The cost of obtaining visas, work permits and other paperwork after Brexit has been blamed for a huge decrease in British seasonal staff working in the EU.

A new survey – ‘Unlocking Travel’s Potential: The importance of UK-EU mobility for jobs and growth’ – commissioned by Seasonal Businesses in Travel (SBiT) in conjunction with ABTA demonstrates how the market has shrunk.

(c) Le Ski Chalet Holidays

Collapse in UK seasonal staff

The survey shows that the numbers of season workers in travel fell from 11970 in 2017 — the last full year unaffected by the 2016 referendum on Brexit — to just 3700 in 2023 – a decrease of 69%.

Mark Tanzer, CEO of ABTA, urged the government to work with the EU to improve visa and youth mobility arrangements, noting that the UK outbound travel industry contributes £49bn a year to the UK economy.

Calls for a Youth Mobility Scheme

A Youth Mobility Scheme with the EU, similar to that which the UK has with countries such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand is one of the recommendations made in the report.

It is possible to secure permits for UK staff, but according to SBiT, the average cost is £880 per employee. This additional cost has contributed to a 56% reduction in the number of ski chalet holidays on offer.

More non-UK staff employed

According to Sarah Searson from Skiworld, in countries such as Austria, the visa quota system means is it not possible to employ UK workers and forced them to rely on EU passport holders.

SBiT report that the number of non-UK staff employed by UK travel businesses overseas has increased by more than 70% since 2017.

“It’s proving tremendously difficult to employ the UK staff we need to run our businesses in the EU.

In some countries it’s a mountain of complex paperwork, delays and extra costs that need to be overcome, in others there isn’t really a workable route. As an industry we rely on UK staff being able to work in the EU to help our businesses grow and thrive.”

Charlie Owen, MD, Seasonal Businesses in Travel

Senior managers started as resort staff

The survey also found that 49% of senior managers in the travel industry started their careers with an overseas season, working in positions such as travel rep, ski guide or chalet host.

“Almost all of the owners and managers I know in the ski industry worked seasons. Personally, I would never have set up the various businesses I have run, without my experience of working in the Alps. It would be a great shame and a loss to the industry if these opportunities disappear permanently.”

Iain Martin, Founder of Natives, Skipedia and The Ski Podcast

Look out for a special podcast about Ski Jobs coming soon from The Ski Podcast, going live on or around 30 June.