A SHORTAGE of labour and skills, scant managerial concern for employee motivation and no national strategy are putting the UK's tourism and hospitality industries on a weaker footing than their foreign competitors, says a new report.
The tourism industry in the UK, the fifth most popular destination in the world, should look abroad and learn from its rivals how to avert the damaging effects of a predicted decline in business, says the Joint Hospitality Industry Congress (JHIC), whose report was published this week.
The study compared UK training and management practices with those in Ireland, Germany, Singapore, Spain and America.
It urges the UK to promote the status of the tourism minister to cabinet level as in Ireland where the hospitality industry has played a major role in transforming the country's economic fortunes.
It recommends that employers incorporate the German and Singaporean practices of providing increased training for employees to make them more productive. German employees in the hospitality sector earn double their UK counterparts and are, in general, better trained.
UK data reveal that 45 per cent of full-time staff and 77 per cent of managers in tourism have received no training since leaving full-time education. Employers failed to encourage staff to undertake any continuous professional training, while managers held little regard for employee motivation and loyalty, which in turn led to lower morale and customer service.
The report was this week presented to Chris Smith, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.
The hospitality and leisure industries will be Britain's largest growth and job-creating industry in the next millennium. It is expected to create a million new jobs between 1996 and 2006 - Labour hopes it will be a significant contributor to its New Deal job-finding policy - and currently accounts for 10 per cent of GDP.
Michael Hirst, chairman of JHIC, said "The UK hospitality industry is doing well and is doing great things for the community. We are creating a fifth of all new jobs. But there are some interesting lessons to be learnt from our competitors abroad."