Analysis - February 14, 2007



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February 2007


Print Human resources, Issues,

Putting HR and tourism in context

Understanding the environment in which tourism is evolving will help us understand the challenges facing human resources, for owners, managers and employees. However, when human resources issues themselves are in the midst of dramatic change, everyone in the industry is impacted. The world is changing: society is changing, tourism is changing, tourists themselves are changing, and everything is moving at a faster pace!

Understanding the markets

The tourism industry is evolving in a turbulent market.

  • Terrorism, natural disasters, climate change, and epidemics are destabilizing the industry, and security plays an important role.

Canada is losing ground on internationally; it must structure and reposition its tourism product and regain its market share on the world stage.

  • Canada has not been in the top ten world destinations since 2004 and its market share is dwindling.
  • Over the past several years, we have observed a significant decline in American clientele (Canada’s primary market) and international competition is increasing.
  • New destinations are emerging, and some of them are gaining status; several destinations are investing heavily in infrastructure development and marketing.

Travellers are becoming more knowledgeable.

  • Socio-demographic changes are influencing travel behaviour and products.

New business models are taking hold.

  • At the turn of the present century, low-cost carriers were on the fringes of the air sector, but now they are bringing regular carriers to their knees and carving out their share of the market.
  • And of course, the Internet has completely revolutionized the quest for information as well as reservation and distribution methods.

The quality of the tourism experience

Travellers are very demanding customers.

  • The standard tourist profile is educated, high income, experienced – and able to evaluate performance.
  • Tourists want to take full advantage of, and enjoy, their downtime.
  • They do not simply want to “see”; they want to participate
  • They are looking for experiences, authenticity, and the unusual.
  • And nowadays, welcoming this clientele requires additional knowledge, such as understanding their language and culture.

Niche products are developed concurrently with mass tourism.

  • A highly competitive environment requires a constant search for new things and the need to stand out in order to satisfy a heterogeneous clientele.
  • Products and services are becoming specialized – and fragmented – in a search for personalization.

The variety of products available is exploding.

  • One-upmanship, excessiveness, originality, and the unusual are setting the pace for developing products.
  • Types of lodging are no longer solely defined by stars and services offered. Now, you can pay according to how much you weigh, or you can sleep in a tree, hanging from a crane, or in a wine barrel. You can rent a house – or just a sofa – in a foreign destination.

The concept of experience goes far beyond the simple notion of service.

  • The client experience depends on the quality of the human resources involved in delivering it, requiring not only know-how, but also personal skills: relational skills, communication skills, a willingness to serve, the ability to exceed client expectations, and the ability to work as part of a team and to understand customers’ needs.

Sustainable development is definitely on the agenda

  • The integration of sustainable development concepts is becoming imperative, as much to safeguard the product as to prioritize local jobs and give human resources the importance they are due.
  • A new perception of the role and responsibility of “the company in society” requires it to act as a responsible citizen.

Appreciation, promotion, and recruiting

Is it a myth, or is it a reality, that tourism occupations are not synonymous with employment stability?

  • The precariousness of tourism jobs remains a problem: atypical hours, part-time positions, seasonal character, and low pay.
  • Tourism seasons are slowly being extended.
  • Jobs in the tourism sector are often considered to be transitional work leading to another job in another sector.
  • A high employee turnover rate prevents the tourism sector from being competitive.

Labour shortages are predicted to be a problem throughout the tourism industry.

  • Competition between the various sectors to attract workers will complicate tourism recruiting, and employers will have to “court” potential recruits.
  • The aging population will result in massive departures due to retirement, resulting in a loss of industry expertise.
  • Difficulties in recruiting qualified staff in outlying regions will increase, and the exodus of young people to major centres will further complicate the situation.
  • Although considered to present a solution to the predicted labour shortage, people 55 and older are often confronted with persistent prejudices (high pay, less productive, lack of technological ability, resistant to change, etc.).
  • The multi-ethnic population and people being reintegrated into the community (drop-outs, troubled youths, and people with physical or intellectual disabilities) will help enlarge the labour pool, but will require some adaptation.

New employment dynamics are taking hold.

  • Harmonization of generation gaps makes it possible to reconcile different worker profiles and expectations, to use each person’s skills and avoid conflicts.
  • An individual will hold several jobs throughout his or her professional life.
  • Many retired people are re-entering the labour market – but they are looking for conditions adapted to their needs.

There is a lack of vision and of joint action between the various sectors, regions, and organizations.

  • This lack of synergy complicates the development of permanent jobs that – for example – could be a combination of complementary summer/winter activities.

The need to support human resource management

Managers of SMEs (the majority in tourism) are caught up in the whirlwind of operations.

  • Those in charge are always in reaction mode: under pressure from investors and lacking the time and tools to manage their company effectively.
  • Only a few managers have mastered the hiring process (recruiting, selection).
  • They tend to relegate employee integration, supervision, and support to a secondary position, even though these things are their raw material.

Skills development and manager and employee training

The complexity of changes to the company environment requires understanding and monitoring.

  • Abundant and increasingly complex information, an understanding of structural changes and their impact on the industry, as well as advances in the workplace, make it hard to upgrade knowledge.
  • Bridging the gap between academic training and the company’s needs requires additional employee training.
  • The pace of technological development – including the Internet – means there are changing ways of doing things in all spheres of the industry.

– This text was prepared for le Conseil québécois des ressources humaines en tourisme to generate discussion during the development of its 2008-2011 strategic plan.

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