Tourism's Better Future, Mental Health and Well-Being
Let’s Normalize Caring
Some time ago, on the Future of Tourism community network*, there was a discussion on what we want - in our industry, when we think about how we recover and “build back better” - to stay the same in the future, and what values we want to hold on to moving forward.
Below is what I shared on this topic:
Health and wellbeing are key to being resilient individuals. And for organizations, ensuring workers are happy and healthy is an important aspect of strengthening their abilities to respond to and recover from external shocks, and to be better prepared for future crises.
So, if being more proactive in addressing mental health and well-being - both as individuals and organizations - is one of the lessons from the COVID19 crisis, our industry should make sure to maintain this awareness post-pandemic, and continue to work on becoming better at caring for each other.
*The online community for the Future of Tourism network.
Treat Workers Like Our Industry Depends on Them - Because It Does
It goes without saying that the tourism industry depends on its workers.
From cooks, cleaners to caterers, from greeters, frontdesk staff to flight attendants, from drivers, guides to delivery service providers, from trip planners to travel advisors (the list goes on), it’s the people who work at every level of the complex global tourism value chain that make travel possible.
“Tourism is a People’s Business” by The Roundtable Human Rights in Tourism
Unfortunately, however, the importance of the contributions by tourism workers does not always translate into fair treatment and dignified working conditions. Tourism and hospitality sectors infamously have “a reputation of poor working conditions”, and have always been associated with high staff turnover rates, which the pandemic has made even worse.
As travel starts to return after COVID hiatus, many hospitality businesses reported facing “labor shortage” issues. While there may be various reasons why many workers have left the industry, the solution may be simple, as a former hospitality worker shares in this BBC article, “to solve the shortages, … firms need to implement fairer working hours and pay higher wages.”
Fair and Meaningful Work, Pandemic or Not
This was a statement from the 2021 report on staff shortages by WTTC. The report also recommended key steps to attracting and retaining talent, such as upskilling and reskilling workers, and facilitating flexible work.
Yes, the tourism and hospitality sectors are facing major challenges due to staff shortages, and yes, these approaches are important.
However, decent work should not be considered a temporary remedy to the problem that has become more apparent due to the pandemic. Rather, decent work should be one of the major lessons for our industry coming out of the pandemic.
Safe, fair, productive, and meaningful work should be the norm, and not a crisis response.
Let's aim to make working in tourism better for workers, and let's start treating workers fairly also when we don't have a global pandemic to remind us how dependent we are on those who make our industry possible.
Mental Health for Travelers and Hosts
Another reason why it’s important to ensure the well-being of tourism industry employees is, quite simply, “happy staff = happy customers”. It’s not only the right thing to do, but also, a win-win solution supporting a critical business priority (making customers happy).
In addition, the travel and tourism sector is uniquely positioned to provide positive experiences that support the health and well-being of visitors and locals. In a recent article on their blog, Intrepid Travel offers five reasons why travel is good for mental health, from relieving stress, to encouraging creativity, to promoting empathy.
Slow and local travel experiences that offer memorable and educational encounters can be - unsurprisingly - good for our soul. Spending time in nature, on the other hand, has been scientifically proven to help both mental and physical health. Nature’s healing potential is so significant that in some countries doctors can now officially prescribe ‘time in nature’ as forms of treatment.
All of these can and should be an integrated part of a business’ and destination’s overall approach to sustainability efforts, being mindful of our impacts on people, as well as the planet.
New Zealand's Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA) survey found many operators are affected by "stress, uncertainty, mental toll, fatigue, depression and financial concerns" and the report will help inform government mental health support programs.
BC Tourism Resiliency Network (British Columbia, Canada) is working with industry partners and health experts to educate businesses on "Supporting Employee Mental Health During Difficult Times".
The Scottish charity Hospitality Health provides mental health and wellbeing support to hospitality industry workers.
The Planet Happiness project works with destinations and industry partners to promote the kind of tourism that puts host-community wellbeing front and center.