A HOTEL owner fears she may lose out on trade after struggling to recruit staff due to Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic.

Lesley Wheeler, co-owner of The Bay Horse Hotel and Restaurant in Ulverston, said the hotel is struggling to ‘recruit locally’.

She said: “We are facing making decisions to only partially open the business, disappointing many, many of our customers. People say to us that we should pay higher wages but they would then find our prices rising considerably.

“Although we are grateful to the government for the support we have received throughout the pandemic, we have lost several furloughed staff through no fault of our own.

“We are due to open the hotel today and have many bookings but just myself, one girl who has been with us for several years, one Kickstart apprentice and a recently recruited school age staff to help at weekends. There are usually seven of us front of house.

“We have relied heavily on overseas staff in the past. Now we are unable to access this workforce and despite our best attempts to ‘recruit locally’, still haven’t found appropriate staff.

“At a time when we should be stepping back we find ourselves potentially facing a working day stretching from 6.30am to midnight, seven days a week.”

Cumbria Chamber of Commerce is calling on the Government to create more flexible arrangements for EU national workers and promote the UK abroad as a welcoming place to work.

The chamber said it had been speaking to hoteliers, restaurant owners and other holiday-focused businesses, many of which fear they will be hampered by the Government’s post-Brexit immigration policy combined with the impacts of Covid-19.

The latest national figures by the Office for National Statistics reveal that of the 813,000 decline in payroll employees since March 2020, some 355,000 can be attributed to employees working in the accommodation and food service activities sector.

Suzanne Caldwell, managing director of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, said: “What we’re seeing is nothing short of a perfect storm which could really put the brakes on the anticipated post-lockdown recovery boom that’s desperately needed by Cumbria’s hospitality sector.”