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HBAA to lobby government on skills shortage 'worry'

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The Brexit-inspired skills shortage is a "big worry" for the UK's hotel and hospitality industry, with as many as 70 per cent of the workforce made up of non-Britons, the HBAA says.

The industry association has promised to start lobbying the government ahead of its Brexit negotiations to help it realise the true impact if free movement of people was to cease.

Speaking at the HBAA kick-off at Hilton London Bankside on Friday, new chair Louise Goalen said while the outlook for 2017 was positive, the workforce issue was a key challenge for the industry.

She said: "If we go for a hard Brexit, we're closing the door for free movement of people and it's going to have a huge impact. We need to act now. The UK is the best in class for meetings and events; we're the envy of the world when it comes to our hospitality standard.

"At the moment, I think addressing the skills shortage is the key challenge for our association. It's a big worry. We're going to be collaborating with a lot of relevant associations and will be lobbying the government to tell them we need this."

HBAA, formerly the Hotel Booking Agents Association, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.

Also speaking at Friday's event was the Evening Standard's Anthony Hilton, who gave economic predictions for the year ahead, but said overall 2017 would be positive.

In its 20th anniversary year, the HBAA says it will focus on increasing its engagement with members and drive focus on technology. It will also review its code of practice and widen its education offer.

Goalen added: "We need to make sure we're providing suitable training and development across the board."

Hilton said key events that will impact the industry will be the French and German elections, particularly if a Marine Le Pen is elected, saying at worst it could lead to a Referendum on France's membership of the EU and a subsequent withdrawal, triggering a potential collapse of the Euro.

On Trump's election, Hilton called him a "classic bully", but added "I suspect with Trump this year will be OK". He said hype around his presidency would quieten and that it would be difficult for him to carry out any of his controversial policies.

"There will be a gradual lessening of concern, people will find it will gradually wear off and nothing will actually happen apart from his tweeting and it takes, particularly in America, forever for things to get done," he said.

Overall, Hilton said 2017 would be positive for the hospitality industry, with the skills shortage the key challenge.

He finished: "The dollar will be strong because of the general buoyancy of Trump and Europe will probably be a bit stronger assuming they don't screw it up politically, because economically all in all, the picture for the next 12 months is pretty positive."

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