by Brelda Baum
Training and skills remain perennial issues for the tourism industry. Therefore, the recent call by UK Skills Minister, Matthew Hancock at a Work Foundation conference on skills, held on 3rd March 2014, for a move from a low to a high ‘training culture’ resonates with the European Commission’s proposal to establish a set of voluntary European Tourism Quality Principles. These are intended to ensure that tourists travelling to other Member States or visiting Europe from other countries will get value for their money. Training lies at the heart of these principles.
A newly published UKCES report on ‘The Future of Work: Jobs and skills in 2030’ offers a number of possible scenarios including ‘skills activism’, where innovation in technology is likely to drive the automation of professional work, multi-media virtual work will become the norm, and businesses are likely to decrease their core workforce and begin to rely on networks of project-based workers. It looks at trends shaping UK jobs and skills, ‘disruptions’ that could radically change the shape of work, and what needs to be done to prepare for tomorrow’s world of work. As the ILO highlight in their 2010 report ‘Developments and challenges in the hospitality and tourism sector’, tourism is like any other sector of the economy in that its products and services are constantly changing, with major implications for the quality of work it offers and the skills it demands.
The future painted by these reports ties in rather neatly with proposals to develop a set of voluntary European Tourism Quality Principles that cover four main areas: staff training under the supervision of a quality coordinator, consumer satisfaction to ensure that tourists can rely on effective handling of their complaints, cleanliness and maintenance, and correctness and reliability of information in at least the most relevant foreign language. The University of Westminster suggests that small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) will find it easier to emphasise that they are providing a high quality service by adhering to such principles.
That training is undoubtedly a key issue for the tourism sector is also picked up in the ‘State of the nation report 2013: an analysis of labour market trends, skills, education and training within the UK hospitality and tourism industries’ particularly employers’ commitment to staff training and development. Brian Wisdom, writing in a 2012 issue of ‘Tourism’ – ‘Exporting the UK model’ – suggests a need for the tourism industry to build on its campaign to raise customer service standards, following successful training programmes for large scale events such as the Olympic Games. Satisfying the demand for skills is a recurring headache – highlighted by the ‘Report of the Tourism Education and Training Task Group’ in 2009, by Scottish Enterprise in 2005 in its ‘Tourism development programme 2004-05: set your sights on winning business’ and, in a European context by CEDEFOP in its 2005 report ‘Trends and skill needs in tourism’.
Creating a ‘high training culture’ in a sector like tourism poses real challenges, but the changing nature of work demands that these issues are addressed in order to create a quality experience for visitors.