Rural tourism sector faces skills shortage

England’s tourism sector risks being overwhelmed by record number of visitors and growing skills gaps, say council leaders.

The UK’s tourism sector provides 3.1m jobs – many of them in rural areas. It is worth £126bn to the economy and generates £bn in tax from overseas visitors.

Overseas visitors spend £22bn annually in the UK and the tourism sector projects above average annual growth in spend of 3.8% every year up until 2025.

The Local Government Association says councils are playing a leading role in boosting local tourism.

Elsewhere, this month Allerdale Borough Council hosted an ‘Allerdale Days in Manchester’ event to promote rural Cumbria as a place to visit, live and invest.

The event is part of the Allerdale Borough Council’s Business Growth Strategy which has been developed to boost business in the borough.

Some of the attractions will include a ‘Mini Taste on Tour’ food and drink market, rally cars from M- Sport Rally, live music and exhibitions from local businesses.

But the LGA says shortages in skilled staff risks bringing the sector to a halt unless better training opportunities needed for the sector are provided.

Some 38% of hospitality and tourism businesses are struggling to fill vacancies and it is getting increasingly harder to fill vacancies, according to a survey by the Tourism Alliance.

Meanwhile, 21% of businesses are reporting that the staff that they are employing lack essential skills, the survey found.

An extra 1.3 million new employees will need to be recruited to cope with the rapid growth of tourism in the UK by 2024.

Council leaders want the government to adopt  the to let local areas jhave more say in skills and employment schemes to better target funding training and apprenticeships.

The LGA also wants the government to bring forward plans for hospitality T-levels, which aim to fill skills shortages in the sector before the UK leaves the EU.

Limits on EU migration after Brexit could exacerbate these skills challenges, it warns.

This makes it more important than ever to have a better system in place for retraining and upskilling the current workforce.

Gerald Vernon-Jackson, who chairs the LGA's Culture, Tourism and Sport Board said: “Tourism has a vital role in driving future economic growth.

“It provides a wealth of employment opportunities for residents, it attracts new visitors to our communities and it promotes our local and national arts and heritage.

“It is crucial that government supports councils in providing residents and young people with resources and training.”

Cornwall Council, for example, has invested significantly in the growth of the creative and cultural industries to provide sustainable, well paid jobs and boost Cornwall’s tourism offer.

This investment has helped Cornwall attract 4.5m overnight visitors and 14m day trips a year and creating 58,000 regional jobs in the tourism supply chain.

The LGA publication '' highlights how devolution can boost visitor economy-led growth throughout England.


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