Brexit, immigration, and solutions for recruitment in the travel industry

There is still little certainty about what will happen to UK immigration once the Brexit transition period ends on January 1st 2021. The latest announcement to grab my attention was that those entering the UK with a job offer will need to earn £30k to be allowed in. However, this almost immediately dropped to a more realistic £25,600 after flaws were pointed out – not least that for many industries, travel included, this figure was unaffordable. For those without a job offer, the vague ‘Australian-style points system’ for ‘skilled workers’ will be the likely hurdle.

That ‘skilled workers’ phrase worries me. There isn’t a definitive list of what ‘skilled’ actually means. Often nurses, teachers and doctors are mentioned, but what about those in the travel industry? Many if not most have degrees and years of experience in various industries. This uncertainty breeds fear and mistrust.

An article in The Guardian suggests that these current recommendations would reduce levels of immigration, cut UK population figures and also hit our GDP, thus increasing pressure on social care. The plusses are that it should lessen stress on the NHS, schools and social housing. I worry for the travel industry that it will leave some vacancies hard to fill – and will inflate the cost of hiring from abroad, irritating UK workers in similar level jobs.

Hotels and restaurants in the UK currently employ most of their workers from other EU countries. And many travel companies look to the EU for hard-to-fill travel vacancies. Seasonal holiday jobs are also largely filled by EU workers at the moment, including UK workers heading to Europe for jobs in ski resorts or holiday resorts. New paperwork and costs for businesses are a cause for worry here.

In a way, those EU workers already living in the UK, or vice versa, are the lucky ones. They should apply for settled status or pre-settled status here. Those employing EU workers should encourage them to do it now. Who knows when the rules may suddenly shift again.

Solutions for recruitment in the travel industry

There’s no point in the travel industry just sticking our heads in the sand and hoping we won’t be affected. We have to act now, investing in the future and planning ahead.

The concern that £25,600 is a high wage for many jobs in this poorly paid industry of ours is valid. My advice at this point is to begin to invest more heavily in the UK workforce, but to hire more creatively.

I’ve long been concerned at the rigid way many travel companies choose to hire. Instead of insisting that a role is filled by someone with the exact experience required for the job – eg knowledge of booking systems, or first-hand experience of destinations, I recommend that they hire bright people with potential then train them thoroughly. These people may not even have worked in the travel industry before. I’m a huge advocate of training. Often, you’ll get more loyalty that way, too, as the candidate will be impressed that you’ve invested in them. It also keeps the business fresh, keeping fam trips alive and consistently refreshing which destinations and services your company uses.

Also, as I’ve said before in a blog about more creative recruitment in the travel industry, there are sectors of the working age public who want jobs but are largely invisible, such as mothers with school-age children and those over 55. Be a little flexible and these could be the most loyal team members you ever take on. B&Q did a great job of investing in customer-service helpers at retirement age, inspiring other companies to follow suit. And Timpson famously retrain former prisoners as part of their workforce.

I do think the travel industry needs a shake-up in the way it recruits for travel jobs. Yes, travel companies should still be able to draw on talent globally, albeit with more red tape, but they should also be more flexible and invest in training new staff, rather than only hiring those who fit exactly in pre-prepared boxes.

Preparing travel customers for 2021

Part of the travel industry’s job will also be preparing customers for what happens after the January 2021 deadline. Uncertainty is still rife here, too. Even which queue to stand in at border control is unclear. In Stockholm’s Arlanda airport, one Brit was told to move from the EU queue to the longer All Passports queue, despite the UK now being in a transition period in which freedom of movement still applies until January 1, 2021. The government’s advice on this is that at border control: ‘you may have to show your return ticket and money’. And for those travelling for business, there are extra checks to take into account, detailed here.

It seems likely that with Brexit and climate concerns, air travel costs will increase. There may well be a need for visas or extra paperwork. Longer passport queues and reduced health benefits are likely – travel insurance may well go up for travel to Europe. Those with existing conditions will need to be extra careful, as these are currently covered by the European Health Insurance card.

It’s easy to worry. Our job as a travel recruitment consultancy is to find solutions, and for that we must think about our businesses and our recruitment practices more creatively.


Connect with me on LinkedIn here. Want to apply more creativity to your recruitment in the travel industry? Get in touch.