Britons heading to Spain face hospitality chaos with 100,000-worker shortage

European holiday destinations have been hit by a shortage of waiters and hotel staff as tourist companies have been left unprepared for the boom in travel after the pandemic.

In Spain, there is a shortage of at least 100,000 workers in the tourism industry, according to business groups.

It is believed that Spain – Britain’s favourite tourism destination – will struggle to fill these vacancies by the summer, which is peak season.

A record 18 million Britons travelled to Spain in 2019 but this summer more UK tourists are expected to spend their holidays there.

In popular resorts like Benidorm, tourism chiefs have reported a shortfall of 4,000 waiters and hotel workers.

Alex Fratini, of the Association of Bars, Restaurants and Cafeterias of Benidorm (Abreca) said waiters were not badly paid, with most taking home about €1,200 per month and collecting generous tips from English tourists.

“The problem is because of the pandemic many staff left. Now we have to get them back in time before the high season this summer,” he told i.

In Barcelona, one of the most popular holiday destinations for British tourists, restaurateurs are struggling to find experienced staff.

“We have managed to retain the most experienced waiters but we have also found that some of the other new waiters are less experienced,” Kate Preston, a British businesswoman who runs six restaurants in Barcelona with her husband, told i.

“There are many waiters from other countries working in Barcelona which is great because they are the best workers. Spaniards don’t seem to want to do this work probably because of the anti-social hours.”

The labour shortage in Spain’s key tourism sector comes as the country has the highest unemployment rate in the European Union at 13.5 per cent, ahead of Greece where 12.9 per cent of the workforce is out of work.

Tourism represents 12 per cent of national GDP so unless the shortfall in hospitality staff can be made up, it will impact heavily on the economy.

Spain’s Labour Minister Yolanda Díaz blamed the problem on low salaries for waiters or hotel workers.

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Gerardo Cuerva, president of the Confederation of Small and Medium Enterprises, said there was a shortage of about 100,000 waiters or other staff.

“It is false that this is happening because of the low salaries. It is a structural problem,” said Mr Cuerva in an interview with El Mundo newspaper.

Javier Ibáñez de Aldecoa, an economist at Caixabank, a high-street bank, said: “On the one hand, the fall in migratory flows caused by the pandemic has led to a shortage of low-skilled employment, which has especially affected the hospitality industry.”

Mr De Aldecoa said better training for waiters and other tourism workers would be a long-term solution.

Italy’s Tourism Minister Massimo Garavaglia said last month the country had a shortage of about 250,000 tourism workers.

As the country is particularly dependent on tourism, if these vacancies cannot be filled then it could cost the nation an estimated €6.5 billion (GBP 5.5bn), according to Sky Italia.

Poor pay and conditions have been blamed by workers’ associations but employers said the lack of migrants because of the pandemic was the real reason.

In France, the hospitality and restaurant sector lost over 237,000 employees between the start of the pandemic in February 2020 and February 2021.

There are currently over 200,000 vacancies in the restaurant industry in France, the Local France reported.

Greece has been hit by a similar shortfall of about 50,000 tourism staff, mostly in the kitchens of restaurants and hotels, tourism chiefs warned.

Andreas Andreadis, honorary chairman of the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises, tweeted earlier this month: “Our quality tourism is in danger.”

Giorgos Hotzoglou, president of the Workers Federation on Tourism and Hospitality, said vacancies were expected because pay and conditions were so poor.

He claimed holiday companies offered €700 per month plus food and accommodation for a seven-day week with 12-hour days.