The last sixteen months have been unimaginably difficult for Scotland’s tourism industry; like all sectors, we have faced challenges that nobody could have ever planned for or anticipated.

For the businesses which survived the pandemic so far through a combination of government support, cutting overheads, pivoting to simulate whatever trade they can, borrowing to meet costs and investing where possible to maintain a pulse, summer 2021 was always going to be that last bastion of hope to recoup some of their lost trade and make enough money to carry them through the next shoulder season. However this summer has arrived with a new set of problems – the recruitment crisis.

The impact of Covid-19 on the sector has been hugely exacerbated by the UK’s departure from the EU and the removal of a key part of our workforce which has brought us to the point where we are today; businesses unable to staff as required and many closing for part of the week as we move into the height of the tourist season. Businesses are stretched beyond their means as a result of the huge losses throughout the pandemic; financial support is still required for many, and our sector can no longer look to recruit from the EU currently as visa and administrative costs are up to £6,000 to bring just one person back to the UK to work.

Albert Einstein said that ‘In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity’; our tourism industry is certainly a resilient one and while we stare the flames of the recruitment crisis in the face, we must remind ourselves that this is indeed an opportunity. It is an opportunity for every young person leaving school (and not going on their ‘coming of age’ adventure in European resorts that every parent dreads), every student filling time between university terms, every person who has been displaced from their jobs as a result of the pandemic and anyone who is simply thinking: what do I do now?

The jobs are here in Scotland’s tourism industry. Employers are doing more than ever to support and encourage people into the industry whether it’s for the short or longer term, the career opportunities are varied and numerous and in a people based sector, there are the added softer benefits that come with a job tourism and hospitality: being a valued part of a team, enjoying the buzz of working with people in a fun setting, gaining a new level of confidence and self-esteem after the feelings of isolation that lockdown brought and having something to be proud of – a service that you have delivered, someone’s day that you’ve made with a happy experience and the feelings of pride that come with that.

Two of my five children work in our sector, my eldest being general manager of one of Edinburgh’s most popular hospitality venues in George Street. Our communications director’s son has started his first job as a waiter in a five-star resort before university starts in September and our business support manager’s daughter is enjoying her first job in a busy, buzzy restaurant in Bridge of Allan.

Nobody’s going to pretend that hospitality isn’t hard work but from the conversations I’ve had with my team around their youngsters taking their first foray into the world of work in our tourism sector (and many others), all have commented on what a boost it’s been to their child’s spirit and confidence, their independence and personal development, learning valuable skills which will help them navigate their way through their future careers, whatever they choose to do.

The possibilities that exist right now for all abilities, skillsets and levels of experience have never been stronger or more exciting; this summer is absolutely the time to become part of Scotland’s tourism industry and enjoy the buzz and reward that brings.

Marc Crothall is chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance