Addressing the challenge of staff shortages within the sector will require the prioritisation and implementation of policies and initiatives, ranging from the facilitation of labour mobility and remote work (where feasible), the upskilling and reskilling and retention of the workforce, to the provision of safety nets and enabling decent work. Such policies can be further enabled through financial incentives such as tax relief and the provision of government subsidies. The success of these policies will require multi-stakeholder collaboration, including the public and private sector as well as academia. What’s more, governments should identify the skills their market needs to achieve economic advantage, assess the availability of these skills and determine which current policies may need to be updated and/or new policies enacted to meet future needs.
1. FACILITATE LABOUR MOBILITY
Enabling and facilitating talent mobility within and across borders is an effective mechanism to address staff shortages and bridge a skills gap. In the wake of COVID-19, this will require governments to remove travel restrictions and implement technological solutions to enable a quick and efficient experience. What is more, governments need to reconsider migration policies, facilitate visa policies, promote regional markets, and address tax treaty issues. Such an approach has been taken by The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) which addresses skilled worker shortages through labour mobility provisions via Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs). In effect, MRAs, which currently exist for six sectors including Travel & Tourism, recognise workers’ skills, experience, and accreditations in all countries within the trade bloc, enabling them to work outside their home country. To date, ASEAN has enabled the automatic recognition of 32 tourismrelated occupations. In addition to MRAs, there are agreements in place streamlining the procedures for citizens within the region who want to apply for business visas1 . Recommendations Staff Shortages 7 ^Back to top
2. FACILITATE REMOTE WORK
The pandemic accelerated the move to flexible working including hybrid and remote work. As such, enabling and supporting remote working practices, where feasible, can be a useful tool to address talent shortages, particularly if travel restrictions prevent talent mobility. Such an approach may also encourage employees to return to work following the pandemic including many adults with caring responsibilities for either children or elderly family members. However, it is important to note that flexible working may not be feasible or may be difficult to implement for certain roles, particularly customer-facing roles, within the Travel & Tourism sector. Still, where it is possible, it should be considered, given the many associated possible opportunities and benefits.
3. ENABLE DECENT WORK AND PROVIDE SOCIAL SAFETY NETS
Enabling and supporting decent work – work that is safe, fair, productive, and meaningful – is key to attract and retain talent. This issue has become even more relevant in the wake of COVID-19, with many struggling with mental health and having concerns and fears around financial security and unemployment. In this context, the public and private sectors have a significant role to play in enhancing employees’ mental wellbeing. What is more, policymakers will need to evaluate and adjust social safety nets and social protection mechanisms to ensure that no one is left behind. Already today, in certain parts of the world, businesses must comply with legislation that gives freelance workers employment rights including access to minimum wages and paid holidays. For instance, the United Kingdom’s Modern Slavery Act and its 2018 law addressing pay transparency require businesses to take board-level responsibility for, or publicly report, such essential information.
4. UPSKILL AND RESKILL WORKFORCE AND RETAIN TALENT
Training, reskilling, and upskilling schemes aimed at equipping one’s workforce with new and improved skills to operate in the Travel & Tourism sector, such as enhanced digital literacy, will be essential to strengthen the future readiness of the sector’s workforce, and help overcome the issue of talent shortages. It is essential that training addresses both current and anticipated needs. For instance, Singapore is proactively preparing its workforce to meet tomorrow’s travel demand. In effect, Singapore’s SGUnited Skills programme2 comprises a wide range of training courses that helps Singaporeans acquire in-demand and emerging skills across several sectors. The scheme aims to create around 100,000 jobs and various skill-building opportunities. Beyond upskilling, the sector must also focus on attracting and retaining new talent by improving the perception of Travel & Tourism as a career choice and highlighting career growth opportunities within the sector. In this context, retention efforts will also be critical to ensure minimal leakage of quality assets.
5. CREATE AND PROMOTE EDUCATION AND APPRENTICESHIPS
As the nature of work and skills evolve, accelerated to an extent by the COVID-19 pandemic, so will talent and recruitment needs. In this context, effective policies and public-private collaboration, that have a potential to support educational programs and apprentice-based training, are crucial to bridging skills gaps and developing a workforce that can help the sector thrive. In Switzerland, for example, ‘dual’ vocation, education, and training (VET) systems, in which students combine learning in school and workplace settings, are being used to teach 21st-century skills. The system is preparing a broad cross-section of students for careers in a range of occupations including high-tech, human services, traditional trades, and crafts3 . Ultimately, these programmes are achieving success due to a shared vision among three key partners—the federal government, employer organisations and associations, and local municipalities.