UK hospitality and tourism sectors face serious talent shortage

The UK hospitality and tourism sectors are battling a critical talent shortage, with 78% of Londoners believing they only offer short-term career opportunities. 

Both have been struggling since the pandemic and new research suggests the industries desperately need change to survive in the long term. 

With London being an attractive city for many independent and mainstream hospitality and tourism businesses, keeping these industries’ vibrancy alive is vital for the UK’s economy.

Dr Emmanuel Murasiranwa, principal lecturer for the School of Hospitality and Tourism at Arden University, said: “We want to show London what we’d be losing if we let our hospitality and tourism businesses fail. 

“It’s time to change perceptions and show people that a career in this sector is so much more than many consider it to be.”

A survey by Arden University asked 1,100 people who either work in the sector, have worked in the sector or would be open to working in them about their perceptions of hospitality and tourism. 

The research found:

Over half of the people surveyed (57%) have recently seen permanent closures and downsizing of hospitality and tourism businesses in their area.

Dr Murasiranwa continued: “The hospitality and tourism industry carries the UK economy. 

“It provides direct employment to more than 3.6 million people, and more than nine million people indirectly, and contributes roughly more than £237bn to the economy each year.

Arden University has reimagined what popular areas in UK cities would look like without their vibrant hospitality scene, the images below are based in London’s Chinatown.

Dr Murasiranwa said: “It seems we’re creeping closer to our projected images faster than we might think.

“We know that businesses in the industry have battled against a few tough years due to the pandemic and cost of living crisis. But in the long term, the challenges with talent attraction and retention could be the true, slow burning killer of the industry.”

The research found that only 13% find working in hospitality and tourism rewarding and think there are better opportunities for the industry abroad as it offers more pay, recognition, opportunities and conditions.

Over half the current workers also said they’d like to see better career progression options in the sector and over a third want better education opportunities.

If changes were made to improve the quality of these jobs as a long-term career, 80% said they would stay in the industry and encourage those who have left to come back.

Dr Murasiranwa said: “Hospitality and tourism in the UK would benefit from seeing more people take a more proactive approach to working in the industry. 

“By shifting the negative perceptions, we may motivate people to reconsider what a long term career in the sector will look like.”

Arden University recently launched a new hospitality and tourism school to meet the demands of the industry and to raise awareness about the positive prospects of staying in these sectors.

The university is a leading UK-based provider of flexible, online and blended learning, supporting thousands of students in the UK and around the world. 

They offer personalised academic and digital-skills support from enrolment right through to graduation and sees student learning as the key to help graduates ready for the workplace. 

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Image credits: Annette Coyle

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