Celebrating #WTD2019 With a Few Thoughts on the Future of Jobs in Tourism

Every 27th of September we celebrate World Tourism Day. This celebration, led by UNWTO, aims to foster awareness among the global community on tourism’s social, cultural, political and economic value and the contribution the sector can make in reaching the Sustainable Development Goals. In line with UNWTO’s overarching focus on skills, education and jobs throughout the year, this year’s celebration is dedicated to the topic „Tourism and Jobs: a better future for all”.

Tourism is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the world that currently accounts for one in ten jobs worldwide. Its magic, however, lies in its multiplier effect; it is estimated that one job in the core tourism sector creates about one-and-a-half additional or indirect jobs in the tourism-related economy. As such, it’s crucial for future job creation. All good numbers aside, there is one problem that started spreading across Europe and that is the lack of quality travel and hotel personnel, especially during the peak tourism season.  This problem got everyone, including us, rethinking the future of jobs in tourism – what can and needs to be done in order to resolve this problem. Firstly, we need to address the current mismatch between tourism skills that are being taught and those that tourism employers need. We also need to (re)consider and incorporate ongoing advances in technology as they are rapidly changing production processes. Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, robotics, virtual reality and augmented reality will certainly impact jobs in the tourism sector. While some jobs will become redundant, other jobs that we can’t yet imagine will be created. However, service delivery in the tourism sector relies on the people contact, it is the people that ultimately define the customer experience. Thus, technology is unlikely to replace a large share of the workforce, but rather change the way they work. Customer expectations are higher and operators need a digitally-proficient workforce who are able to respond to the demands of more tech-savvy guests. Digital literacy will become a necessary condition for tourism employees in order to undertake their job. This both provides opportunities for, and puts pressure, on existing employment, welfare and education agendas. Making the new wave of technological breakthroughs as inclusive as possible will require considerable investment in training and skills for life and work. As UNWTO states, there are several main issues the tourism sector faces in adapting its workforce to the technological revolution:

  • The need to review and update outdated legislation and regulation that supports employment, innovation, entrepreneurship and new business models
  • The low level of awareness and expertise of new technologies and technological trends
  • A lack of funding to invest in new technologies and training for the jobs needed for the present and future
  • The lack of cooperation and communication among relevant stakeholders

Resolving these issues will take time and that’s why we need to think holistically and strategically. The future of tourism is in our hands, it’s time to act.

Read more on UNWTO and join the celebration! #WTD2019

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