Tourism sector focuses on safety as part of recovery

‘We know of some examples where large companies are starting to bring in safety and health officers as a new role’

Tourism sector focuses on safety as part of recovery
The tourism industry may have to adopt new job titles to project confidence to consumers that health and safety is being properly managed, says an expert.

With the tourism industry effectively shut down due to COVID-19, getting back to normal operations will involve fundamental changes to business practices, according to Philip Mondor, president of Tourism HR Canada in Ottawa.

Tourism-based employers are “going to have to redo business models because their client profile and target markets have changed, and they are not able to have as much contact with people, hands-on.”

It’s about reforming entire HR strategies and plans, says Mondor, and bringing workers in “on different times and different protocols.”

For many small communities in Canada, the tourism industry is “the anchor or the leading economic engine,” he says, making it critically important for them to have the industry return strongly.

However, many of those smaller centres are “reticent to reopen because they’re not well-equipped resource-wise if there are any significant outbreaks. Residents of these communities are more anxious to have these industries come back because it means foreigners coming in and they have less control over the potential of the pandemic entering their region,” says Mondor.

Focus on safety

In a post-COVID world, the perception of tourism workers may also change, he says.

“What we will see is a better appreciation for the rules of tourism workers writ large; that their jobs have a lot to do with safety, security of people. I think this is really going to elevate people’s appreciation and understanding of it.”

New job titles will be created that didn’t exist before, says Mondor, and the tourism industry may have to adopt some of those to project confidence to consumers that health and safety is being properly managed.

“We know of some examples where large companies are starting to bring in safety and health officers as a new role, who do things like audit the entire operation to find out if it’s compliant with some of these standards, to do training and to manage record-keeping and produce evidence effectively that the standards are being well-maintained.”

Philip Mondor

For HR, a new definition of sick leave will have to be added in policy documents, he says.

“If someone was to call their manager and say, ‘I need to be in quarantine for the next two weeks,’ it’s a very different situation than ‘I need a day off’ and so we’re going to see more of this requirement of a nimble workforce.”

Slow recovery anticipated

Recovery is going to be slow as the sector was heavily hit, says Mondor, with more than a million of the sector’s 1.8 million works impacted within the first two weeks of the pandemic in Canada.

“There has been an enormous preparation of guidelines or protocols or recovery plans in the last several weeks, being put out by trade associations, industry groups, public health, governments, private companies.”

Many global travel groups, such as the World Tourism Organization, and the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), as well as Canadian hotel and attractions organizations, have produced guidelines to safe reopenings, leaving the industry well-prepared when the greenlight to reopen is given, he says. 

“There’s no shortage of these types of things that have been put out there [but] it’s a wild west of guidelines. There’s a lot of stuff out there, and I would suggest a lot of it is good.”

Another change being contemplated to help revive the industry might be mandating four-day workweeks.

“The hope would be that increased leisure time for people [and] the general thinking is if you gave them bigger, longer weekends, it would increase leisure time,” says Mondor. “There’s lots of research to shows that this can increase more consumption of the tourism product because it will help incentivize travel, hopefully. The industry could benefit probably from people having more leisure time, and the sector has that to offer.”

Almost 90 per cent of businesses in Canada have begun planning for a return to normal, according to a survey while another survey showed that many employers are not yet ready to reopen due to safety concerns.

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