The relaxing of pandemic restrictions resulted in a strong staycation summer which was warmly welcomed by hoteliers in Bristol.
But with the summer holiday period ending they are calling on the Government to step in and support their long-term road to recovery by helping to address the severe staff shortage which continues to have a huge impact on the hospitality sector, among others.
Members of The Bristol Hoteliers Association (BHA) say business has been booming in recent weeks but this short-term gain has only highlighted how challenging the staff shortage is, with hotels in the city still carrying around 500 vacancies.
BHA Chairman Raphael Herzog said: “We have enjoyed a very, very strong summer and occupancy rates at Bristol hotels has been very high, which we are delighted about. Bristol is one of the busiest cities in the UK.
“It’s a sign that consumer confidence is returning and we are hoping this will continue now that the school holidays have ended.
“We’re hoping for large conferences to return, which will provide us with a good business base for the final quarter of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022. Hopefully we’ll start seeing an increase in enquiries now that the traditional summer holiday period is over.”
He added: “Staffing remains our biggest challenge and unemployment is still very high.
“People who visit our hotels don’t fully understand the impact of the staff shortage and their expectations when they arrive are really high. It’s extremely difficult trying to meet those expectations when we are so short-staffed.”
A combination of Brexit plus the pandemic is being blamed for the staff shortage with many European workers who went home when Covid-19 forced their businesses to – at least temporarily – close being unable to return under post-Brexit legislation.
Mr Herzog said: “The Government needs to think as soon as possible about how to help us remedy this. Changes need to be made to allow EU workers to be able to return to UK hospitality businesses, otherwise we are going to continue to struggle.
“If we can’t meet the expectations of our guests then they will not want to return.
“We need the Government to open up to EU workers again to allow the UK economy to start working properly.
“This does not just apply to hospitality but many other sectors as well, who are also short of staff. Earlier this week, the Road Haulage Association also called on the Government to do something to at least allow the temporary return of staff from Europe, because of a shortage of lorry drivers.
“We have had a very good summer but in order to build on this success and secure the long-term viability of our businesses, we need more support and, most of all, we need to be able to recruit.
“The Government needs to allow European workers back in some sectors, and also needs to do more to raise awareness of the many and varied career opportunities in our exciting sector.”