With tourism and hospitality businesses struggling to accommodate bookings due to mandatory self-isolation of staff, Cumbria’s official Destination Management Organisation (DMO) is calling for the Government to allow workers with negative COVID-19 test results to continue to work.
Alongside a severe ongoing recruitment crisis, with businesses operating at approximately 20% below their employment needs, the so-called ‘pingdemic’ is often causing staff bubbles to self-isolate at extreme short notice, often leading to postponements, cancellations and even temporary closures.
“Now should be a time for celebration” says Jim Walker, Cumbria Tourism Chair. “It’s a glorious summer, the industry is permitted to open and visitors are desperate to enjoy our world-class hospitality. Instead, businesses have a constant fear of having to deal with a sudden staff shortage and the knock-on effects to productivity, customer satisfaction, reputation and morale.
“As an industry we have worked hard to put the safety of staff, visitors and communities first through a wide range of Covid-secure practices, yet a single ping can take us back to square one. That’s why we’re calling on the Government to allow the industry to bring back double vaccinated workers following a negative test, and potentially single vaccinated workers following two negative results.”
This request is the latest in a comprehensive campaign lead by the DMO. Cumbria Tourism is working closely with industry leaders and Government representatives to help the industry recover, including a recent productive meeting with all five of the county’s Conservative MPs.
A lack of overseas staff due to international travel restrictions and recent immigration changes has also led to the DMO calling for a seasonal worker scheme and creation of a short-term working visa initiative to help the industry recover to a post Brexit world. With chef positions in particular demand Cumbria Tourism is also campaigning to recognise the profession as a shortage skilled occupation for immigration purposes.
“It’s ridiculous, and quite frankly insulting, to classify chefs and other hospitality workers as unskilled” continues Jim. “Cumbria is home to seven Michelin-starred restaurants, plus TripAdvisor’s 2021 Travellers’ Choice top restaurant in the world and that’s down to the dedication, skill and passion of our chefs, many of whom came here from abroad.”
Cumbria Tourism has been working hard to lessen the impact of the staffing crisis through a range of initiatives, including a targeted recruitment campaign highlighting Cumbria as the perfect place to live, work and play. The DMO is also working with transport providers to evaluate existing infrastructure and better connect staff with workplaces, but the underlying cause can only be addressed by decisive Government action.
“This is a national crisis, but one which is disproportionally affecting rural visitor economies” concludes Jim Walker. “We’re sticking to our pledge to support the industry, and businesses are bending over backwards to do their part – now it’s time for the Government to respond accordingly.”