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Co-working in small tourist areas. Sustainable options for young entrepreneurs of Rural Tourism

Ana Momparler is a young tourism technician and works for a Private Tourist Services Centre called 4U, in the center of Priego de Cordoba, rated as one of the most beautiful small towns in Andalusia (south of Spain). 4U brings the entire tourism sector together in a single space: Travel Agency, Active Tourism, a local food and handicrafts shop, museums and tourist office management, etc. The office is a co-working space, shared with other local small tourism companies such as Zerca Hotels.

Ana is currently working from Tuesday to Friday as a receptionist at a local Museum and at weekends in the Tourist Information Office in Priego de Córdoba. Her tasks include:  greeting, serving and providing information to visitors to her municipality, as well as managing Priego’s social networks and online communication channels. Despite her young age, her work is very interesting because she performs a wide range of tasks, adapting very quickly and flexibly to the specific needs of her company.

Finding your first job after graduation – a big challenge if you are not experienced

What do you feel has been your greatest success so far in your career?

“My greatest success has been working in my sector since I finished my studies. It is very difficult for young people to join the labor market nowadays. Companies tend to look for experience, which we obviously don’t have. In my case, since 2018, when I finished my degree in tourism, they have relied on me and I have not stopped working in what I really like. Without a doubt, I consider it a great success.”

Where would do you see yourself in 5 years?

“Because of the situation we are in, I find it somewhat difficult to answer this question. I think a year ago I saw everything more clearly…. I try to be positive but at the same time realistic. I don’t know where I will be in 5 years, but I would like to see myself with some stability. Working in the tourism sector, with a good job, economic independence and with free time to enjoy my family and friends.”

How do you ensure you continue to be successful?

“Working very hard every day. I believe that being constant is the key to success. I am a very goal-oriented person, a person who sets goals, some of which I’m sure will be achieved and others won’t. I try to put all my will and all my determination into achieving what I want. If there is one thing we young people stand out for, it is our desire to work and learn. For me, willingness is just as important (or even more so) than the experience that is so much demanded of us.”

The pandemic is both a challenge and an opportunity for the tourism sector

What was the hardest obstacle you had to overcome?

“Like many of my colleagues and friends, facing this great global pandemic at the age of 24 has not been easy. Just a year ago, I was studying for a Master’s degree in Hotel Management in Malaga, a city where tourism was growing more and more every year. I was very motivated because in April I was going to start my internship in a hotel, and I was eager to discover and learn new things. But March 2020 came and we were confined.”

“The internship was cancelled and the possibility of working in that hotel in the near future disappeared. Very sad and worried, I returned to Priego, back home with my parents. The first days of confinement were very difficult for me, thinking about what was going to happen, as all my plans had been lost. And although it seemed like a great defeat, I understood that there was no point in getting angry with myself because it was not a situation I could control.”

“After a year, today I see that moment as an opportunity that came into my life to learn many other things and to explore an area I had never been involved in before. So, I am content and happy with what I do.”

Do you encounter difficulties now that are similar to those you faced at the start of your career?

“There are some challenges that are the usual ones and there are some new ones that have arisen as a result of the pandemic. I have to say, though, that I feel readier to deal with them.”

Tips and Adaptation to NTG Skills

Do you have any tips for people trying to start out in the industry?

“I would tell them to be very patient. Our sector is not easy. You have to work a lot of days, even holidays, but I think there is nothing more beautiful than making people happy, and that is what our job is all about. So, in uncertain times: patience and a lot of courage, because everything has its reward.”

In which type of tasks do you feel more comfortable and productive, those that have to do with digital competences (handling computer and technological tools), or  those that require social skills (communication skills, empathy, etc.)? To what extent do these aspects influence your daily work?

“I recognize that I feel very comfortable in both. If I have to choose, I prefer dealing with the public, rather than being in front of a computer or a telephone. I love dealing with people, explaining, giving them advice, recommendations. But in my job, I handle both tasks, so I have had to learn to feel comfortable in both aspects.”

How important do you think the commitment to environmental sustainability is in the tourism sector and in your job, and do you think this commitment will grow in the future?

“I think that in recent years we have made progress in the commitment to sustainability (also social and economic). It is now one of the main points that are stipulated, for example, in any territorial planning. However, I think there is still a lot to be done. It is clear to me that the new generations are more prepared and aware, as they have been taught from an early age to take care of our environment. My generation has not had an extensive environmental education, so we have to learn a lot from them if we want to do better in the future.”

Do you think there is a need for occasional or continuous professional development of these skills (digital, social, green)? Do you think students or new professionals are prepared in this sense?

“Of course, there is no doubt that continuous learning is necessary. Technology is advancing faster and faster every day. I think it is important not to become obsolete and to move forward with it. Whether we like it or not, it is already part of our daily lives. New professionals are more than prepared to deal with these skills. They were born or have grown up with technology, it would be a shame not to take advantage of this chance.”

Do you think it is important to have an emotional involvement with the region in your job? Why?

“I think you can do your job very well without having any emotional connection to the territory. However, I understand that if you don’t have a connection with that place or you are not comfortable with it, this will certainly be reflected in your work and the way you act. I work in my hometown of which I am very proud. I try to work every day and do my bit to help Priego become a tourist reference destination. However, when I have worked in other destinations, I have been equally involved in my work.”

“I think that people of my generation are capable of adapting to any place and any situation. We have had to live through two major economic crises, but we have always known how to get ahead, even if that means leaving your city or your country.”

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