The Royal Borough of Greenwich has a rich heritage, with a unique place in maritime history and a global profile through the Greenwich meridian. 2018 was a record year for visitor numbers, when the borough received 19 million visits made up of a mix of London, UK and international visitors.
Visit Greenwich has acknowledged the importance of spreading the benefits of tourism across the whole borough and to this end, there has been approval for significant investment of £31.59 million in arts and culture in Woolwich which is due to be completed by 2020.
The Employment and Skills Action Plan for London 2018 sets out a vision for a series of sub-regional, business-led London jobs and skills boards. These will bring employer groups and sector representative bodies together with education and skills providers and London government representatives on a regular basis. The plan notes that sectors such as hospitality, which are most affected by restrictive immigration policies, could be a particular focus for action.
Locally, Visit Greenwich has responsibility for promoting and developing the tourism and hospitality sector in the borough, with financial support from the council.
Issues and challenges
There is little data specific to Greenwich but in London, evidence suggests that tourism and hospitality is not seen as a viable, long-term career. This is causing high staff turnover, lower productivity and higher recruitment and training costs. Twenty-six per cent of the workforce are EU nationals and the annual workforce attrition rate is 30 per cent.
Key issues identified in Greenwich include:
- improving transport links mean that outward commuting for higher wages has become easier which has exacerbated retention issues for those employers who find difficulty paying the London Living Wage
- a lack of quality and diversity amongst applicants
- careers in the sector are undervalued and it was said that local schools do not promote tourism as a career
- there is a significant gap in ‘in work progression’ and upskilling – there is limited adult information, advice and guidance and learner loans are too expensive
- Brexit is causing particular concern with possible skills shortages predicted if a portion of the current workforce were to leave as a result of leaving the EU.
The local response
The council is committed to using the adult education budget for flexible non-accredited employment and skills development to boost people’s employability skills.
It has a robust planning policy and makes extensive use of S106 agreements to secure local recruitment and pre-employment training. The borough has also made use of its ownership of key buildings to let buildings at below market value on the basis that under the terms of the lease, the tenant will be required to attract visitors, as well as creating employment and training opportunities and the delivery of a range of educational programmes. The new service level agreement between the council and Visit Greenwich includes a specific reference to supporting employment and skills.
Partnerships at the right scale and geography are seen as essential to building the skills pipeline and the borough benefits from a strong local offer through the University of Greenwich and London South East College which make a significant contribution to skills development in the sector.