‘People are our Capital’: Technology and Gen Y key to APEC region tourism future

What will the tourism workforce of the future look like in the APEC region? What can economies do to create a sufficiently skilled workforce?  How will digitisation affect the tourism workforce? How can worker mobility be facilitated between economies? Why are industry occupational standards and skills recognition important for the region? 

The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Secretariat (APEC) Tourism Working Group (TWG) has released the results of a year-long research project entitled, ‘Developing the Tourism Workforce of the Future through Labour and Skills Development, Certification and Mobility in the APEC Region’. The project was sponsored by Australia. Co-sponsors to the project were Chile; Malaysia; Papua New Guinea; The Republic of the Philippines; and Viet Nam.

Global business advisory group EarthCheck, in partnership with Griffith University’s Institute for Tourism (GIFT), undertook the work on behalf of APEC using a variety of methods to conduct stakeholder consultation for the project. These included a workshop and case study development combined with a survey. The survey was translated into nine regional languages and was administered across all twenty-one APEC economies.

EarthCheck General Manager Consulting Mark Olsen said the report uncovered several recommendations which all tourism stakeholders, from small-medium businesses through to government agencies, can consider in the planning of their workforce.

“People are the important capital of the APEC tourism economy.  It is encouraging to see the commitment of the Tourism Working Group and the economies specifically sponsoring this research project, to address the future needs of this capital – the workers within the industry. This report is timely given its release early in the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development – during which the United Nations is widely encouraging sustainable economic growth and employment from the tourism industry, along with environmental protection, cultural diversity and mutual understanding,” Mr Olsen said.

“A key theme emerging from the survey responses was the effect of technological disruption upon tourism workforces of the future,” Mr Olsen said.  “In this area ‘Gen Y’ workers are vital to the industry due to their familiarity and entrepreneurial abilities in using technology to market and promote tourism to international audiences,” he said. “On the other hand, the speed of technological change, including the increased use of social media for tourism marketing, tourism systems, and other infrastructure uses, results in the need for almost continual upskilling across the industry.”

The key recommendations from the ‘Developing the Tourism Workforce of the Future through Labour and Skills Development, Certification and Mobility in the APEC Region’ report include:

  • Establish a Women and Youth Advisory Group to share knowledge
  • Develop a framework for Labour and Skills Needs Analysis and a common approach to labour and migration data collection
  • Develop occupational standards and training tools which support the development of soft and digital skills and a new skillset, entrepreneurial skills
  • Highlight the benefits of SME funding programs, seasonal worker programs and labour migration programs that include women and provide pathways for youth
  • Develop labour mobility programs such as alignment of visa processing between countries

“The study shows the Tourism Working Group has an opportunity to play a vital role in developing the tourism workforce of the future in the APEC region, through leadership, knowledge development and creating opportunities for economies to share experiences,” Mr Olsen said.  

Mr Olsen said EarthCheck will be monitoring the results of the APEC pilot project: ‘APEC Occupational Standards Framework: Test in the Travel, Tourism and Hospitality Industry’ which is currently being undertaken as a jointly sponsored project between Australia’s Human Resource Development Working Group and Peru’s Tourism Working Group. “The occupational standards framework project is the first step to the application of the findings from the APEC report which highlighted the need for cross border standards to improve mobility,” Mr Olsen remarked.

EarthCheck has a global presence across the industry offering products and services in sustainability technology, tourism consulting, sustainable building certification, and entrepreneurship programs. EarthCheck operates in more than 70 countries, in six languages and across 32 sectors, affecting more than 6 million consumers every day.

The Griffith Institute for Tourism (GIFT) is Australia's leading academic centre for tourism research. GIFT's mission is to undertake and disseminate cutting edge research in tourism that generates new benefits for key tourism stakeholders both in Australia and the Asia pacific region. GIFT has a major focus on sustainable tourism and is an initiative of Griffith University; a comprehensive and research-intensive University that is ranked among the top 3 per cent of universities around the world.