Hotels check out how to overcome staffing crisis triggered by ‘perfect storm’ of Brexit and pandemic

May 25, 2023

Bosses from many of Bristol’s top hotels are stepping up efforts to tackle the recruitment crisis that has hit the sector in the city hard in recent years.

A “perfect storm” of post-Brexit employment rules and the impact of the pandemic are having a huge impact on staffing in the hospitality industry, with hotels in particular facing major recruitment challenges, according to the Bristol Hoteliers Association (BHA). 

The organisation – which represents 40 hotels in and around the city with around 4,000 rooms between them – has formed a new HR forum to look at a possible mentoring scheme and stronger ties with the City of Bristol College to help ease the staffing crisis.

BHA chair Raphael Herzog, pictured, who was re-elected to the post he has held since 2019, said alongside the cost of utilities and products, the biggest challenge for the city’s hotels was recruitment.

“In particular, attracting young people to make a career out of hospitality, rather than see our sector as a ‘gap year’ or short-term option,” he added.

“One of the things we are doing is launching an HR/people forum in July, which will bring together more than a dozen leading HR managers every six-to-eight weeks to drive people success in the city. 

“The forum will work closely with colleges and apprentice providers and organise events to promote the hospitality sector as an exciting industry for people to forge enjoyable and rewarding long-term careers.

“We are also hoping to launch a mentoring scheme, involving ‘shining stars’, and executive leaders, to inspire and encourage others.”

Earlier this year the BHA called on the government to relax some of the post-Brexit regulations that have hindered their ability to recruit staff as they recover from the devastating impact of the Covid crisis.

Hotels traditionally drew heavily on European workers, with the UK hospitality sector as a whole employing an estimated 400,000-plus workers from EU countries – 42% of the total – before Brexit.

That has since dropped to 28% as workers returned home to be with their families when Covid-19 hit.

Now, due to changes in employment law brought in by Brexit, most have been unable to return – leaving huge workforce gaps in hospitality at a time when the sector is also struggling with crippling inflation and the cost of living crisis.

Mr Herzog said the BHA would continue to lobby local MPs to fight for hospitality businesses and would continue to give back to the city – in addition to the services and accommodation they provide – by supporting local charities and organisations.

“For the businesses that have survived the perfect storm of Brexit and the pandemic, organisations like the BHA are more important than ever, providing support and a collective voice which continues to campaign to secure the support needed to ensure our sector thrives and continues to make a significant contribution to Bristol’s economy.”

The HR forum will be led by BHA head of people Alison Mansfield.

Other officers elected at the BHA’s AGM were vice-chairman Chris Falcus, from the Mercure Holland House, and treasurer/secretary Greg Csikos, from the Hampton by Hilton Bristol City Centre.

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