HOSPITALITY leaders have stressed the need for action to address the county’s staffing ‘crisis’.

Last week, Tim Farron MP, Gill Haigh, managing director of Cumbria Tourism, Nigel Wilkinson, managing director of Windermere Lake Cruises, and Joe Cobb, executive manager at Lake District Country Hotels, met with the Minister for Immigration Kevin Foster to discuss the ongoing staffing shortages in the tourism industry.

According to a survey from Cumbria Tourism 63 per cent of hospitality businesses were not able to run at full capacity due to lack of staff last year, while 85 per cent said they were concerned about being able to staff their business adequately this year.

During the meeting, Cumbria’s delegation encouraged the minister to extend the Government’s Youth Mobility Visa to include countries in Europe.

The Youth Mobility Visa allows people aged between 18 to 30 to live and work in the UK for two years, but is only currently available to Australia, Canada, Monaco, New Zealand, San Marino and Iceland.

“We made it very clear that there continues to be urgent staff shortages within Cumbria’s tourism and hospitality industry,” said Ms Haigh.

“These challenges are stifling business recovery with many unable to operate at full capacity.

“It was a constructive meeting and youth mobility was a key issue discussed.

“This scheme already exists but needs to be extended. For instance, Australia and New Zealand trade deals both provide for three year working visas for under 35s outside the points-based system and we believe this principle should be more widespread enabling use of the youth mobility scheme with Commonwealth countries and the EU27.

“We also made it clear that we believe there needs to be more flexibility within the new post Brexit points-based immigration scheme regime, as well as simplification of the processes to enable businesses to sponsor international workers.

“Given the war and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine we also asked how the sector can provide support by providing employment.”

Mr Farron said Mr Foster had been ‘receptive’ to the group’s suggestions.

“We have a world class hospitality industry in Cumbria,” he said.

“Having survived through the last two years of lockdown, it’s now a tragedy that many businesses are struggling to survive because they simply can’t find the staff.

“The minister was very receptive to our case to extend the Youth Mobility Visa Scheme and agreed to update us on progress.

“With Easter – which is such a crucial time for the tourism sector – just five weeks away, it’s so important that this is urgently addressed.”