The “crisis” affecting Northern Ireland’s tourism sector through staff shortages has been highlighted at the launch of the 25th Institute of Hospitality Awards for Professionalism.
Dramatic drops in numbers of chefs, restaurant managers, hotel managers and serving staff are being predicted by businesses across Northern Ireland as the single most concerning aspect of the industry.
An increase of 3,000 bedrooms is anticipated across Northern Ireland by 2021 and Belfast is currently the number one city in the UK for hotel investment.
Institute of Hospitality Northern Ireland branch chair, Marianne Hood said: “Without the hospitality sector, our super successful tourism industry would be a non-starter.
“Accommodation providers, restaurants and bars are the pulsating heart of our visitor experience, the very essence of Northern Ireland.
“While Northern Ireland continues to take great strides forward as a competitive destination with world class and widely recognised food and drink offers as well as top quality accommodation, the risk lies in recruitment, staff retention and the people we need.
“Hospitality is not just about the people. It is about trained, skilled professionals who know how to marry our natural sense for hospitality to commercially successful standards. Most people in this business agree that the key challenge is getting trained and skilled personnel across all functions.
“Brexit has shown how reliant our sector is on the ability of people to move here for work.”
She said that the predicted “exodus of foreign workers has to be balanced with additional encouragement for locals to join the industry”.
The Institute of Hospitality recently published a report which shows the seven hospitality roles potentially most at risk of a staff shortage from Brexit.
According to industry workers in management positions or business owners, these are: waiter/waitress (80%); bartender/barista (64%); host (48%);hotel concierge (34%); chef (26%); restaurant manager (17%);hotel manager (10%).
The awards provide a platform to celebrate individual managers who have made a recognisable contribution to their place of work and to the industry. They will be judged by a team of panellists and the winners announced at a gala dinner at the Crowne Plaza, Belfast, on May 15.