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Hospitality and tourism critical to Covid-19 recovery

30 Apr 2020
Jane Rexworthy, Executive Director, People 1st International

Tourism has always been a force for good by enabling cultures to come together. It also contributes significantly to job creation and directly and indirectly to economic growth.

So the impact of COVID-19 in totally disrupting the sector means that its rebuild will be essential. The re-set button must be ready to press when it is safe to do so. Plans must be ready to turn strategies into action. But a critical question must also be addressed: what would you do differently for the tourism industry to not just survive, but to prosper long term?

Business leaders need to show resilience and courage with their actions. Governments need to take bold, confident decisions with speed and clarity. And the two must communicate, listen and act together in new ways.

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has released a set of recommendations calling for urgent and strong support to help the global tourism sector not only recover from the unprecedented challenge of COVID-19 but to ‘grow back better’. Its three principles urge for ‘quick, consistent, united and ambitious’ plans to retain jobs, create financial stimulus and ensure tourism leads on local and national growth. So what practical actions can countries take?

  • Redeploy workers to other industries, upskilling them for the future: Working in collaboration with employers, government bodies and sector skills specialists to create workforce redeployment packages will give furloughed or displaced workers the skills required to move into industries that have a sudden increased demand, such as the health, care and retail sectors. Redeploying people within their local communities through skills transition programmes can help to upskill these workers whilst their own industries are in lockdown.
  • Prepare for an evolved workplace: Retaining a workforce ready to go after lockdown gives important stability, however HR professionals are citing different working practices, roles and organisational design. Business leaders are transforming the way they now use technology to enable employees to work remotely and good managers are continuing to improve new practices to adjust and adapt. The future offers agile and confident leaders the opportunity to take the right decisions for their business and workforce quickly and effectively.
  • Recognise the critical skills for the future: Digital, green and social skills are emerging as critical skills post COVID-19 integrated into jobs at all levels. HR leaders in tourism will be looking for shorter training and assessment courses that guarantee vocational competence or regulatory compliance to ensure they can meet newly emerging needs of their consumers who want protection and confidence.
  • Embrace innovative recruitment strategies: HR leaders are advocating online employment fairs and pre-employment programmes to capture those workers not retained during lockdown to help them back into work through structured programmes. This approach will give new employees online community access to their co-workers ahead of induction to drive a new sense of belonging and connection, which is critical to 90-day retention.
  • Think sustainably: Social corporate responsibility in the future will be significantly more meaningful and important to employees, so it’s critical that tourism can demonstrate environmental sustainability with government support for investment and recovery packages. To achieve this in an authentic and relevant way, tourism must collaborate with the creative and cultural industries to develop products and solutions for social and cultural experiences. This emerging change to tourism trends will be accelerated by a greater need for social contact and a more profound interest in our cultural heritage, against the potential challenge of fear of crowds and new hygiene practice.
  • Invest in customer experience: Domestic tourism will recover first and our attitudes to exceeding customer service must reach world-class levels to ensure repeat business and thriving towns, cities and the countryside. Festivals, music events, theatre, sport, nature, wellbeing and medical tourism will emerge as important extensions to travel and holiday experiences. Marketing, raising awareness and acting quickly to restore confidence and stimulate demand are essential to rebuilding the tourism industry and reinforcing governance at all levels to give protection to investment from government, business leaders and our tourists of the future.

“Investing in people, the human capital of the organisation, and in talent development has never been more imperative. Decent, rewarding work with equal opportunities from employers who build resilient business models with effective crisis management mechanisms and strategies will underpin the future success of tourism. Businesses that are responsive to change with ambitiously minded, responsible leaders will be those that flourish.” Jane Rexworthy, Executive Director, People 1st International

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