Tourism Industry Hungers for Increased Work Permits Amidst Staffing Woes

ITIC Urges Government to Expand Working Permits to Revitalize Irish Hospitality Sector amid Full Employment

Irish Tourism Group Calls for Increased Working Permits to Boost Hospitality Sector

The Irish tourism business group, ITIC, has recently submitted a proposal calling for an increase in the availability of working permits to support the struggling hospitality sector. As Ireland reaches full employment, labour-intensive industries such as tourism and hospitality are finding it increasingly difficult to find workers domestically to aid in their post-pandemic recovery.

In its pre-budget submission, ITIC highlighted the urgent need for workers from abroad to fill the gaps in the industry. The report stated that with effective full employment levels, the tourism and hospitality sector is facing an existential challenge, with the risk of further deterioration in the already depleted supply of critical skills. The pressure on wages is also expected to increase as a result.

ITIC welcomed the Department of Enterprise, Trade, and Employment’s review of the Occupational Lists for Employment Permits, as certain jobs in the sector are currently ineligible for these permits. For example, leisure and sports facilities managers, as well as travel agency managers from outside of Ireland, are unable to obtain these permits. ITIC emphasized the importance of expanding the eligibility criteria to include these positions.

The submission also highlighted the disparity between employment in the tourism industry and the overall economy in the post-pandemic period. While total employment in the state increased by 12.6% in the first quarter of the year compared to 2019, staffing levels in the tourism sector remained 3.8% below the same period in 2019. This discrepancy indicates the challenges faced by the industry in recruiting and retaining workers.

The shortage of staff has particularly affected restaurants and hotels, which are struggling to meet the increasing demand as people return to socializing after more than two years of COVID-19 restrictions. The report specifically mentioned the ongoing shortage of chefs, which continues to plague the sector. ITIC stated that staffing shortages have put significant stress on meeting demand, and in some cases, have led to businesses closing their doors permanently.

One example of a casualty of the chronic staffing shortages is the Gotham Cafe restaurant in Stillorgan, Dublin, which closed in January after 13 years in business. The company cited the enormous shortage of skilled hospitality staff worldwide since the pandemic began, making it difficult to fully staff the restaurant since March 2020. However, the company still operates a sister restaurant in Dublin city centre and the Independent Pizza Company restaurant in Drumcondra.

Despite the challenges faced by the industry, the Irish hospitality sector is gradually recovering. Most pubs outside the Dublin region have made a full recovery, with sales matching or exceeding pre-pandemic levels, according to The Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI). Hotels have also shown signs of recovery, with leading group Dalata, the owner of the Maldron and Clayton Hotels, reporting record revenue of €500m last year.

Nevertheless, staffing shortages and soaring energy bills remain significant challenges for the industry. In addition to calling for an increase in working permits, ITIC has also urged the government to maintain the reduced VAT rate of 9% to further support the recovery of the hospitality sector.

Overall, the Irish tourism and hospitality industry continues to face obstacles as it strives to recover from the impact of the pandemic. The availability of skilled workers from abroad through increased working permits and continued government support will be crucial in ensuring the sector’s revival and long-term success.