Keynote on the NTG project at ATLAS Africa Conference in Kampala, Makerere University, Uganda
From June 12 – 14, 2019 the 11th ATLAS Africa Conference took place in Kampala, Uganda, organized by ATLAS and Makerere University. The main theme of this conference was Tourism and Innovation. A perfect opportunity to introduce and raise awareness of the innovative project of the Next Tourism Generation Alliance (NTG). During her keynote, Dineke Koerts from Breda University of Applied Sciences (BUAS) introduced the project, presented initial findings and reflected on some points of discussion. Both ATLAS and BUAS are key partners of the NTG project.
The Association for Tourism and Leisure Education and Research (ATLAS) was established in 1991 to develop transnational educational and research initiatives in tourism and leisure. ATLAS provides a forum to promote staff and student exchange, transnational research and to facilitate curriculum and professional development. Membership of ATLAS is institutional and ATLAS currently has members in about 60 countries across the world.
As a networking organization, one of the main activities of ATLAS is to organize conferences in co-operation with universities about developments in tourism and leisure education and research, to promote links between professional bodies in tourism, leisure and associated subjects. Conferences are regularly being held in Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa. At this conference in Kampala, Uganda, around 100 delegates from 13 countries of 4 continents were present. The aim of this international conference was to share knowledge, ideas and experiences among academics, policymakers, entrepreneurs, governments, private sector organisations and general community interested in travel and tourism.
Innovations in travel, tourism and hospitality education and research
The programme of the ATLAS Africa Conference included interesting keynotes and workshop presentations on Tourism and Innovation. The growth and development of the travel and tourism industry have been characterised by countless innovations, which cut across the entire travel and tourism value chain. Conceptually, innovations can be sustaining, incremental, revolutionary, radical or transformational. Whereas sustaining or incremental innovations tend to strengthen and reinforce the existing structure and way of doing things in the industry, revolutionary or radical innovations seek for new ways of doing business. More radical innovations should be well understood and require new skills and tools for adapting or knowing how to deal with the ‘new tourist/client/consumer’, as well as being sensitive to the enormous possibilities and opportunities that these innovations open up.
Digital, Green and Social skills for tourism
In her keynote presentation about the European Next Tourism Generation Alliance and its focus on the fast changing and increasing gaps in digital, social and green skills in the European tourism industry, Dineke first provided some background information on the NTG project. The aim of the alliance is to provide entrepreneurs, employees, students and educators in five tourism sub-sectors (accommodation, food and beverage operations, travel agencies and tour operators, visitor attractions and destination management) with future-proof modules and tools in the fields of digital, social and green skills for tourism. This will be achieved by creating a collaborative relationship between education and the industry.
Dineke then presented the findings of the first phase of the NTG project. During this phase, the gaps between current digital, social and green skills and those needed around 2030 were identified. These skills gaps were researched through desk research, an online survey conducted in the countries involved in the project (Bulgaria, Germany, Spain, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, and the UK), and over 200 interviews with industry experts. In short the main findings were:
Tourism, just as other industries, is influenced by world-wide mega-trends. The most important in the years ahead will be technological innovations and disruptions, demographic changes, environmental pressures and a shift in economic power from the West to emerging and developing countries. The tourism industry will accordingly change substantially and new and different skills will be needed for working in tourism.
Digital skills (including those for online marketing and social media) will become indispensable; many of the surveyed and interviewed participants indicated these skills as an important area for improvement.
Despite the advance of automation and digitization, the human factor will still be crucial in 10 years’ time. Social skills such as hospitality, creativity, interpersonal communication and multicultural dexterity will become even more relevant than today and will be necessary to deliver the increasingly personalized services and experiences desired by tourists.
In most participating countries, environmental or green skills are not considered a priority today. Green tourism is still perceived as a niche market. Nevertheless, many participants think that green skills will be much needed around 2030 although most found it quite difficult to pinpoint exactly what green skills include.
Furthermore, Dineke reflected on the implications, relevance and solutions for the fast changing and increasing gaps in digital, social and green skills and on the development of best practices, modules and other tools to close the identified skills gaps:
- What are the implications of the identified gaps for developing skills products that will be relevant for the next generation of educators, companies and employees in tourism?
- What are inspiring case studies and best practices and will these still be relevant around 2030?
- Efforts aimed at closing skills gaps should be grounded in a solid understanding of a country’s and industry’s skills base today. Are the skills, identified in the NTG project as relevant for 2030, also valid and useful for contexts, countries and regions outside Europe?
In the next phase of the project, answers to these and other questions will help to establish a Blueprint Strategy for Sectoral Skills Development in Tourism to respond to the fast changing and increasing skills gaps in digital, green and social skills sets.
Relevance outside Europe
With regard to the last point of discussion about the relevance of the identified skills for contexts, countries and regions outside Europe, one could argue that the fact that about 20% of the workshop presentations at the conference in Uganda were also discussing digital, social or green skills or (future) education in African countries speaks for itself. A few titles of the presentations that were given during the workshop sessions are:
- Digital Transformations and Tourism Development
- Technology Usage in Tourism: Comparative Study of Tanzania and USA
- Antecedents and Consequences of Gen Y Employees Innovative Behaviour: Assessing the Moderating Effect of Supervisor Support in the Hospitality Industry
- Perceived contributions of competencies on graduate employability in the hospitality industry
- Adoption of e-learning in tourism and hospitality training in Kenyatta and Moi Universities
- Analysis of Tourists Travel trends and Behavior Through Social Media Photo-Sharing Services in Tanzania. A GIS Approach
- Tourism Development and Destination Competitiveness: A Review of Literature on Human Resources Management in Tanzania
Next ATLAS conference & NTG
Traditionally the focus of ATLAS conferences is mostly on educators and researchers, however, at the next ATLAS international conference that will take place in September in Girona, Spain, both educators and industry will be brought together to discuss the challenges that both groups are facing and that call out for a new paradigm of tourism education.
In the Special Track that will be organised on Tourism Education, Employability and Industry – University Interaction NTG and INCOME Tourism projects, both businesses and universities will cooperate and share benefits in education, research and knowledge transfer. In this special track, the focus will not only be on questions of how HEIs can foster employability of tourism students by addressing the right skills now and in the future, but also on effective methods of teaching and training, in close cooperation with the tourism industry and HEIs. Themes that are considered for this special track include, but are not limited to:
- The identification of gaps related to skills development in tourism and leisure
- Effective methods of training or teaching the tourism professionals of the future
- Ways of Industry – university interaction, in the Tourism context
- Drivers for industry-university cooperation
- The role of the tourism industry in the educational context of the future
Updates on the presentations and discussions with regard to the NTG project at this conference will be shared on this website at a later date after the conference.