Skills sets in education and the tourism and hospitality industry in corona times
In this two series blog, the Next Tourism Generation (NTG) Consortium present their perspective on the impact of Covid-19 in terms of challenges related to skills development, how these may change and what the impacts may be on tourism sub-sectors during and after the crisis. Covid-19 has had a major impact on the tourism and hospitality industry. NTG consulted Consortium partners on the impact of Covid-19 on digital, green and social skills development and employability skills, including the challenges that the sub-sectors in tourism and hospitality are facing.
According to the WTCC (2020), 75 million jobs are at risk globally, of which 6.4 million jobs are located in Europe and 1 million in the UK, depending on the duration of the crisis. A gradual road to recovery is needed that requires efficient responses and adaptation skills to minimize the unpredictable domino effect this crisis ensues. This blog highlights actual and potential challenges and opportunities this new uncertain context brings for the industry and education.
Changes to employability and education needs in tourism and hospitality sectors
When carefully looking at the future of tourism and hospitality job markets, stakeholders can see various developments. The number of jobs in the sectors will decrease, which leads to the need for employees who are flexible, innovative and highly specialized in digital and problem-solving skills to deal with unpredictable economic and tourism trends. This means that employees in tourism will need to have transversal skills more than ever before: having the ability to work on multiple tasks by adopting multiple skills such as communication skills, team working skills, customer handling skills, problem-solving skills and learning skills (Skills Panorama, n.d.).
In order to prepare employees for a futuristic way of working, stakeholders need to rethink from the foundation: not only within the industry but also within the tourism and hospitality education system. Future employees need to be taught how to work in a redesigned industry and this will require the following actions:
- Helping teachers/trainers, students and SME representatives to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to face the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, thus providing significant support for the progressive transformation of business models and operational activities in the direction of sustainability;
- Improving the contribution of Higher Education to innovation by reinforcing education and research, strengthening the role of universities in local and regional environments;
- Developing international standards in sustainable tourism planning and management recognized by both the education system and the tourism industry.
With the uncertainty of the development of the Covid-19 pandemic, education sees the need to provide distance and blended learning to continue pursuing their goals. Digital tools are being implemented and students are being taught how to keep up with their studies. Nevertheless, curricula developers are currently finding solutions on how to implement these subjects such as ‘changing visitor behaviour’, sustainable and healthy city tourism. Therefore, it is of crucial importance that relationships between education and the industry will be strengthened so all become experts in the new type of skills needed in the post-corona customer journey. Furthermore, priority should be given to increasing knowledge in crisis management and emergency insurance on operational, strategic and destination management levels. Response plans should be developed that specify how employees should cope with crises. Again, high tech with a human touch remains of high importance.
Example Spain: The Confederación Española de Hoteles y Alojamientos Turísticos (CEHAT) and Instituto Tecnológico Hotelero (ITH) are offering webinars and training courses to provide solutions within the sector, addressing issues of big data, AI, new technologies, SAP, marketing, PMS, and revenue management. CEHAT and ITH encourage the sector to take advantage of the time at home to learn using online courses and train in their weakest skill areas.
The recovery in multiple steps
The main priority is for the industry to respond and adapt to the current situation and develop strategies for post Covid-19. More contact between the tourism sector and the educational sector are needed. Below, a short practical approach is described based on the perspectives from NTG partners:
- Promoting domestic tourism and destinations for guests;
- Bringing clients back and adapting to new demands while ensuring appropriate hygienic conditions to avoid health risks (social distancing, hygiene, sanitary safety);
- To this end, employees staying in, for example, accommodation must be provided with approved personal protective equipment (PPE) and apply the containment measures established by health authorities;
- Improvement of efficiency due to reduced capacity;
- Intense communication and explanation for customers and staff, in order to assure people and to continue lives while showing transparency and reliability, as well as promoting a gradual economic growth of the tourism sector. A key point is to regain people’s confidence by staying in hotels.
In many countries, people are on short-term working contracts. The individual economic perspective is assessed pessimistically. The purchasing power will decline and the demand on tourism will be very restrained. Tourism businesses will also not be able to make up for lost sales. Hygiene regulations will lower sales expectations. Therefore, economic stimulus packages will be necessary to support demand and to help the businesses through a longer dry spell. ‘’We must prevent the many small suppliers from disappearing from the market.’’
This includes actions by government, recovery plans and support for tourism businesses.
ITIC has developed a Tourism Recovery Taskforce and outlines a three-step plan for Irish Tourism including business survival, liquidity measures and demand stimulation. Fáilte Ireland has operationalized a Covid-19 Business Supports Hub for tourism businesses. The IHF (Irish Hoteliers Federation) has called for urgent support from government to save jobs, including employment support measures, VAT reductions, finance and loans. The IHI (Irish Hospitality Institute) and Fáilte Ireland have developed webinars to provide support, advice and training for tourism businesses and employees. Fáilte Ireland has launched wellbeing supports for employees across the tourism and hospitality industry. The RAI, Restaurants Association of Ireland, outline immediate and future supports needed for Tourism and Hospitality due to the impact of Covid-19. This includes a nine-point Covid-19 Crisis Recovery Plan focusing on VAT reduction, wage supports and rent measures.
Skills Panorama (n.d.). Importance of transveral skills. Retrieved from: https://skillspanorama.cedefop.europa.eu/en/indicators/importance-transversal-skills
WTTC (2020). Latest research from WTTC shows a 50% increase in jobs at risk in Travel & Tourism. Retrieved from: https://wttc.org/News-Article/Latest-research-from-WTTC-shows-a-50-percentage-increase-in-jobs-at-risk-in-Travel-and-Tourism