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THE Cumberland recently sought the opinions of representatives from different areas of the Cumbrian staycation market to highlight some of the important issues as we head into 2022.

What is the extent of the skills shortage currently in the region?

Dan Visser, Vice Chair & Digital Marketing Representative, Cumbria Tourism, said: “The skills shortage in the hospitality sector is a significant one. There is no doubt that the pool of people we can recruit from is smaller than usual.”

“There is huge merit in the different levels of skills brought in from hospitality workers from abroad.”

What is the outlook for hoteliers, holiday property owners, restauranteurs, pub and bar owners in Cumbria?

“The demand from consumers is very strong: we have been seeing levels of demand I’ve never experienced in my 23 years in Cumbria! We are getting lots of new visitors to the region for the first time and many local businesses are really benefitting.”

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What does the hospitality industry need to do to recruit more people and to ensure it has sustainable talent?

“It is vital that we work to change perceptions of our sector and provide year round employment.  

“In a post-Covid world people are looking for flexible working time patterns and shifts which work to support overall wellbeing.  We need to look at ways of engaging with potential staff and coming up with creative ways of working which embraces family life.”

What pattern have you observed in the hospitality accommodation market over the last 18 months?

John Haley, Partner at Edwin Thompson, said: “Visitors immediately reserving accommodation for 2022 suggests another strong staycation trend for the region next year. 

How do you predict the hospitality accommodation market will look over the next 12 months?

“I think the staycation market will continue to be strong with the combination of good trading and repeat bookings already being made for 2022.

A recent survey revealed 86% of holiday accommodation owners have invested in their business during the pandemic, with 94% of them making a long-lasting positive change. Are you seeing any trends in terms of the types of changes accommodation owners are making to their properties?

“Hospitality businesses in the region have used the time to upgrade accommodation. Many have improved their facilities, particularly with outside space where possible and increasing the specification and quality of guest rooms and holiday lets. 

“From a valuation perspective, with an overall improvement in the standard of accommodation coupled with the strong visitor demand, there is the potential to increase room and holiday letting rates and thus improve turnover which should transfer into improved profitability and the values increasing.”

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Research showed that 84% of consumers say they prefer to holiday in the UK this year.  With this increase in demand in mind, what has been the greatest challenge for you as a small business this season?

James Wilkinson, owner of The Three Shires Inn, said: “We have experienced a significant uptick in demand for the service we supply.  However, at the same time it has been very challenging to hire skilled people.  Basically, there’s been more to do and not enough people to do it!”

What measures would you like to see put in place in order to increase jobs and skills in the hospitality sector?

“The cause of the issue is threefold: number one is that the pandemic has meant that people have been off for a long time and many have chosen not to return to the hospitality industry.  Second is that the hospitality sector needs to promote itself as a positive choice of career.

“Thirdly, Brexit has caused foreign workers to return home and now they can’t come back as the Government hasn’t classed hospitality workers as skilled, whereas lorry drivers, for example, are classed as skilled workers.

“Hospitality needs to be viewed as a skilled job that people take pride in and young people can clearly see it as a career-choice.”

Scott McKerracher, Head of Commercial at The Cumberland, said: “There is a strong collective view about the desire amongst all of us for hospitality to be viewed as a skilled job and one which is of huge value to the local and national economy.”

Grant Seaton, Senior Business Lending Manager at The Cumberland added: “Although there are some challenges in the hospitality industry still to overcome, we are hopeful that as the staycation market continues to boom, this will have a dual knock-on effect in terms of investment within individual businesses as they choose to upgrade their product and services as well as a renewed pride amongst hospitality workers as we all learn to value the skills and expertise required to work in this sector.”

By Ambrose Young

Source: The Mail

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