The hospitality, travel and tourism industry employs over 258 million people according to the World Travel & Tourism Council. The US Travel Association determined that 1 of every 8 people is employed in the multiple sectors of the industry and travel is among the top 10 industries in the 48 states and DC (2009). People working in the US travel industry earned US$186.3 billion in 2009, and 2.7 percent of the US GDP is directly attributed to travel and tourism activities.
People travel, and in 2009 there were 54.9 million international arrivals in the US and these visitors spent US$70 billion (excluding international passenger fares). Direct spending by resident and international travelers’ in the US averaged US$1.9 billion a day, US$80 million an hour, US$1.3 million a minute, and US$22,300 a second.
With all the people working the industry, generating incomes for themselves and others, and providing a significant tax base, it would appear that the travel and tourism industry is an important source of employment and a viable revenue stream for governments.
The quantity of positions in the industry is indisputable; what is questionable is the quality of the opportunities – and this is a concern to academics, policy makers, executive search firms, and private industry.
Placement on the Career Ladder
The cultural commentator Douglas Coupland, talks critically of McJob which he describes as, “A low-pay, low-prestige, low-dignity, low-benefit, no-future job in the service sector.” Many entry-level options in the hospitality, travel, and tourism organizations are McJobs, and graduates with bachelors and masters degrees are unwilling to start their careers in these positions. At a recent meeting of senior tourism industry Asia-Pacific executives, Andrew Chan the CEO of TMS Asia Pacific, warned of a “…pressing need to develop the strategies required of the sector…” if it intends to attract and engage the Next generation of employees. In his executive position with TMS, Mr. Chan interfaces with college and university graduates and has found that, “There’s a misalignment of expectation between Gen Y and many organizations…” in the hospitality, travel, and tourism industry.
According to Chan, “Gen Y is the most educated generation in history, most coming out with degrees or even master degrees, and these are the people shying away from the entry-level jobs and assignments that are still expected of them by so many organizations.” Chan found that, “While most employers profess they are keen to hire for attitude, in practice they still focus on assessing candidates more for their skills during the recruitment process.”
Get it Right or Go Home
The owners and managers of operations in the hospitality and tourism industry are challenged to recruit, develop/train, and maintain a committed, competent, well-managed and well-motivated workforce capable of providing first-class, five-star consistent level of service to guests and clients, at a pay-scale that may not be competitive with other industries and with limited growth potential.
According to Chan, “Bad hiring decisions can adversely affect the morale of other employees – in a worst-case scenario, hiring the wrong person can actually result in a company losing good staff members.”
By Choice or Chance
Psychometric profiling and general mental ability testing can achieve real success at the interview phase of the recruiting process. An increasing number of hospitality, travel, and tourism organizations are using these techniques as they try to take the chance and guess work out of new hiring. According to Chan, “These systems provide a means of effectively assessing a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses while at the same time presenting an objective insight into a person’s behavior and temperament.”
With new hotels opening in traditional, as well as emerging, markets the demand for executive talent is increasing, while the hiring and promoting practices of hotel and related organizations continue to be mired in tradition. Chan finds that other industries, from banks to insurance operations, are actively recruiting from the hospitality, travel, and tourism management pool. To lure the candidate from the hotel into the bank, the young graduates are offered improved salaries, increased benefits, and work schedules that are not 24/7. Although the hospitality industry can be seductive, the Next generation is very concerned with the quality of their personal lives and are not rushing to give it up for the JOB.
According to Chan, “…at the end of the day, finding a candidate with the right attitude – as opposed to their skills being the defining factor – and one that fits in culturally, will ensure a much better chance of success. This factor is extremely relevant in today’s environment, particularly with the advent of the Gen Y phenomena.”
Work the Industry
Chan brings years of experience to his understanding of executive search. He earned his MBA at the University of South Australia and has been associated with TMS Asia Pacific since 2005. He launched his career as a travel agent in Australia and moved on to customer service and business development positions with Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines. He has also been associated with Stamford Hotels and Resorts, the Carlton Hotel Group, and Hospitality Marketing Concepts. An active participant in trade associations, Chan is a member of PATA, the president of HSMAI Singapore, ACTE, and SKAL Singapore.