How can education and training systems contribute to structural changes in the tourism sector?




Tourism is made of people, it’s a labour sector, so the investment in qualifications and digital skills is crucial to ensure training at all levels of the sector’s workforce.

In the field of education and skills, tourism faces the challenge of ensuring the training of future professionals as agents of change, while also ensuring the integration of sustainability into educational and training projects.
Finding and validating new ways of developing and certifying new competences is a challenge for the tourism sector, and for all the education and training institutions.

Trends Travel/Tourism Training & Education

The coming decade will confirm the acceleration of trends that are already clear today, with implications for the profile of skills that we will have to develop.

Firstly, digital technology, advanced computing and data will strongly impact the sector, making digital literacy a basic skill.

Secondly, the exponential development of science will require the ability to constantly acquire new knowledge and unlearn that which becomes obsolete, dictating a critical sense, a spirit of curiosity and a willingness to learn throughout life.

Thirdly, in a world of disruptive innovation where organisational agility will be the first line of competitive defence, the courage to make decisions and take risks as well as the generosity and emotional intelligence to work in teams and promote diversity will make the difference.

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In a recent report McKinsey & Co estimate that by 2030, in Europe and the US, the demand for technological skills will grow by 55%, emotional skills by 24% and advanced cognitive skills by 8%. In contrast, demand for basic cognitive skills and manual and physical skills will each decline by 15%.

Developing these technological, emotional and social skills in young people will be a huge challenge for rigid education systems that are still focused on one-way transmission learning process from teacher to student.
Alternatively, the new approach will emphasise topics such as interdisciplinarity, self-discovery, informal learning, decision making with little information, error analysis, courage to challenge or participation in team projects.

Change In Tourism Education and Training Systems

This challenge requires a great change in the education and training systems, in schools and especially in teachers. We need to reshape the concept of the classroom, to rethink educational pathways. While the traditional hard skills, such as accounting, financial analysis and marketing are essential skill sets for hospitality & tourism managers, soft skills are essential for succeeding in our ‘people business’.

And today, as we face intense and accelerated change, forcing the tourism industry to reinvent itself with new business models completely different from all we knew: flexible, adaptable, with greater proximity, focused on customers individual needs, it is crucial that schools (and specially teachers) prepare for this huge challenge: prepare the future tourism workforce.
Adding the characteristics of the new generation entering the labour market, the so-called generation Z, to this structural change, we have what some authors call the “perfect storm”* where younger talent must replace older workers.

Helping talent managers invest in this profound shift in workforce typology, preparing to be the hospitality leaders of tomorrow, is the major obligation of the different tourism training systems.

If there are not enough new employees entering the sector to replace the older workforce, there is a potential “hospitality workforce bubble” that will burst**.

*Goh & Lee, 2018; Solnet et al, 2016

**Avoiding the hospitality workforce bubble: Strategies to attract and retain generation Z talent in the hospitality workforce (Goh & Okumu, 2020) 

Travel Training Shift

To better understand the path to follow in this paradigm shift in education and training in tourism, it is essential to understand what the new generations value and what they are looking for. So, what are the most valued aspects that can attract new generations to the tourism industry, what must be done to charm and keep generation Z talent in the hospitality and tourism business?
1. Focus on job functional attitudes
2. Provide clear and visual career pathway
3. Provide travel opportunities and flexible scheduling to allow travel
4. Provide training on the customer service skills and emerging technologies
5. Acting transparently, provide equal opportunities and fairness/sustainable work environment
6. Establish a mentorship buddy programs
7. Provide systems for peer recognition and testimonies and storytelling sharing

How are education systems going to organise themselves for this complex mission?

I believe that each one has to diagnose their own situation, identify the necessary changes and initiate them as soon as possible, rebuilding the organisational systems and restructuring teams, either through training programmes or through the establishment of strategic partnerships that support this change.

At the same time, we must accelerate the digital transition processes that will make an essential contribution to this structural change, creating new grounds for an education sector better adjusted to the characteristics of this new generation.

We can then state that the essence of this journey will be the ability to combine these apparently antagonistic concepts, humanisation, and technology. I believe that transformative education can make it.
As an example, I will share what we are doing in our network of schools to implement a transformative education program focusing on the preparation of our future tourism workforce:

  1. Transforming our schools into learning communities, linked to their territories, focused on soft skills with full integration of technology and digital. Make available new online training supports, incorporate digital and technological contents linked to sustainability, inclusion and multiculturalism.

  2. Launching a national program to prepare the Tourism Workforce in Portugal for the Digital Future (with the support of the OCDE and involving the main tourism stakeholders)

  3. Developing an Online Tourism Academy, with specific training projects for tourism leaders and managers, and operational staff, focus on digital innovation and sustainability.

  4. Developing innovative partnership projects, with other schools and universities, to train teachers and tutors in technologies to support teaching, innovation and conducting professional experiences in real work contexts.

  5. Create (in each school) open and dynamic laboratories for knowledge transfer, with impact on people and companies, responding to communities problems.

Training To Improve Tourism Skills

Nevertheless, to improve people skills in tourism, there are other key areas where we need to act, otherwise education and training will be insufficient for the big change we need to accomplish:

1. Mobility (for young people and professionals)

Reinforce international mobility programmes, not only for students, but also for professionals, attracting young people and new professionals with appealing international experiences. It is urgent to extend educational exchanges, with formal equivalences, to VET institutions. Create certification and courses recognition at European level (and, if possible, at world-wide level, in cooperation with Africa, Asia, South America) promoting student mobility and intercultural learning, which are fundamental for the renewal of the tourism workforce.

2. Tourism Jobs

reconfiguration of tourism jobs with new demands and new profiles

3. Labour Rules and Conditions

review legislation, introduce flexibility and functional diversity, new careers, incorporating training and attractive salaries

4. Smart tourism

make information and data accessible to all, especially to small companies, and individual entrepreneurs.

5. Intersectoral collaboration

health and safety, agriculture and rural development, culture, sport, to integrate qualified young people coming from other areas in the tourism industry

6. Promotion and valorisation of tourism industry:

it is essential to communicate the value and the relevance of tourism as a productive industry from an economic, social and environmental point of view, highlighting the role of tourism for employment, urban regeneration, rural development and environmental preservation and protection.

In summary, structural changes in education and training systems demand urgent digital transition and training of teams. Moreover, the characteristics of the new generation must be taken into account in order to respond to their social, environmental, and economic aspirations, and, lastly, with contribution of the tourism institutions, the current industry business models should be redesigned to accommodate these new professionals who will be the pillars of the sector’s sustainability.



Article originally published by UNWTO

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