Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.

Tourism

The UK and Portugal Hope New Visa Fixes Can Fix Persistent Labor Shortages

2 years ago

Staffing problems in the hospitality industry continue to linger. Now, two countries are aiming to amend visa regulations to counter them.

A petition has been launched in the UK that seeks to allow European Union nationals to come to the UK to work in hospitality for up to two years.

“The government should create a special visa for people from the EU countries to come to the UK to work in the hospitality industry for a period of up to 2 years, similar to the Seasonal Work visa for horticulture workers. Some countries have visas like this to support the hospitality sector,” the petition says.

“There is a massive shortage of qualified labour in the UK to fill vacancies that were in many cases previously filled by EU staff. For years people from the EU countries were the backbone of the hospitality industry and many were affected by COVID and subsequently by Brexit’s final terms. Many restaurants are struggling to find people with experience and willingness to work.”

As of Sept. 2 it had secured more than 16,400 signatures. Once a petition reaches 10,000 the UK government is obliged to respond. At 100,000 signatures, the topic is considered for debate in Parliament.

The UK left the European Union on 31 Jan. 2020, with free movement between the UK and the European Union ending on 1 Jan. 2021, when a new points-based immigration process was set up that is far more restrictive than before Brexit.

Brexit is being blamed for many things, but staff shortages seem to be the biggest bugbear.

“Supplier labor will continue to be an issue,” Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary said in May this year. “The UK will continue to be very challenged. The labor market is very inflexible post Brexit. You can’t bring in young Europeans.”

Portugal, meanwhile, is to speed up the time it takes to grant visas to citizens of other Portuguese-speaking countries, including Angola and Brazil, according to reports.

The other countries in the Community of Portuguese language countries are East Timor, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Mozambique and Sao Tome and Principe.

Immigrants from these countries have had to get a visa if they plan to stay in Portugal for more than 90 days, Reuters reported, and often have to wait many months to get visa approval.

Employers’ confederations have said there are no workers available in key sectors such as hotels, agriculture and construction.

Tourism

UK Government Not Clear if Covid Travel Restrictions Worth $585 Million Worked

2 years ago

Despite spending around $585 million on implementing its traffic light system as part of its wider response to manage travel during the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK government does not know whether the system worked or whether the cost was worth the disruption caused, according to a report by the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons.

The government introduced health measures at the border from 2020 and implemented controls in four main phases, and from early 2021 operated a new “traffic light system” that broadly remained in place, with modifications, until March 2022. The traffic light system placed countries on red, amber or green lists, with more restrictions applying for travel from red-list countries and fewer for green.

The report released on Tuesday stated that while the government did not track spending on implementing health measures, the National Audit Office estimated that the government spent $585 million on the traffic light system in 2021–22.

The government also did not strike the right balance between its reliance on the travel industry to implement travel controls and the support it provided.

“Carriers were legally responsible for checking that everyone travelling to the UK had submitted a Passenger Locator Form recording their contact information and recent travel history. This imposed extra costs on carriers in a period where their revenue had fallen dramatically,” the report stated.

Although the government provided access to up to $9.6 billion of financial support during the pandemic, this was mostly general support from the furlough scheme. It did not provide any additional financial support to carriers to implement the travel controls it introduced.

Despite government’s reliance on carriers, it sometimes did not provide carriers with sufficient notice ahead of public statements that travel rules were changing. People travelling found the rules difficult
to understand, and 40 percent of them did not know the rules on self-isolation, according to the report.

While the National Audit Office noted that changes at short notice in the fast-moving environment of the pandemic was inevitable, but the processes for communicating these changes to those responsible for implementing them, in advance of a public announcement, were not timely.

“The government is not learning lessons fast enough from the pandemic and is missing opportunities to react quickly to future emergencies… In the longer term, health measures may be needed to deal with new variants of Covid-19 or other diseases such as monkeypox, so government needs to ensure it is able to respond quickly,” stated the report.

Airlines

UK Speeds Up Security Checks for New Airport Workers Amid Staffing Shortages

2 years ago

The UK government is accelerating national security checks for new airport employees to tackle staffing shortages that have contributed to a chaotic summer for travelers in the country and throughout Europe.

The country has sped up the vetting process all new aviation recruits must undergo, with accreditation checks being completed on average within five days and counter-terrorist checks taking less than 10 days — half of the average in March, according to the Department of Transport.

A common scene at airports this summer (Courtesy: Mark Hodson Photos/Flickr)

Staffing shortages have driven London’s Gatwick and Heathrow Airports to limit the flights the number during the summer travel season to avoid overcrowding. In addition, UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has told airlines to stop selling tickets for flights they cannot staff.