Tour operators are preparing to lobbying European governments for the right to continue to employ British seasonal workers overseas now the UK has left the EU.
Since 31 December 2020, British citizens no longer have an automatic right to work in other European countries, either as resort reps, nannies, sports instructors or chalet staff.
In theory, tour operators can continue to hire Brits to work overseas, but they would have to apply for both work and immigration visas, which will take time, especially as overseas destinations might not have the manpower to process such a large volume.
In 2019, there were 25,000 British seasonal workers employed by UK tour operators in the activity holidays sector in Europe.
And operators that depend on young British staff to run their overseas programmes say that if they’re forced to employ locals instead the cost of the holidays will increase.
Instead, they’re hoping to persuade individual European governments to introduce something like a youth mobility scheme that will allow them to continue to hire young Brits to work overseas.
Most of the Brits employed overseas by UK tour operators in the activity holidays sector in 2019 were under the age of 30, many were a winter or summer season – often both – during their ‘gap year’ before or after going to university.
Operators say that aside from the additional cost, they will struggle to find enough locals to fill the roles previously carried out by the British ‘seasonaires’.
“The concept of multi-tasking chalet staff doing everything from making breakfast to making beds and baking cakes for afternoon tea after cleaning the bathrooms and sweeping the floors doesn’t exist in other countries,” said Diane Palumbo, Skiworld Sales and Marketing Director and a spokesperson for Seasonal Businesses in Travel (SBIT).
“Plus when you need people with fluent English you have a smaller pool to choose from, which pushes up the cost. And they have to go on to local payrolls, which means higher social security costs.”
Diane says she’s confident ski and other activity operators will adapt to the new challenge and ‘reshape themselves’, but she said they faced ‘a few years of work’ persuading European countries of the benefits of them continuing to hire British staff.
“We are planning to approach the different governments and have those conversations,” she added. “So far, our partners in France have been incredibly supportive, to say they are cognisant of the value of British tourism is an understatement.”