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Short-term visas just the job to help struggling hoteliers, says Bristol Hoteliers Association

Bristol hoteliers are backing the possible introduction of a new short-term visa scheme which could be just the job to help solve their long-running staff shortage problems.

The Bristol Hoteliers Association (BHA) has welcomed news that the Government is looking into a scheme which would enable people aged between 18 and 30 to work and travel in Britain for two years, without sponsor or salary threshold requirements.

BHA chair Raphael Herzog said: “I understand that the Home Office is having discussions with a number of EU countries which could become part of the youth mobility scheme.

“Anything which can help us with recruiting the staff we need to get our businesses fully up and running again is welcome and will make such a difference.

“We would also like the visa scheme to go beyond the EU, and be extended to the likes of India, as well as extend the roles it would apply to where we are currently experiencing shortages.

“I understand the current proposals would cover positions such as baristas and waiters, but we would like it to be extended to cover chefs, therapists, room attendants and others.”

The hospitality sector was hit hard by the impact of both Brexit and the pandemic lockdowns, forcing many businesses to close and many others still struggling to survive, with the inability to return to pre-pandemic staff levels one of the biggest factors.

Raphael said that in the Greater Bristol area – covering around 15 miles – there are currently around 700 chef vacancies, 400 housekeeping positions not filled and around 350 bar staff needed.

Trade body UKHospitality says vacancies in the sector are still 48 per cent higher than they were before the Covid-19 crisis.

But while Raphael welcomed the good news of this short-term visa scheme, he said there was some potentially bad news to counter-balance it.

The Home Office is also considering increasing the immigration health surcharge and the application fee for skilled worker visas, which will deter people from pursuing permanent careers in hospitality.

Raphael said: “Hospitality has traditionally had a large transient workforce, with young people in particular taking roles as a short-term way to earn money while they consider their long-term opportunities.

“We have been working hard to persuade people to consider a long-term career in hospitality but this proposed increase in visa fees for migrant workers could easily put off potential staff from overseas from considering coming to the UK.

“While the short-term visa scheme may well help ease our current recruitment crisis, it will maintain the transient, temporary nature of our workforce, whereas we would also like to see more support to promote permanent positions in our vibrant and exciting sector.

“Bristol is a good place for people to begin their career in hospitality.

“Most available positions pay more than the living wage for entry-level chefs, therapists and room attendants, with added perks such as service charges, tips, extra holidays, charity days, free access to gyms and staff accommodation.

“We really do have so much to offer.

“We have been struggling for years now to find the staff numbers we need to get our businesses back up and running properly again, providing guests and customers with the levels and standards of service they expect.

“We welcome any support, of course, but do urge the Government to not just think of quick-fix, short-term, solutions but listen to business owners and help us provide some long-term stability which will increase confidence in the sector, and that will be beneficial for all, since hospitality makes such a significant contribution to the UK economy.”

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