Brexit has resulted in a sharp drop in the number of UK workers in EU holiday jobs, new figures show.
Only 3,700 people from the UK are being employed in the bloc to do roles such as chalet hosts, holiday reps and tour guides, travel trade organizations said.
That is a 69% drop from 11,970 in 2017.
Employing UK workers in popular EU destinations such as Spain, France, Greece, Italy and Austria has traditionally been a vital part of UK holiday companies’ overseas operations.
Complex paperwork, extra costs and a lack of agreements is impeding the process, according to Abta and Seasonal Businesses in Travel (SBit), which released the employment figures.
Prior to the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31 2020, UK workers were entitled to live and work in the rest of the EU with no restrictions.
Abta and SBit said since the UK’s withdrawal from the bloc, it costs travel companies an additional £880 to recruit each UK worker in France, while many other member states have no viable entry routes for UK staff.
A survey of 127 UK travel businesses who sell holidays in the EU indicated that 61% believed the issue could reduce their growth over the next five years, and is their biggest concern.
Abta and SBit called on the UK and EU governments to extend the Youth Mobility Scheme to EU countries.
This would allow young people to work in the UK and EU for up to two years, with no automatic longer-term right to remain.
The UK has similar existing arrangements with countries such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
The travel trade is also called for an enhanced UK-EU seasonal mobility agreement for tourism workers, as current arrangements only apply to certain roles and limit stays to 90 days.
Speaking at Abta’s Travel Matters summit in Westminster, the body’s chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “It can’t be emphasized enough just how fundamentally being able to work abroad is for the UK travel industry.
“Not only do people gain those important language and soft skills, they’re also set on a path for a good career and become many leaders in the industry.
“With the UK outbound travel industry contributing £49bn a year to the UK economy, and a major driver of growth, not putting in the right mobility arrangements with the EU could come at a cost to UK plc.
“Yet there are simple and sensible solutions to overcome these barriers, and I’d urge ministers to make this a priority and take action urgently.”
SBit managing director Charles Owen said: “It’s proving tremendously difficult to employ the UK staff we need to run our businesses in the EU.
“In some countries it’s a mountain of complex paperwork, delays and extra costs that need to be overcome, in others there isn’t really a workable route.
“As an industry we rely on UK staff being able to work in the EU to help our businesses grow and thrive.
“But without a sensible arrangement on labor mobility, growth in this industry will be unnecessarily held back.”
Aviation minister Baroness Vere told the summit that relaxing rules for foreign workers in the UK – seen as key to securing reciprocal rights for UK workers overseas – would be “a Home Office decision” and she is “very happy to take this to the heart of Government if the case is set out”.
But she added: “We would like to see that all youngsters are able to do that (work in the EU) but we have to put that in the context of our relationship with the EU and our other priorities at the time.”