Tourism industry jobs 'crisis' has hit recovery, warns Go New Forest chief Anthony Climpson
A “JOBS crisis” has hit the New Forest’s hospitality industry as it tries to recover from the devastating impact of the pandemic – with up to a fifth of roles vacant.
Holiday parks, hotels and restaurants have warned they face going out of business long-term unless action is taken, with hotels facing a current 20% workforce shortage and tourism 17%.
So dire is the situation, a jobs fair at Balmer Lawn Hotel in Brockenhurst has been set up for Tuesday 15th June to showcase roles on offer and attract new talent.
“The whole of the Forest’s tourism industry is absolutely thrilled to be open again, but our recovery is being threatened by a jobs crisis,” said Anthony Climpson – chief executive of Go New Forest, a community interest company that promotes businesses in the district.
“The length of the last lockdown has forced many existing hospitality staff to find jobs in other sectors, and with EU staff returning home – probably never to return – after Brexit, we’ve got a perfect storm of staff shortages.
“None of this has been helped by businesses all reopening at the same time, which has led to a desperate race to find staff. Even the resultant increase in pay hasn’t prompted enough staff to come forward to meet the explosion of demand created by restrictions lifting.
“The situation has become so bad that businesses can’t fully operate – they can’t open their restaurants seven days a week or run additional events.”
Jobs statistics from Nomis claim unemployment stood at 3.9% across the district in December last year – its highest for six years – while food banks across the district reported record rises in the number of users throughout the pandemic.
Back in August 2020, Office for National Statistics figures showed massive increases in 16 to 24-year-olds registering for support in the district since mid-2019. In Totton alone, the number in that age group rose by 177% – outpacing the 145% equivalent national figure.
The Pig Hotels, sister company of the luxury Lime Wood outlet in Lyndhurst, faces similar problems. “Despite being a good employer, since Brexit and Covid struck we have consistently been short staffed and struggling to attract people into the industry,” said regional operations director Jorge Gertrudes.
“We are not sure if things will change when furlough comes to an end, but it feels like people are just not interested in getting back to work after lockdown.
“Given the staff shortages, we’ve had to reduce our business capacity at a time when we should be recovering from the huge losses incurred in the past year. Additionally, the shortages have a big impact on the rest of the team, who as a last resort will have to pick up extra shifts.”
Raoul Fraser, from Lovat Parks – which runs the Green Hill Farm Holiday Village in Landford – said it was “struggling” to hire additional permanent staff, despite being ranked a top mid-sized UK company to work for.
“We are facing issues with housekeeping and grounds and maintenance roles,” he said. “While our fantastic team can cope, this is not sustainable long term and we would appreciate any help possible to solve the problem.”
Mr Climpson said the jobs fair, between midday and 10pm, would “highlight what’s in it” for potential workers. “Ideally, we would also like to see a seasonal visa for EU workers to help cope with the immediate problem.
“Over the next few weeks we’ll be creating new incentivised benefits to attract people into careers in this unique and wonderful destination,” he added. GNF will also work with schools, colleges, New Forest District Council and businesses to establish education and career paths.