The government of Cyprus recently approved 800 working visas for summer 2023 for Filipinos. This marks the latest in a series of moves by EU/UK hospitality brands to fill up the ongoing talent shortage with “third-country nationals” from places like India, Bangladesh and the Philippines. On the surface, this is a convenient way to tap into a pool of abundant, low-cost employees who are keen to relocate to Europe. But is this a viable solution long-term? And could it end up creating an extra burden for the hospitality industry in terms of training and upskilling? In this article, we highlight the pros and cons of this practice. 

The Growing Demand for Third-Country Nationals in Hospitality Jobs

Tourism is on the uptick everywhere in Europe, and with summer around the corner, hotels and resorts are gearing up for their busiest season in three years. Finding enough hospitality talent to meet that demand, however, remains a challenge. Many hospitality brands lost their employees during the pandemic, when plummeting tourism and general job insecurity pushed many workers to pivot out. As a result, there are large numbers of jobs lying vacant, which disrupts day-to-day operations and raises concerns about how to field the upcoming tourist influx. 

In this context, hiring hospitality talent from India, Bangladesh, the Philippines and other Asian countries has become a popular option. With abundant populations, many of whom are eager to secure European work visas, these countries offer an easy way to fill up vacancies at short notice. The demand is particularly high for seasonal/temp jobs such as harvesting, fruit picking, working at ski resorts/summer camps, or hotel jobs during peak holiday times. In addition to Cyprus, countries like Croatia and Spain are increasing hospitality recruitment in Asian countries, with more European countries likely to follow suit.

Why the Industry Is Cautious About Relying on Third-Country Nationals

While more and more European countries are approving work visas for third-country nationals, many have voiced concerns about the long-term ramifications of this strategy. Some of the issues being pointed out include:

  • Training difficulties - Often, hotels and restaurants need to put their new hires to work as soon as possible. However, Asian workers may not be familiar with the way EU hospitality brands work, which means the learning curve will be much steeper for them. This is further exacerbated when there are language barriers, especially in EU countries where English is not the primary language.
  • Unexpected labour costs - While many hotels and restaurants opt to hire Asian workers at low salaries, the training costs to bring them up to speed might end up outweighing any savings made on the salaries. The cost of issuing work permits is another consideration, as is the opportunity cost of keeping the job vacant while waiting for their visas to be approved (in many cases, third-country nationals need European visas in addition to work permits). 
  • Fewer work opportunities for nationals - Giving more hospitality jobs to third-country nationals means, by default, that there are fewer left over for EU nationals. Most of the jobs assigned to Asian workers are entry-level jobs, which means that students graduating from hospitality schools in Europe now have fewer jobs to apply for. It’s important to note here that the Middle East has hiring quotas in place for their nationals, but the EU currently doesn’t - which could lead to problems for skilled entry-level/junior EU hospitality talent.  
  • Potential for exploitation - One of the chief concerns being voiced about hiring third-country nationals is that it may become a way for hotels and restaurants to underpay and overwork their staff. This is of particular concern given that many Asian workers are willing to accept lower paychecks for the opportunity to move to Europe or the UK.
  • Career stagnation - Asian workers are typically relegated to entry-level positions such as housekeeping staff, line cook, or receptionist, where the hours are long and the work is often arduous. Coupled with the lower-than-average paycheck, this trend could dent Asian hospitality talent’s career prospects and lead to higher stress and demotivation at work. 
  • Cultural clashes - Third-country nationals may not be aware of cultural nuances in Europe, which could inadvertently lead to issues in their hospitality service delivery. This could potentially lead to negative customer experiences and clashes with fellow hotel staff members. 
  • Resentment against third-country nationals - Local hospitality talent may start viewing Asian workers as threats to their own employability. This could foster feelings of resentment against Asian hospitality staff as well as anti-Asian sentiment in general.


→ 😎Looking for more ways to make the most of your employees’ diverse skill sets? Here are our top tips for bringing non-traditional employees up to speed!


How the Hospitality Industry Can Make the Most of Talent From Around the World

Hiring third-country nationals is an excellent way to bring diverse faces and perspectives to the European hospitality industry. Going forward, hotels and restaurants have the opportunity to reshape the way these employees are integrated into the industry while ensuring that domestic talent continues to be valued.  

  • Avoid viewing third-country nationals as “low-cost labour” - While it’s tempting to view Asian countries as a source of cheap labour on demand, this strategy is not viable long-term, either financially or ethically. As far as possible, hotels and restaurants should pay their Asian workers the same salary they would pay a European in the same role.
  • Set up a hiring pipeline in advance - At present, lengthy processing times for visas are delaying the entry of third-country nationals, even those who have confirmed jobs. To avoid service disruptions, plan out your hiring needs several months in advance and have alternatives ready. For instance, if you need more Asian workers to meet the late summer tourism boom, start hiring right away. And for more immediate needs, consider working with a temp staffing agency that can connect you with local talent or third-country nationals who already have visas. 
  • Have local hiring quotas - Consider tying up with hospitality schools in your area and committing to a certain number of hires from their graduating batch every year. This is especially useful in roles that require native-level proficiency in the local language. Pro tip: Hosco’s relationships with renowned hospitality schools can help you secure top-notch hires! 
  • Offer third-country nationals the same growth opportunities as you do your locals - All too often, Asian workers get stuck in lower-paying hospitality jobs and are unable to progress. Break this cycle by offering them training pathways to upskill and transition into more specialised or senior job roles of their choice, which signals true inclusion. 
  • Invest in employee relations - This is a crucial strategy to help third-country nationals settle in better, and to avoid clashes with your local hospitality talent. Design a structured programme that helps your staff get to know each other, share cultural perspectives, and perform activities that build collaborative spirit. A good idea would be to assign local “buddies” to incoming Asian workers to help them understand local nuances, guide them with language difficulties, and mentor them on their shifts. Having senior employees from the same Asian countries as points of contact for new hires is also a good idea.
  • Share your plans with your employees - Your local hospitality hires may be worried about how secure their jobs are if more third-country nationals are recruited. The best response is to be transparent with them about what your growth plans are, how third-country nationals can complement your efforts, and how you will continue to value your existing team. This will motivate them to keep putting in their best and be welcoming to their new Asian coworkers.

In conclusion, third-country nationals will continue to be an important source of labour for EU/UK hotels in 2023. Hotels that invest in helping them upskill and adjust with dignity can create a loyal, talented pool of employees - both Asian and local - who will fuel their growth through the tourist season and beyond. 

Did you know that Hosco has partnered with Lobster Ink to offer you tailored upskilling courses for new (and existing) hospitality staff? With over 200 hospitality-related online courses, the platform enables third-country nationals to quickly pick up the basics and allows hotels to concentrate on the hands-on training aspect of hospitality hiring!