Immigration Reform must address specific needs of Tourism in Northern Ireland

Posted 05 Nov, 2019

NITA’s role, as the single representative body for the tourism and hospitality industry in Northern Ireland, is to represent our members and ensure the voice of industry is listened to, to shape the future growth of tourism and lobbying at all levels of government and beyond to raise awareness of and contributing to the solution of major strategic issues affecting the industry.

One of the main challenges is regarding the access of skills and talent into the Tourism economy and NITA have been engaging with the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to ensure the voice of tourism is contributing to the discussions on the proposed UK immigration reforms which are due to come into effect in January 2021. The latest call for evidence from the MAC is relating to salary threshold and a points based system.

75% of jobs in the tourism economy are in the accommodation and hospitality sectors and attracting skilled workers has been an issue for these sectors specifically but attracting talent into other sectors such as tourist attractions and the growing business tourism sector is challenging and will also be significantly impacted by the potential reforms to immigration policy.

NITA supported the recent research by UK Inbound and Canterbury Christ Church University, which for Northern Ireland showed that nine out of ten tourism businesses fear the immigration reforms may cause closures. 80% of businesses have found recruitment more difficult since the Referendum and have seen increasing numbers of workers from the rest of the EU leave. Other findings include:

  1. 88% said that the proposals would impact negatively on their ability to continue to operate
  2. 83% believe that the proposals would impact negatively on their ability to expand
  3. 92% believe that the proposals would impact negatively on their ability to remain competitive
  4. 79% of tourism businesses cited the limited domestic labour market as the key reason for the continued need for EU workers.

Northern Ireland has a land border with the Republic of Ireland and it is critical that any immigration reforms do not negatively impact on the ability for workers to travel across the border.

The tourism and hospitality industry in Northern Ireland has an ambition double in size in the next ten years which will mean at least an additional 25,000 new jobs will be created. In addition, each year an estimated 2,500 jobs per year will need to be filled to deal with attrition giving a total of 50,000 positions to be filled. This volume of prospective employees is not available from the local employment pool, where we are competing with other sectors and current skills levels available do not meet the industry needs.

Employers in the tourism economy are working hard to find solutions, for example; raising awareness of the opportunities and careers available within the tourism economy as well as initiatives to make tourism more attractive to people of all ages and backgrounds. Tourism businesses are also working with organisations to provide opportunities to help people in long term unemployment back into employment.

However, these initiatives are not enough and immigration is a critical element to enable the tourism economy to grow. It should be noted that the labour market in Northern Ireland represents about 2% of the total UK labour market and therefore any regional reforms will have minimal impact on the total UK immigration figures. Conversely, if no regional weighting is included this will have a detrimental impact on the Northern Ireland economy, stunting growth and impeding future development and growth.

Read our response by selecting below.

NITA Submission to MAC November 2019

NITA Submission to MAC November 2019