Conference News March 2019 - Page 39

39 Big Interview the nation’s Brand Index the UK is very strong in this area. A lot of people don’t recognise the fantastic countryside we have, so that’s an area that can be pushed. A lot of visitors are also very fond of our modern culture: the Spanish and Italians love our edgy city culture in places like Bristol, Liverpool and Manchester. For the US market then the top attraction is obviously the Royal Family. On Brexit, are you satisfied the government is listening to you about the importance of this sector? I think they have heard loud and clear on the areas that we were concerned about: open skies and visa-free access for EU nationals. We have had some quite significant assurances, but there’s more to be done in getting the message out there. One of the biggest concerns we have is around the immigration White Paper that says those earning less than £30,000 will not be allowed to work in the UK. A lot of people in the tourism industry arent paid £30,000, and we rely on a lot of EU nationals to do some of the jobs, which they do fantastically. It threatens to become a real barrier. Up here in Scotland [the location of the UKinbound annual convention] for example the industry is going to need another 150,000 workers by 2027, and we’re not sure where they are going to come from with the skills that we “It’s difficult for a single business to influence government policy, so what we’re telling members is that they need to service their guests in the best way possible.” need. We will need people with language skills, mainly in French and German, and of course Chinese. We could get them, but it won’t happen overnight. What is your message to service providers for the next few months? It’s obviously very difficult because we have this lack of clarity. As the UK tries to negotiate a deal with EU it is withholding some key information. We’re trying to fill that gap as best we can and to try and update our members as regularly as we can with any changes. We recently updated our members on the use of identity cards, which is of huge importance for school groups coming to the UK – where school children from some EU countries don’t have passports. If www.conference-news.co.uk we force them to carry passports then potentially they won’t come to the UK anymore. We sit on various industry groups and speak to government at the highest level, and we’re working with other industry associations to force the point that people really need the certainty. It’s difficult for a single business to influence government policy, so what we’re telling them is that they need to service their guests in the best way possible and are given the best welcome they can possibly offer, and continue to undertake the proactive marketing to try and secure business for the future. There are things that people don’t know about the moment, the progress on Brexit, so this is all they can do.