SELLING TOURISM TO YOUTH

Sally Atfield opinion banner.

“Here are some positive things that young people in New Zealand think of working in the tourism industry – it’s full of opportunities, you get to work with passionate and outgoing people, there’s variety, it’s experience-based with an ease of entry, and gives you transferable skills.

But the misconceptions about the tourism industry seem to be louder. Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA) and Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) recently surveyed young people across New Zealand about their ideas of careers in tourism. You’ve heard the negative answers all before – careers in tourism are underpaid, undervalued and temporary. There are limited pathways, parents don’t think it’s a good career, and tourism is an easy school subject.

We know this isn’t true, so how can we fix it? In Auckland alone, projections to 2021 are forecasting a 27 percent increase in the number of jobs in the sector, with an estimated 76,000 Aucklanders working in the industry within the next three years. But there are industry concerns around skills shortages, and with one in eight young people under 25 not earning or learning, we need to attract young people to our industry.

The best way we can prove that you can have a respected, fulfilling and permanent career in tourism is to show it. That’s why we at TIA are proud to host the New Zealand Tourism Awards, and co-host the New Zealand Hotel Industry Awards with Horwath HTL. The success stories, the pride of our nominees and their companies, the enjoyment they take from their jobs in tourism – all this is on show during the Awards, and that’s what we want to advertise.

At the recent New Zealand Tourism Awards, Kathy Guy won tourism’s most prestigious honour, the Horwath HTL Sir Jack Newman Outstanding Industry Leader Award. Ms Guy is an industry trailblazer who rose through the ranks from waitress to become one of the first female hotel general managers in New Zealand.

Earlier this year she also won the Hotel Industry Achievement Award at the New Zealand Hotel Industry Awards. Hers is a particularly inspiring story for our young people to hear, as is the story of Front Office Manager of the Year Award winner Neil Hemraj of CityLife Auckland, who has been working towards his current role since he left school. His progression through the industry has been a fantastic example of the goals you can achieve in tourism.

But marketing tourism isn’t all glitz and glam. ATEED is working with regional partners and a steering group on a plan to attract Aucklanders into tourism careers. TIA are using the research results to provide insight on our People and Skills initiative, which is part of the Tourism 2025 goal to achieve strong and sustainable industry growth. We need to attract young people across New Zealand into the industry, and this research will also advise national industry stakeholders and employers to shape policies addressing tourism skill shortages.

At TIA we profile a lot of students working in the industry. A lot of them say the same thing – they didn’t know the huge range of careers they could have in tourism until they joined the industry. From finishing high school and going straight into a job in tourism to undertaking postgraduate study and becoming a hotel manager, to creating your own tourism business – there’s always a way to jump into the tourism industry that suits you.”

The Youth Perceptions Research was a joint project by TIA and ATEED, with funding from Tourism Industry New Zealand Trust. You can read more about the research findings on the TIA website – tia.org.nz.

Sally Attfield

Hotel Sector Manager

Tourism Industry Aotearoa