems recruiting could reduce growth over the next five years, a concern which ranked higher than the effect of the cost-of-living crisis on consumer spending.
The findings will fuel growing calls among industry leaders to sort out post-Brexit regulations and restrictions, which have hit the travel industry particularly hard and placed barriers to Brits working abroad.
Mark Tanzer, Chief Executive of ABTA, said: “It can’t be emphasised enough just how fundamental being able to work abroad is for the UK travel industry.”
“Not putting in the right mobility arrangements with the EU could come at a cost to UK,” he said, “yet there are simple and sensible solutions to overcome these barriers, and I’d urge ministers to make this a priority and take action urgently.”
In a later address at ABTA’s annual Travel Matters conference in London, Tanzer said the sector envisioned leaving Brexit in the past. “The government and travel industry need to work together towards a shared vision of our future, putting the debate about Brexit behind us and building new bridges to the EU and beyond.”
“Collaboration is already underway, but more urgency needs to be injected.”
He added: “A mutual mobility scheme needs to be put in place for young people starting in the industry – for Europeans wishing to work here temporarily, and for UK citizens wishing to work temporarily in the EU.”
Aviation Minister Baroness Vere, who spoke at the same event, responded to questions on the report by stating “it’s a home office decision,” but later added that her collaboration with border force on the issue was positive.
The UK’s outbound travel segment currently supports more than 840,000 jobs in the UK and contributes over £49bn a year in GVA to the economy.
The sector is calling for a range of new policies, including additions to the current UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement, which they argue places stringent limits the length of time overseas workers can stay abroad.
Charles Owen, managing director of the trade association Seasonal Businesses in Travel (SBIT) said: “It’s proving tremendously difficult to employ the UK staff we need to run our businesses in the EU. In some countries it’s a mountain of complex paperwork, delays and extra costs that need to be overcome, in others there isn’t really a workable route.
“As an industry we rely on UK staff being able to work in the EU to help our businesses grow and thrive. But without a sensible arrangement on labour mobility – growth in this industry will be unnecessarily held back.
Given the €40bn contribution UK tourism makes to the EU each year, “it is in both the UK and EU’s interest to provide a policy framework that enables travel and tourism between the UK and EU to thrive,” the report said.