Tourism Skills and Jobs

Research on Skills Training Opportunities for Tourism Industry Professionals

What do tourism industry employers and employees need to enhance professional training and skills building opportunities?

Expert Team at TrainingAid

TrainingAid conducted an online survey of tourism industry stakeholders on the topic of skills development for industry professionals.

The "Tourism Skills and Jobs" report explores the learning and professional development needs, as well as perceived skill gaps in the tourism industry; provides examples of training and skills development opportunities currently available for tourism professionals; and identifies key challenges and needs for improving training programs and skills development opportunities.

More about the survey & download link

Why Skills Matter: Sustained Business Success, Sustainable Future for Tourism

Professional skills development is a critical ingredient of success for any tourism business. Investing in employees' knowledge and skills building can not only contribute to the business’ overall performance goals, but also help enable a culture of innovation, which the business needs in order to stay competitive.

Further, investing in people through skills development opportunities is also an important way to support the sustainable development of the tourism industry as a whole. The individuals who work in tourism – and the skills they bring to the industry – are the most important “assets” that available to the industry enabling innovation and creative solutions. All tourism industry organizations, therefore, have a stake in creating and enhancing training opportunities for current and future tourism professionals.

"People are a unique source of value and competitive advantage, driving innovation, delivering quality tourism services and supporting sustainable tourism development" (Stacey, J., 2015, “Supporting Quality Jobs in Tourism”, OECD Tourism Papers, 2015/02, OECD Publishing).

Online Learning Habits of Tourism Professionals

Tourism Professionals Value Online Learning

A large number of those who selected the "Employee" category noted that "Taking online training courses and e-learning programs" is among the most important ways for them to acquire new skills, followed by "On-the-job learning" and "Attending training workshops/seminars or other in-person programs".

Tourism Professionals Are Seeking to Diversify Skills

Many tourism professionals have participated in MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and other types of e-learning programs on various topics, both directly and indirectly related to tourism.

More than half (53.3%) the respondents in the "Employee" category said they have participated in an online training course or e-learning program. Of those, 40% mentioned MOOCs. In addition to MOOCs, various other types of online courses were mentioned, including webinars, custom online courses for professionals, and academic and lifelong learning programs.

Notably, these survey respondents’ experiences with e-learning are not limited to courses that are directly related to tourism, but also those whose primary focus is not tourism, including topics such as innovative business strategies, social entrepreneurship, human rights and international development.

Challenges to Implementing Learning & Investing in Skills

Money is the No.1 Obstacle to Implementing Skills Development Opportunities

Both tourism employers and employees view cost and time as the main challenges to implementing skills development opportunities.

In response to questions about the main challenges and obstacles to implementing and investing in professional training, perhaps expectedly, the most frequently selected answers in both the employers and employees categories were "cost" and "time".

But Many Employers Recognize the ROI of Investing in Skills

Many tourism industry employers identify key benefits of proactive approaches to employee training and skills development.

In response to the question, "What do you think are the most important ways your company can benefit from offering skills development opportunities to staff members?", the answer most frequently selected was "Improved employee satisfaction and engagement", followed by "Gaining competitive edge through skilled employees" and "Increased productivity".

Skill Gaps: Desired & Perceived Skill Needs

Sustainability: Lack of Skilled Professionals, or Gap in Awareness?

Many tourism employers see skill gaps in sustainability-related areas for both staff and management positions. Of the total of 40 responses to the "Employer" category question about skill gaps, nine (23%) mentioned a skill area related to sustainability practices (e.g. "sustainability skills", "sustainable tourism practices", "expertise in responsible tourism solutions") as a key area of skill gaps in the tourism industry.

Many also commented that these skill gaps they see need to be recognized not just for staff positions (e.g. front desk managers, tour guides) but also at the management level.

Based on the answers to the "Employee" category question, "What skills do you think are most important for the job you currently have (or the position you want to have)?”, many tourism professionals, employees and career seekers don't place as much emphasis on sustainability-related skills as the "Employer" group. Technical skills and position-specific skills are identified by the largest numbers of respondents as most important.

Soft Skills Are Critical to Tourism Job Performance

Both employers and employees emphasized the importance of "soft skills", such as critical thinking, teamwork and collaboration, self-motivation and curiosity to learn.

A large number of survey respondents, particularly those in the "Employee" category, identified various "people skills" including interpersonal communication, cross-cultural understanding and relationship building as among the most important skills for their current (or desired future) jobs. For example, one participant mentioned a "passion for people" as being the most important professional trait to have.

