We develop: Green, social and digital skills for the future of the tourism industry

21.10.2022Sanna-Mari Renfors & Olena de Andres GonzalezWe develop

The tourism and hospitality sector composes a complex ecosystem that includes different kinds and sizes of businesses, economic activities and skills needs. The significant impact of COVID-19 in the sector and the urgent need to address the digital and green transition continues to challenge the sector and demands new solutions.

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A recent report by OECD "Preparing the Digital Workforce for the Future" (OECD Tourism Papers, 2021) highlights the challenges that emerged during the pandemic and led to the need to develop digitalization in order to accelerate the recovery of the tourism sector. Digital technologies in tourism must respond faster to changes in the sector and contribute to increased productivity and service transformation. Recovery of human capital, active digitalization, creation of low- and medium-level skills, combined with digital competencies, if necessary, as well as minimization of restrictions associated with automation, robotics, AI and big data could lead to job problems and new cybersecurity threats in the industry. The current need for the development of learning skills, curricula and initiatives can focus on promoting the opportunity to learn and develop throughout life – it is one of the possible solutions in the current situation.

The influence of developing green skills is also a significant trend in the field of tourism and hospitality. The formation of skills related to a sustainable future is an important social task. To meet this challenge, there is a need to introduce sustainable measures in agriculture tourism, eco-friendly tour operating, energy saving and waste management in the accommodation sector. Minimising the impact of tourism in the local heritage and communities is an important topic, as well. These initiatives are essential in the reskilling of the workforce.

The development of social skills is linked to ongoing changes in Europe's current social challenges, such as demographic change, the growth of the middle class, more elderly tourists and inclusive initiatives, digital native skills entering the travel market and a continued increase in individual experiences in tourism.

New technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotization, Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR, blockchain) will continue to influence business models, jobs and the tourism industry in general. In the entire modern world, digital skills are key in this skills triangle. Thus, there is a need to develop a comprehensive and innovative approach to enhancing digital skills.

Environmental, social and digital skills are equally important as they complement each other and create synergy. This balanced triangle is essential for a strong destination and to combat both over- and under-tourism. Relatively low wages, limited career opportunities and poor working conditions all contribute to the limited attractiveness of tourism for future employees. Thus, there is a need to capture the gaps and especially skill gaps in the industry, as tourism interests need to rise to higher positions to attract the attention of prospective professionals and clients. For example, through raising awareness of inclusion, fairness and equity in tourism, i.e. organizing trainings on gender equality, promoting diversity and inclusion in the entertainment sector through digital accessibility solutions, and implementing policies that promote access to education for students throughout life.

Creating new resources through an international consortium

The Pact for Next Tourism Generation Skills (PANTOUR) is a consortium that seeks to boost innovation through cooperation to develop activities, strengthen partnerships and produce resources to implement the Blueprint for Sectoral Skills Development in Tourism in Europe. PANTOUR is composed by a transnational alliance of 13 partners from the vocational training, life-long learning and higher education landscapes, and all the tourism industry sector representatives from all over Europe. The knowledge and background of the partnership obtained in the Next Tourism Generation Alliance (NTG) project (2017-2022) will provide the necessary tools and conditions to successfully implement the Blueprint from the first moment.

Training needs vary greatly from country to country, and implementing curricula and educational modules across countries in their multiple contexts and in collaboration with local partners and governments is often a way to meet requirements for new skills. The creation of tools and frameworks by the Next Tourism Generation (NTG) Alliance during the development of the plan has already resulted in solutions to address local and national challenges in cooperation in the sector, such as the collaborative management framework, the Standard Quality Skills Framework, the NTG Toolkit and the NTG Online Skills Matrix. Further initiatives under the PANTOUR project aim to address existing and emerging skills needs in the tourism and hospitality industry, training the workforce, managers, business owners, local governments and governments with specific tools to address skills shortages in the future. Special attention is given at the regional/local level in partnership with VET providers and training centers.

Through the sectoral skills intelligence and monitoring, training programs and methodologies and tools for workforce, business and education, it is possible to effectively implement training for adult employees, develop new skills and digitalize SMEs. This approach will create value-chain communities of digital transformation practice, as considered by the OECD report. With the participation of a collaborative partnership between the industry, education providers and the governments for policy consideration this will allow to prepare the tourism workforce for the digital future.

The consortium aims especially at designing innovative and cooperative solutions to address skills needs in the all the tourism ecosystem, with the development of outputs such as: the Sectoral Skills Intelligence Monitor, the Skills Lab, a Resource Books for Trainers, the implementation of the NSRGs, a Skills Strategy Plan for 2026-2036, among others.

Outputs of the PANTOUR project will benefit job seekers, unemployed and employed workers from the industry, employers and SMEs, dedicating special attention in reskilling and upskilling the workforce after the impacts of Covid-19 in the industry. Public and private training institutions would benefit from new innovative content and teaching methods on core skills. The number of people benefiting from this proposal could be approximately over 10 million that work across the tourism sector in Europe.

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