Arora, who built his first hotel opposite Heathrow eight years ago and is now worth an estimated £225m, employs over 700 people at his eponymous company, Arora International. He’s at the helm of the country’s biggest independent hotel chain and admits that he relies heavily on immigrant workers: “Our staff are multi-national – Eastern Europeans, Asians, South Americans.”
He’s sceptical about the government’s plans to introduce a new points-based system for immigrants from outside the EU, which is modeled on Australia’s policy.
“If we couldn’t employ immigrants in the hospitality sector, we’d be in deep trouble,” says the 48 year old. “The local workforce don’t want to work, they don’t want to be porters or maids.
“It would be a grave mistake if the government was to close the doors on immigrants. The economy would suffer. As a nation, we need that fresh blood, we need that enthusiasm for work.”
Arora himself left his home country of India at the age of 13 and arrived in London unable to speak a word of English. When his teacher told him he’d be held back a year at school because he was struggling with the language, Arora didn’t understand a word of what he was saying and so just muttered, "thank you".
He struggled through his O-levels and took on a Saturday job in Southall market, selling clothes for the grand salary of £1.50 a day.
Would he have been allowed to stay in the the UK under the government’s new immigration laws” Probably not.
“We’re a small country and we do have to be careful on the numbers,” says Arora. “But the root of the problem is the folks who aren’t working. That’s where the government needs to take serious action.”
“The welfare system is great if you want to come to the UK, have a great big holiday and not work. If you need state help, you should be asked to work – whatever job it is.
"We need to make it tougher for people to milk the system.”
You can read the full interview with Surinder Arora in the June edition of Real Business.
For more stories about immigration, click here.