This plan seeks to address systemic challenges in the tourism workforce
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We identified the systemic challenges facing the tourism workforce, summarised by the four problem statements and supporting data.
Demand fluctuations: due to the seasonal nature of tourism, demand for tourism employees fluctuates through the year, weeks, days and between regions, meaning employees can lack job security and are sometimes underutilised or overworked.
Pay and conditions: low pay and poor conditions can be a barrier to attracting and retaining people to work in tourism. Sometimes pay and conditions are not compliant with minimum legal standards.
Firm maturity and scale: due to the industry being composed of mostly small and medium sized enterprises, some tourism businesses lack the scale, systems and capacity to effectively manage human resources and have low levels of investment in workers’ training and development.
Current and future skills gap: tourism struggles to attract and retain people with the skills the industry needs, particularly from the domestic workforce, and does not sufficiently invest in training for both current and future needs.
To help ensure the ITP has a solid understanding of the current workforce situation and to help inform our final Action Plan, the ITP Leadership Group commissioned Dr David Williamson from Auckland University of Technology to conduct a survey of the tourism and hospitality workforce. This survey is based on the methodology of the recent Voices from The Front Line 2021  research but encompasses the breadth of the tourism industry (as opposed to the focus of the original report on the hospitality sector). Results from the survey will be available in late 2022.
Data behind the key challenges
Tourism spend is seasonal - in 2019, total spend was 52% higher in summer than in winter .
The number of filled jobs in tourism-related industries was estimated to be higher in the summer than the winter. This included 13.9% higher in activity, travel and tour services, 8.6% higher in transport services, and 5.3% higher in accommodation and food and beverage services between winter in 2019 and summer in 2019-2020 .
Women are estimated to have a more seasonal pattern in employment than men. Women’s percentage share increases in the December quarter, and decreases in the June quarter (as much as a 17% decrease in June 2020, compared to a 7% decrease for men) .
Pay and conditions
Tourism sees a higher proportion of roles at the lower end of the pay scale. It is estimated that the median hourly income for the tourism sector was $21.58, 22% less than the median hourly income across all sectors ($27.76) . A large proportion of the tourism sector workforce are in retail trade, accommodation, and food service industries, which has a large influence on the lower median wage of the tourism sector.
Reasons people found working in tourism unappealing included low pay and a perception it would be an unsustainable career. Hours for working in tourism are often unsociable (e.g. evenings and weekend) .
In a survey of hospitality employees, 20% of 400 survey respondents did not receive holiday pay, 22% were not paid or given time in lieu for working during statutory holidays, and 22% did not receive rest breaks .
Firm maturity and scale
At end of March 2020, 87% of tourism businesses had fewer than 20 employees .
In a survey of hospitality employees, 81% of 400 survey respondents said they were not provided any training in their past or current roles. 48% reported they did not have the opportunity for a pay rise or promotion at work .
MBIE research has found that historically, some businesses in tourism (particularly retail, hospitality, and arts and recreation) have had low profit margins that mean they have struggled to afford paying higher wages . This is also likely to be impacting on business’ ability to invest in training and development.
Current and future skills gap
The number of tourism learners declined by 55% (2,535), from 4,625 in 2017 to 2,090 in 2021, with a large drop of 35% (1,135) during COVID-19, between 2020 and 2021 . This drop of tourism learners over COVID-19 is an outlier from the 11% overall increase of enrolments in tertiary education.
The Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) decreased investment in tourism education and training by 57% over 2017-2021. Prior to COVID-19, TEC was reducing investment in some tourism education and training, but from 2020, TEC made further reductions. This decrease in investment was largely in response to COVID-19 impacts which meant that fewer staff were being hired. However, the tourism industry has never had significant learner numbers, largely due to many roles not requiring formal education and training.
1. Dr Williamson, D., Rasmussen, E., and Palao, C. (2022), Voices from the Front Line, AUT University School of Hospitality and Tourism, Faculty of Business, Economics and Law, https://news.aut.ac.nz/aut-news-site/Voices-From-The-Front-Line.pdf(external link) [PDF 17MB]
2. Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (2020), Monthly Regional Tourism Estimate 2016-2020, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, https://www.mbie.govt.nz/immigration-and-tourism/tourism-research-and-data/tourism-data-releases/monthly-regional-tourism-estimates/
3. Stats NZ, COVID-19 Data Portal, Monthly Filled Jobs – Tourism https://www.stats.govt.nz/experimental/covid-19-data-portal.
4. Estimate created using data sourced from Stats NZ, Household Labour Force Survey (June 2021) and tourism product ratios from the Tourism Satellite Account (2021).
5. Edwards, P. (2018, August), Perceptions of careers in the tourism industry, ATEED and TIA, https://www.aucklandnz.com/sites/build_auckland/files/media-library/documents/Perceptions-of-careers-in-the-tourism-industry-quantitative-research.pdf(external link)
6. Dr Williamson, D., Rasmussen, E., and Palao, C. (2022), Voices from the Front Line, AUT University School of Hospitality and Tourism, Faculty of Business, Economics and Law, https://news.aut.ac.nz/aut-news-site/Voices-From-The-Front-Line.pdf(external link).
7. Service IQ (2021), Hinonga Kōkiri Tourism Industry Skills Summary, Ringa Hora, Hinonga Kōkiri / Head Start Project » ServiceIQ(external link)
8. Allen, C., Mare, D. (2022, March), Who Benefits from Firm Success?, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, https://www.mbie.govt.nz/dmsdocument/20016-who-benefits-from-firm-success-summary-pdf(external link).
9. Ive, N. (2022, February 28), Aide-Memoire: Recent trends on investment in education and training for the tourism sector, Tertiary Education Commission, https://tec.govt.nz/assets/Ministerial-papers/AM-22-00010-Update-to-the-Minister-on-Provision-to-the-Tourism-Sector-....pdf(external link)