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Opinion: Highlands and Islands business owners need support to deal with post-Brexit and Covid staffing crisis

By David Richardson

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Business Comment by David Richardson, FSB (Federation of Small Businesses) Highlands and Islands development manager

David Richardson, regional development manager at FSB.
David Richardson, regional development manager at FSB.

Business owners and their staff can make – or break – holidays through the quality of the services and customer care that they provide.

However, there is a problem in Inverness and the Highlands.

Our recent FSB Highlands and Islands tourism and hospitality survey found that 45 per cent of employers were under-staffed.

Half of them had been forced to cut services, opening hours or both as a result, impacting directly on customer satisfaction and spend – and on the likelihood of them returning in future and recommending the area to others.

While amplified by Brexit and Covid, the problem is not new.

The slowly ageing and declining population and the rather lukewarm interest in tourism and hospitality jobs are all taking a real toll.

We must make it as easy as possible for these vital businesses to attract the staff they need.

Public money should be used to assist with the creation of appropriate staff accommodation and improved public transport links.

The UK government should adopt the Migration Advisory Committee’s 2020 recommendation and pilot a remote visa for the HIE area to attract more overseas workers, and we must raise tourism’s status and make it a first-choice career option for our young people, not a job of last resort.

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