Hard-hit tourism industry adapts to changing times

‘They are repurposing their knowledge… helping the businesses innovate’

Hard-hit tourism industry adapts to changing times
Once a global pandemic was announced, Canada’s tourism industry lost about a third of its workforce within 10 weeks, says one expert.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on employment in all industries, but the tourism sector has been dealt a worse card than many.

“The reality is the industry took a very, very large hit, very early. And we do know it’s going to take a long time to recover, longer than the economy overall,” says Philip Mondor, CEO of Tourism HR Canada.

“Once it was announced that there was a global pandemic, we lost about a third of our workforce or 880,000 workers within 10 weeks. And still today, we are short of about 500,000 of those workers. So you can anticipate that there’s been a lot of impact as a result of all these displaced people and what it means in terms of their jobs and the businesses.”

But employers in the tourism industry have not left these workers out to dry, according to Mondor.

“For some who were furloughed or were not in their jobs anymore, most of the things that businesses did are to get in touch with them and to provide supports. In recent months, it’s been much more around mental health supports and attaching them to resources to help with issues of that type.”.

Back in June, Mondor said the tourism industry would have to reform entire HR strategies and plans to cope with the economic changes.

Changing roles

Those who have managed to stay on with their employers have had to deal with a lot of changes in the workplace.

“It’s the people that were doing the interactions with the consumers or the clients, face to face interactions. Those jobs have been most impacted in terms of how protocols have changed for them. They can’t just do their work in certain ways. They have to find ways on how things might be done still in a customer-interfacing scenario,” he says.

“Some of them have managed to provide services in a PPE environment, they can wear different garb and manage things… They have new protocols and so they’re adjusting to those protocols and the volume of the business they do and the way they do things have changed.”

Philip Mondor

A good number of workers have been tasked with different kinds of work that they’re not familiar with. For example, they’re helping redefine business models, says Mondor.

“Since they know the businesses so well, they’ve been asked to work on things like finding new markets and doing research on what those markets look like, and helping develop new products, new services, new marketing strategies [that are] no longer customer-interfacing,” he says.

“They are repurposing their knowledge but putting [that] into new types of jobs, new tasks that are helping the businesses innovate what they are doing.”

There’s a huge opportunity for HR in upskilling the workforce, say experts.

However, it requires consultations, says Mondor.

“It’s a process that involves working very closely with the worker to help them make decisions on the type of work they like to take on or how they want to change into something different. So it’s unique for everybody, they’re not just assigned new roles. It’s a process that involves consultation with the worker and giving them an opportunity to make decisions on what their professional track will look like, and how they will adapt to these new roles.”

It also involves providing training and the right kinds of support. For example, if people moved into digital marketing, “they learn more about how to use the technology, they are given skills on how to build new marketing strategies that involve adoption like how to use social media, how to start connecting with consumers through virtual means,” he says.

With the pandemic, important for employers to consider recalibrating their entire business models, says Mondor.

“[They shouldn’t] think about what they used to be but think about where they need to go. And get grounded in looking at what their business needs to look like going forward. It could be far different on what it was [so] focus on what’s doable, not what it was.”

More than eight in 10 (82 per cent) employers did not list pandemics or other major health crises among the top 10 risks on their risk registers before the COVID-19 crisis, according to Aon.

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