As part of a joint Earthcheck-GIFT team, I was recently involved in organizing a workshop for the APEC Tourism Working Group that examined a broad range of tourism workforce issues in the APEC region. It was attended by several business and government delegates from throughout the Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia, South Korea, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Maco and Mexico. Representatives from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) and the Regional director of Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA).

The aim of the workshop was to discuss key barriers to growth and possible solution that can reduce skills shortages faced by the sector and enhance skill development, staff retention, labour mobility and career pathways of the tourism workforce. Many governments recognize that the rapid rise of tourism is an important engine for inclusive growth as tourism is a labour intensive, seven-day-a-week industry, which depends on an adequately supplied and skilled workforce to service its global customer base.

However, the future growth of the tourism industry faces several labour market challenges including technological disruptions, such as the digitisation, big data and robotics, which is changing the type of skills businesses are looking for in workers, relatively low wage and labour productivity growth, limited opportunities for tourism-related vocational training and negative perception of the industry among worker and potential workers choosing a career path.

It was great to see lively and passionate discussion on these issues. It became clear that many of these challenges are shared by APEC economies throughout the region. In addition, there was an emphasis on the need for tourism business to work together with education and VET providers on a national level to ensure that education sector is informed and stays up to date with key skills trends and business needs. The final report that will feature key recommendation and growth strategies is due to be published in December.

During the trip I also met some wonderful lecturers and eager students from the Kokopu Business School located near Rabaul, PNG. Many students come from as far away as Manus Island, Bougainville and the Solomon archipelago to Study Business, Accounting and tourism & hospitality there. The school was recently rebuilt after the eruption of nearby Mount Tavuvur.

See photos of the event:


This article was written by Griffith Institute for Tourism member Dr. Andreas Chai.