Council to addresas staff shortages in hospitality sector

Peter Bayne

Reporter:

Peter Bayne

Email:

peter.bayne@newrydemocrat.com

Sunday 19 September 2021 9:29

SDLP Councillor LAURA Devlin has called on the Newry, Mourne and Down Council to make tourism and hospitality key in the economic and social recovery from the pandemic.

She insists that can only be achieved if strategies are put in place to assist those in the hospitality industry fill jobs positions.

Put basically, no chefs means a closed kitchen and a restaurant unable to open its door, thus no income for the employees or business owner.

The motion the SDLP councillor put forward reads: ‘Recognising the significant and growing staff shortages within the Hospitality sector, this Council calls for the establishment of a forum with representatives from the South Eastern and Southern Colleges, Department for the Economy and other key stakeholders to undertake an assessment of the training needs to address the shortage within the hospitality sector with the aim of providing short, medium and long term solutions to tackle this crisis and to enable our hospitality industry to survive and to aid our covid recovery.’

While Devlin is councillor for the Mournes, the issues she raises are equally transferable to areas of south Armagh, such as Slieve Gullion.

“Here in NMD we pride ourselves on the exceptional culinary variety that exists, and we all believe this to be a key and integral element of our covid recovery,” said Devlin.

“Our coastal towns are booming, and the staycation demand has been huge but without chefs the tourist isn’t getting the full Newry Mourne and Down culinary offering, as many establishments have already reduced their opening days and hours, and some have even closed their doors in the interim.

“The staycation market has been our opportunity to showcase all that we have to offer and when we look at our stunning scenery, our unique boutique shops – we have so much to offer but in terms of dining we always punched above our weight but now with this huge gap in the market for catering staff – the tourist (and local) is missing out on so much.”

The SDLP member accepts that there isn’t a silver bullet solution to what is an issue across Ireland and the UK but feels that the Council can’t sit on their hands and hope things improve but suggests there are more the council can do.

“The industry requires urgent intervention – I understand that this is not a statutory role of Councils, but we are responsible for elements of economic development and the local promotion of tourism in our District,” Devlin said.

“I absolutely do think we should utilise the Council’s Economic Forum and its skills and employability sub section to focus on hospitality – no other sector is growing in demand and popularity but shrinking in terms of staff numbers so rapidly.

“I know the report mentions labour market partnerships. I had heard of an initiative in Mid Ulster which is offering specific support in tandem with Invest NI which targets industrial sectors (such as manufacturing, engineering, construction).

“Could this be the case here in NMD that we offer specific support to hospitality industry?”

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