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Language skills’ decline threatens tourism

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'But everybody speaks English!': Language skills gap undermines tourism industry

A REPORT released by leading travel trade association UKinbound, has uncovered a growing language skills gap facing the UK tourism industry, caused by a combination of Brexit and the decline of language training in the UK.

The new research undertaken by Canterbury Christ Church University highlights the current lack of capacity in the UK’s education system to meet the shortfall in higher level language skills which are badly needed by the UK’s inbound tourism industry.

To date, tourism organisations have been largely reliant on EU nationals for their technical and ‘soft’ language skills and concerns are rising in the industry about the attrition of these employees. Approximately 130,000 EU nationals departed the UK in the year to September 2017– the highest number since 2008.

Furthermore, a sharp decline in the number of young people studying a foreign language, arising in part from changes to government policy since 2002, combined with a lack of awareness of the opportunities and career paths open to language proficient graduates in the tourism and hospitality sector, are major contributors to the widening language skills gap in the sector, at a time when access to future EU employees is uncertain.

Key findings of the research:

Of the 78 institutions offering tourism and/or hospitality undergraduate programmes in the UK, only 25 offer languages as part of their tourism/hospitality curriculum.

45 institutions offer 87 postgraduate tourism/hospitality programmes – yet only 6% of these programmes offer a language, as an optional module.

The audit identifies Institution Wide Language Provision and study abroad opportunities as alternative ways for students to add an international dimension to their studies

From a sample of 43 higher education institutions that offer a single honours modern language degree programme, only 16 mention tourism as a career prospect.

Interviews with modern language programme directors highlighted a lack of knowledge of the tourism sector and tourism specific career pathways.

The report also features an Evidence Review, drawing on data from previously conducted research and reports, creating a clearer picture regarding the diminishing supply of home-grown linguists

Pupils taking languages at A-level fell by a 1/3 in 20 years (1996-2016)

French declined from 22.7k to 8.5k

German from 9.3k to 3.4k

Spanish increased from 4.1k to 7.5k.

German is no longer a dominant language taken at A-level. French and Spanish continue to be key languages, despite the declining popularity of French.

There has been an uptake in the study of key UK inbound growth market languages; Mandarin and Arabic, but the growth of the talent pool here is slow and limited.

Social, regional and gender inequalities in the uptake of languages are striking.

The number of UK universities offering language degrees has dropped by 30% between 2000 and 2015.

Deirdre Wells OBE, chief executive officer, UKinbound said, “The UK is currently the fifth most visited country in the world and our inbound tourism industry in 2017 contributed an estimated £25 billion to the UK economy. Those working in tourism need to be able to communicate effectively with their international visitors and our tour operators in particular need employees who can communicate confidently and negotiate contracts with overseas operators and suppliers. The industry currently employs large numbers of workers from the European Union to fulfil these roles, but our members are reporting that many of their EU employees are starting to return home. They are struggling to find replacements from within the British workforce, predominantly due to their lack of advanced language skills.

“This report clearly shows that the country needs leadership from the very highest levels to address this impending language crisis, to ensure the tourism industry continues to provide world class customer service and remains competitive in the global marketplace.”

Dr Karen Thomas, Director of the Tourism and Events Research Hub, at Canterbury Christ Church University added: “The uncertainty of the Brexit negotiations appears to have pushed the tourism and hospitality sectors to a critical point, where they not only have to consider the valuable role of EU workers, but also need to evaluate the potential of home-grown talent to meet the needs of the future inbound tourism industry. This research is particularly timely given the body of evidence which has been developing about the decline of home-grown linguists and the potential this has to impact on UK productivity and competitiveness in a post-Brexit landscape. For the UK inbound tourism industry, where language skills and intercultural understanding are crucial in business and consumer-facing roles, the findings of this study raise challenging issues to be addressed by a wide range of stakeholders.”

UKinbound also recently surveyed its members regarding their need for graduates with language skills. Just 34% of members had employed graduates with language skills in the last five years, but 65% of members are now considering employing graduates with language skills in the next five years.

The report findings coincide with the launch of UKinbound’s campaign to highlight the contribution of tourism from EU countries to the UK economy, and to impress on the Government the urgency of securing either no, or minimal, barriers to inbound tourism from the EU post Brexit.

Wells added, “In 2017, two-thirds of inbound visitors came from the EU and contributed an estimated £10 billion to the UK economy. We are calling on the Government therefore to prioritise the need for minimal disruption to this flow of visitors in the Brexit negotiations. Any onerous entry requirements post Brexit will hurt the sector, the economy and cost jobs and any delay risks undermining the sectors ability to prepare for the post Brexit environment.”

The tourism industry is the UK’s third largest employer, employing 3.1 million people (over 9.6% of the UK workforce) and contributes £126 billion to the UK economy, (7.1% of GDP). The UK receives 67% of its tourists from the EU.

Business

£66m in Covid-19 business grants paid to Pembrokeshire businesses

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WHAT has been described as an incredible team effort has seen Pembrokeshire County Council pay out more than £66m to county businesses in Covid-19 support grants so far.