6 Tips for Tourism Industry Employers & Job Seekers

Based on the key findings of the Tourism Skills and Jobs research, here are our recommendations for tourism industry employers and job seekers.

1. Take advantage of MOOCs as lifelong learning and corporate learning programs

Tourism industry organizations may adopt the lifelong learning approach to support their employee training programs. The fact that MOOCs are already widely recognized by tourism professionals, combined with the open and (usually) free nature of MOOCs may make these courses attractive options for tourism industry organizations.

2. Social learning: Make people at the center of training goals and learning experiences

Making learning social is a key to successfully implementing an eTraining program. Depending on your learning goals, "social" may mean utilizing social media tools, incorporating game-based learning techniques, or blending online and in-person learning activities. The key is to make the learners at the center of the learning experience and to make the eTraining program engaging and meaningful in the context of who needs and wants to learn what and - importantly - why.

3. Make sustainability skills a priority

Making sustainability a priority in organization-wide skills development efforts will help create an environment where employees are more engaged and motivated. At the industry level, an important solution is for those organizations that are actively engaged in sustainability to show initiative in highlighting the need and relevance of sustainability skills in practice, so that their own employees may be inspired to be more proactively engaged, and that others in the industry may start to see sustainability as a business priority as well.

4. Not just technical skills: don't forget soft skills

Soft skills such as effective interpersonal communications, work ethics, teamwork and collaboration are a critical part of tourism industry job performance. Some of these positive attributes may be "natural" to people and difficult to instill if someone does not possess such qualities. It is, however, not only possible, but also important for companies to invest in skills training that addresses soft skills, as well as “hard skills" that are specifically related to employees’ positions and tasks.

5. Help employees identify opportunities for professional development

While allowing employees to seek learning opportunities is a great approach, it is also important for the employee to help with the process of identifying skills development needs and opportunities, as many professionals are busy with their day-to-day obligations and may find it difficult to proactively seek learning opportunities, let alone knowing what skills would be valuable to their job roles and career goals.

6. Think outside of the tourism box

Seek the best opportunities for your team’s specific needs and goals, within and outside of travel and tourism. Many important soft and hard skills for tourism industry professionals are not specific to the tourism industry, but rather, broad transferrable professional skills and competencies. It’s important for tourism organizations, therefore, to consider training and skills development opportunities outside of the tourism industry, given that the best opportunities may be available in other industries.

About the Survey: Training Opportunities for Tourism Professionals

In 2016, TrainingAid is conducted a survey on the current landscape of (online and offline) training opportunities for tourism professionals, and received input from industry stakeholders (tourism industry employers and industry professionals) from around the world. The goal of the research was to offer practical recommendations, which may be applied to future research projects and training and education initiatives by tourism industry organizations.

The survey questions focused on training opportunities and skills needs for tourism professionals, from the perspectives of tourism industry employers and employees / job seekers. In addition to the survey, the research project will include an analysis of existing training programs and of descriptive data on stakeholder perspectives gathered through in-depth interviews, focused on the following key questions:

Current trends and issues:

  • How are talent development and capacity building needs in the tourism industry being addressed by training programs and skills development opportunities?
  • How can these opportunities be improved for tourism organizations?

Real-life examples:

  • What are some examples of training and skills development opportunities currently available for tourism professionals?
  • What specific benefits do they provide for which stakeholder groups (e.g. career seekers, destination specialists)?

Ideas and recommendations:

  • How can tourism industry businesses and organizations improve their efforts in the areas of talent development and skills training?
  • How can tourism industry stakeholders help enhance the benefits of training and skill-building programs?

A total of 105 responses were collected during the survey period (April 25 - May 25, 2016), submitted by survey participants from 52 countries. The survey asked the participants to select one of the following two categories, each of which was associated with a specific set of questions: (1) Employer, business owner/manager, team leader - offering or want to offer training opportunities for your staff or team members; (2) Employee, independent professional, career seeker - want to access training opportunities for yourself. Of the total 105 responses collected, 46 survey participants selected the "Employer" category, and 60 "Employee".

The outcome of this research has been summarized and published as a report highlighting key findings about skills building tools and resources for tourism professionals, and ideas and recommendations on how tourism industry organizations can benefit from and help enhance training opportunities.

Download the full report here!