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Northern Ireland

The ‘tourism economy’ accounts for approximately 3.5% of Northern Ireland’s economic output, whilst the hospitality element accounts for 2.9%. 2.6 million tourists took overnights trips to Northern Ireland in 2008 spending £628 million.

The sector is a significant employer across Northern Ireland especially in rural and coastal island areas. In total, the sector provides employment for approximately 44,000 people (approximately 5.7% of Northern Ireland’s total workforce).

More than 95% of sector businesses are small enterprises employing less than 50 people, with around 60% of the workforce working for these small firms. Less than 1% of sector businesses are large (employing more than 200 people), but 16% of the workforce work for these large businesses. 11% of all businesses are owner operated without staff. 80% of sector businesses are independent (many of which are family owned) and operate from a single site. ‘Chains’ are prevalent in certain subsectors, such as budget hotels, high street restaurants and betting shops.

The sector employs a very young workforce with 11% being under the age of 20 and 32% aged between 20-29 years. Only 9% of the hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism workforce is aged between 50 and 59 and only 6% are over the age of 60. 63% of the workforce is female, but few work in senior positions within the sector.

94% of the hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism workforce in Northern Ireland describe their ethnicity as white. Across the industries, a higher proportion of Black and Minority Ethnic workers work in the restaurant industry (12% in Northern Ireland) than in other industries. Only 3% of the pub, bar and nightclub workforce is from a Black and Minority Ethnic workers background. Approximately 13% of the sector workforce was born overseas.

43% of the workforce is employed on a part-time basis and 11% on a temporary basis. This varies across the sector with part-time work being more prevalent in the pub and restaurant industries.

In March 2009, 12% of sector businesses in Northern Ireland had frozen recruitment during the last 12 months. In addition, 12% had made permanent staff redundant and 27% were employing fewer temporary staff. 15% of businesses have cancelled plans to expand their workforce.

In November 2008, there were 1,735 registered unemployed people looking for work in the hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism sector in Northern Ireland (figure 12). This rose to 2,780 in November 2009. In 2008, it was estimated that 14% of establishments in the sector had a vacancy, slightly higher than the 12% found across the economy as a whole.

18% of hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism establishments reported a skills gap within their current workforce (i.e. they have staff who are not fully proficient in their job), lower than the average across all industries of 22%. Approximately 15% of the total workforce is deemed by their employers to be not fully proficient, which is double the average across all industries of 8%.

Across the sector, 17% of the workforce (the highest level in the UK) does not hold any formal qualifications. In 2009, the number of graduates working in the hospitality industry in Northern Ireland lagged behind that of the UK as a whole (6% compared to 13%)

70% of employers in the sector provided training to their staff in 2008. This is slightly lower than the average across the whole economy (74%).

Source: Northern Ireland Sector Skills Assessments 2010