And across Wales more than £1bn has now been paid to businesses since the start of the pandemic.

In Pembrokeshire 9,171 grants have been paid across the 10 grants introduced by the Welsh Government.

The total amount of £66,370,548 paid in Pembrokeshire is the fourth highest amount paid out so far across Wales.

And the figures are growing all the time with further payment runs undertaken this week.

The team is now currently focussed on the Restrictions Grant and working their way through the applications.

Cllr Paul Miller, the Cabinet Member for the Economy, said: “I would like to thank everyone who has worked tirelessly to ensure that the money available to support businesses through this
difficult period gets to them as soon as possible.

“The sheer number of applications processed and the money delivered is a testament to those efforts and we’re not done yet.

“We have now moved onto the Restrictions Grant and we’re ready to continue the effort to help Pembrokeshire businesses for as long as it takes.”

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Business

Online conference will give everyone a say on transport in South West Wales

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ANYONE interested in helping to shape the future of transport in Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire, Neath Port Talbot and Swansea is invited to attend a major online event that aims to set out a clear plan for transport in the region.

This event, titled Moving Forward Together – Regional Transport Conference – South West Wales, is organised by 4theRegion and Swansea Environmental Forum and sponsored by South West Wales Connected community rail partnership and Natural Resources Wales. It runs in the mornings of Tuesday, February 9 and Wednesday, February 10, beginning at 10 am on the Tuesday with an opening address from Lee Waters MS, Deputy Minister for Economy & Transport, Welsh Government.

The conference will provide an open forum to explore key transport challenges and opportunities, and design new solutions to move towards a greener, cleaner, healthier, more inclusive and better-connected transport system for our region.

Topics to be discussed include the transport needs of local communities, how businesses address staff transport needs, innovative approaches to travel, potential for investments and what it would really take for people to leave their cars at home more often.

Participants will get their say on what the government should be investing in, what the local authorities could be doing, and how people, communities and businesses can be part of the solution.

Organisations, businesses and community groups involved in travel and transport in Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire, Neath Port Talbot and/or Swansea, are also being invited to get in touch regarding opportunities to showcase their work at this event.

Dawn Lyle, Chair of 4theRegion, said: “It’s time to take a fresh look at how we can better connect our region whilst reducing carbon emissions and improving health and well-being. This is an inclusive online event for car users, transport users, cyclists and pedestrians, even if you’ve never been involved in conversations about transport before. If you care about South West Wales and want to see our region flourish in the years to come, please get involved!”

If you represent an organisation, business or community group involved in travel and transport in Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire, Neath Port Talbot and/or Swansea, and would like to showcase your work at this event, email Zoe@4theregion.com.

Philip McDonnell, Coordinator for Swansea Environmental Forum and Low Carbon Swansea Bay added: “As we journey towards a low carbon society, transport is lagging behind and remains one of the most challenging issues in both rural and urban areas in our region. The current situation is simply bad for our health and totally unsustainable. We will need everyone to get on board if we are going to tackle this.”

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Business

Local businesses to benefit from Supreme Court insurance ruling

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THE SUPREME COURT has largely ruled in favour of policyholders and the City regulator in the landmark business interruption insurance case. 

In a judgment handed down today, the court said it “substantially allowed” the appeal by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and campaign groups Hiscox Action Group and Hospitality Insurance Group Action. 

Tens of thousands of small businesses will receive insurance pay-outs across the UK covering losses from the first national lockdown. There are thought to be hundreds of businesses in Pembrokeshire which will benefit from the ruling.

One of the judges, Lord Briggs, said in the ruling: “On the insurers’ case, the cover apparently provided for business interruption caused by the effects of a national pandemic type of notifiable disease was in reality illusory, just when it might have been supposed to have been most needed by policyholders.

“That outcome seemed to me to be clearly contrary to the spirit and intent of the relevant provisions of the policies in issue.”

The insurers Arch, Argenta, Hiscox, MS Amlin, RSA and QBE, have had their appeals dismissed. 

The ruling will provide guidance for a further 700 policies, potentially affecting up to 400,000 policyholders.

Richard Leedham, partner at Mishcon de Reya who represents the Hiscox Action Group today said: “The judgment should be a massive boost to all businesses reeling from a third lockdown who can now demand their claims are paid.”

“The hope and expectation of our clients is that the claim adjustment process starts immediately and that insurers will not continue to cause further distress by further unnecessary delay.”   

Following today’s decision the insurance industry is expected to pay out over £1.8bn in coronavirus claims related to the first lockdown, which includes business interruption policies.

The FCA, which brought the test case, said: “We will be working with insurers to ensure that they now move quickly to pay claims that the judgment says should be paid, making interim payments wherever possible.”

Huw Evans, director general of the Association of British Insurers (ABI) confirmed insurers would settle claims as soon as possible.

“Customers who have made claims that are affected by the test case will be contacted by their insurer to discuss what the judgment means for their claim. All valid claims will be settled as soon as possible and in many cases the process of settling claims has begun,” he said after the judgment.

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