Hospitality sector 'could face difficult future' following UK's exit from the EU
Luxury hotel group Hyatt has warned "life could become very difficult" for the UK hospitality industry after Brexit if access to foreign workers is restricted.
Peter Fulton, the firm's Europe chief, has urged the Government to ensure the sector can still draw on a depth of overseas talent, warning the number of British people working in London's restaurants and hotels was "relatively small".
Speaking at The Churchill Hotel in London, which employs staff from 40 different countries, Mr Fulton added: "When I go and dine out in London, how many British people are actually working in the hospitality industry in London? It is relatively small.
"I think the labour situation in the case of Brexit needs to be studied very carefully.
"I think life could become very difficult for the industry if the whole situation is not looked at.
"This is one industry around the world that drives a lot business. Whether you are staying in hotels, or going to see Buckingham Palace, that whole combined industry is important."
He said the Government needed to deliver "a thorough review of what (Brexit) actually means for the industry".
His comments come after sandwich chain Pret A Manger said it was already reaching out to UK applicants in a bid to plug the looming recruitment gap caused by Britain's divorce from the European Union.
The British Hospitality Association said last month the UK sector needed around 62,000 EU migrants every year if it is to maintain the status quo and drive growth.
However, the Government plans to head off recruitment woes for the hospitality industry with a new 'barista visa' allowing young European citizens to continue coming to the UK to work in coffee shops and pubs.
Hyatt saw net income jump 64.5% to $204m (£158m) for 2016 and opened 59 hotels, including the Hyatt Place hotel at London Heathrow.
Mr Fulton, who is president of EAME and Southwest Asia, said the group had enjoyed a healthy first quarter in the UK this year, as the Brexit-hit pound attracted more visitors from across the Atlantic.
"The first quarter has been very good for us," he added.
"With the US dollar being as strong as it is and obviously with the pound and the euro being a bit weaker, we are seeing stronger growth into this part from the US."
The Chicago-based firm owns five UK hotels.