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Brighton and Hove: supplying skills for the local visitor economy

The visitor economy is a key component of the economy of Brighton and Hove and continues to be an important driver. The sector supports around 1 in 5 jobs in the city and generates visitor expenditure of around £886 million.

A vibrant city centre and good rail and road links makes Brighton an easy day trip destination from London.  Conference tourism and day visitors account for the strong performance of tourism in Brighton and Hove. The visitor economy is identified by the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) as a priority sector, which will generate jobs and growth, with Brighton and Hove highlighted as a local area with core specialisations in the sector. There is a clear recognition that the growth and development of the sector will be dependent on the availability of a quality workforce. At a local level, Visit Brighton is the official tourism organisation responsible for promoting and developing the sector in the city. Visit Brighton is an in-house service and income is generated through membership schemes and operation of the Brighton Centre, the major conference venue in the city. 

Issues and challenges

The city’s labour force is characterised by strong qualification levels; half of working age residents have a degree level qualification, compared to 38 per cent nationally. Discussions with industry and stakeholders highlight the challenges facing the sector with regards to recruitment and retention and the potential impact of Brexit. Specific barriers to growth in the sector include:

  • employer concerns about filling  immediate frontline vacancies
  • perception of tourism as a short-term job rather than a career, underestimating opportunities available locally and globally
  • challenges presented by the seasonal context
  • retention of staff, with higher turnover  than other sectors
  • skills shortages and lack of educational pathways in areas such as catering.

Discussions with industry confirm concerns about the uncertainty around Brexit, which could impact the number of EU workers coming to the city. A number of industry representatives also highlighted the difficulty in recruiting millennials, who were seen as wanting different things out of work and are less accepting of fitting in with employers’ needs, having a tendency to ‘job hop’.

The local response

The consensus is that more needs to be done at a local level in order to maintain and create a skilled workforce within the sector, specifically to:

  • address the local image and profile of the sector as providing quality career opportunities
  • raise the visibility of and access to career insights and specialist support for young people encouraging more people to choose the sector as a career path
  • support independent/micro businesses address skills needs
  • promote graduate recruitment and facilitate graduate retention in the city.

More local action is needed to support small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), particularly independent enterprises, to improve retention and career development and raise awareness of existing skills pathways, including forthcoming ‘T levels’.

Capacity and lack of resources are challenges to the Brighton & Hove City Council in terms of shaping new interventions to maintain and strengthen growth. Building strong strategic partnerships with the LEP, industry, education and training providers is key to tackle the skills issues facing the city.