While thousands of tourism jobs have been lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we must guard against future labour and skill shortages, according to Tourism Industry Aotearoa.
“As tourism revives, job and career opportunities will re-emerge. But will we get our people back? There is a risk of labour and skill shortages if we permanently lose staff displaced by COVID-19,” TIA Chief Executive Chris Roberts said.
TIA has made ‘People’ one of the six priority areas for action from the incoming Government in TIA’s Tourism Election 2020 Action Plan.
The Association has also submitted an in-depth Position Paper setting out its ideas on Rebuilding the Tourism Workforce to the Tourism Futures Taskforce.
Prior to the pandemic, 230,000 people were directly employed in tourism, with another 164,000 indirectly employed, accounting for 14.4 percent of New Zealand’s workforce. Forecasts of the short-term tourism job losses range from 40,000 to 92,000 – but those roles will need to be taken up again as tourism rebounds.
Skill and labour shortages are an enduring issue for tourism.
Roberts explained, "The nature of tourism means that many jobs are not 9 am-5 pm, Monday-Friday roles. They are also often in remote parts of New Zealand and offer only seasonal employment."
New Zealanders have traditionally viewed tourism and hospitality as fun to work in but they have little knowledge of the excellent career paths or job opportunities that exist.
“We need ongoing efforts to attract New Zealanders to work in tourism. We also need recognition from the Government elected on 17 October that workers from overseas must continue to be part of the mix, filling tourism jobs when suitable New Zealanders can’t be found. Tourism has roles that by nature of their location and duration will always be a struggle to fill,” Roberts said.
“Tourism is a people-focused industry. Our visitors want an authentic, memorable experience, and quality staff can make all the difference. Yes, we have seen a lot of job losses because of COVID-19 but those roles will need to be filled again, with people ready and able to deliver a world-class visitor experience.”
TIA is calling on the incoming Government to:
- Accept the need to attract Kiwis to work in tourism including ongoing support for the Go With Tourism programme
- Invest in workforce development by supporting TIA’s ‘Rebuilding the Tourism Workforce’ programme
- Ensure immigration settings allow tourism employers to secure quality staff when no suitable New Zealanders are available
- Foster the participation of Māori in the tourism industry
- Support tertiary education initiatives to provide fees-free training and qualifications to current and displaced tourism employees
- Upgrade the status of tourism at secondary school by restoring tourism achievement standards.