130,000 Vacancies in Travel & Tourism Threaten UK Economic Recovery

photo of taxi car and bus on road with the UK flags hanging above

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has cautioned that the Travel & Tourism sector's recovery may be at risk as nearly 130,000 jobs remain vacant across the United Kingdom.

According to the global tourism body, the UK will see a shortfall of 128,000 jobs, with one in 14 job openings remaining unfilled. Restaurants and hotels are struggling to find staff, but the UK government refuses to allow temporary workers in from overseas.

It is predicted that the UK's hotel, entertainment, and aviation industries will bear the brunt, facing unfulfilled vacancies of 18 percent (one in six), 12 percent (one in eight), and 11 percent (one in nine), respectively.

Before the pandemic in 2019, Travel & Tourism in the UK contributed nearly £235 billion to the economy and employed 1.8 million people. However, by 2020 over 200,000 people have lost their jobs. Critical staff shortages are now acute within transportation, which is struggling to cope with the post-pandemic travel demand, particularly across the aviation industry.

"The UK recovery is at risk. The government is not using the flexibility in the visa system to attract workers to the UK," said Julia Simpson, President & CEO of WTTC. "Now visitors are arriving to find restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues without staff, and we will lose these travellers and their dollars to other countries."

Travel & Tourism was one of the sectors hit the hardest during the pandemic, losing 50 percent of its value. Despite the UK government's furlough scheme providing relief to the sector, more support is needed in filling the job vacancies to boost the economy through its GDP contribution, according to WTTC.

During the second half of 2022, data indicates that labour supply will continue to fall short of demand - with the gap projected to grow further in the third quarter of 2022 as demand approaches pre-pandemic levels.

Last week WTTC revealed that up to 1.2 million jobs will remain vacant, heavily affecting hospitality, air transport, and travel agencies.

WTTC has identified key measures for both governments and the private sector to address the talent gap:

  1. Facilitate labour mobility across international borders with more favourable visa policies.
  2. Enable flexible and remote working where possible – allowing part-time or contractor-based opportunities.
  3. Ensure decent work, competitive employee benefits, and average pay rises across the sector.
  4. Attract talent by improving the perception of jobs and promoting viable career paths with growth opportunities.
  5. Develop and support a skilled workforce through comprehensive educational programs and upskilling and reskilling current talent.
  6. Adopt innovative technological and digital solutions to alleviate pressure on staff, improve daily operations and enhance customer experience.

By implementing these measures, WTCC believes that the Travel & Tourism sector will be able to meet the ever-growing consumer demand and further speed up its recovery, which is the backbone of generating economic well-being across the UK.