HOTELS have already seen a big drop in job applications and are struggling to fill roles with Brexit looming, an industry boss has said.

The warning comes from Kevin Wood, head of Europe operations for Oceana Hotels and Restaurants – whose Bournemouth premises include the Cumberland, Suncliff and Ocean Beach hotels.

He said the difficulty of finding staff was set to be the single biggest issue for the industry and that the government should look at a way of allowing in overseas workers temporarily.

“There’s a lot of talk about some sort of system for educated and skilled labour to come into the country, like doctors and computer engineers and high level jobs, but if you look around the hospitality industry, particularly in big cities and big resorts, it’s predominantly European workers that are working on what I would call entry level wages,” he said.

“They’re being paid the UK government minimum, they all get the same rates as the UK person would, but we really struggle to fill the positions with our indigenous British people.

“This year in particular we’ve really struggled with recruitment and we’ve seen a huge drop in people coming through the doors with CVs asking for work.”

He said other hotels were having the same problem. “It’s probably the single biggest challenge we’re going to have going forward,” he added.

“We’ve had positions this summer in the kitchens that have been vacant for three months and we’ve had to go to agencies to fill the roles to keep our kitchens going. It’s expensive to use agencies,” he added.

He estimated around 70 per cent of his staff were from overseas.

“A lot of them have come here for opportunities. Some of them are very educated, they have very good qualifications but they choose to come here and work in entry level jobs such as bar work or restaurant work because it’s a better option than they have in some of their own countries,” he said.

“We don’t want to lose them but we need some sort of temporary visa system.”

He said pay was improving in the industry but this had not been enough to attract more British applicants.

Mr Wood added: “Most of us have accepted we’re leaving the EU. My main concern is that our industry suffers and our economy suffers, which will have a knock-on effect on all the British people living here.”