I sat down recently with Programme Director – Matt Stenton and his team at Go with Tourism, to find out how the tourism market has evolved and what New Zealand can do to support this sector and its people.
MS: Go with Tourism is a government-funded organisation that was launched in 2019 to build New Zealand’s tourism workforce, featuring a game-changing job connector platform and exciting initiatives to educate the public on the wide range of career options available and positives of working in tourism. However, when COVID-19 hit in March this year, Go with Tourism pivoted its service temporarily to support our tourism workforce, namely by redeploying displaced tourism workers into new jobs. We will also be retaining their information to help bring them back to tourism when the industry is ready to hire again.
An important part of what we hope to achieve post-COVID-19 is educating the public about the different career pathways available in the tourism industry. A lot of people don’t realise how diverse tourism is and that it covers nine subsectors, which are:
MS: For the people in the tourism sector right now it’s losing their livelihoods because of the COVID-19 impact, especially if they need to uproot their families and their lives to change location for work. From a longer-term perspective, we’re at risk of losing great people from the industry. A number of enquiries coming to us are from middle-management positions where they’ve lost their jobs and aren’t being replaced. There is a risk that the industry could lose these people forever, along with the experience and talents they bring to the table.
MS: Before COVID-19, it was the number one export industry in New Zealand, and I believe it will get there again. The tourism industry isn’t just made up of tour guides and hotels; it comprises of hundreds of job types such as marketing, HR, logistics, museum staff – even winemakers and retailers are impacted by tourism. Our tourism workers are at the forefront of curating New Zealand’s image and reputation to our international visitors, which has value that people may not recognise. Great customer experience is at the heart of what they do, and this translates to an unforgettable New Zealand experience that visitors will tell others about, encouraging others to venture over.
MS: As a part of our pivot, we’ve been working with a range of people throughout the country and across all nine sectors of the tourism industry who have recently lost their role. Many of them have come from the big tourism centres such as Queenstown, where the whole town has felt the pinch, right down to the people that build the bungy cords. Others come from smaller areas; locals who have lost their jobs at the iSite, or the iwi who rely on income from tourism to support their people. Senior managers, accountants, chefs, communications specialists, customer service staff, drivers, security guards – people from almost every department have been affected.
MS: One of the first things that jump to mind is adaptability. Law changes, international relations, social media, the NZX – all of this impacts New Zealand’s tourism industry. The weather can dictate not only what your day looks like but what your entire season could be and this can be unpredictable.
Very few people can be productive and positive for 10 hours on their feet, but in tourism this is the norm. You’re also expected to remember every face, detail and name – a great memory is key!
Role specific skills are gained in tourism roles such as a commercial licence, advanced first aid, SEO, payroll, or project management.
Outdoor hardiness, health and safety know-how, physical fitness, leadership, communications skills, autonomy, customer service… the range of skills and qualities found in tourism are vast and because many of these skills are transferable, tourism workers are fantastic candidates for roles in other industries.
MS: Right now, we suggest people remain open to a range of opportunities, at least for the next 6-12 months. Contact centre, production, reception, construction – these are some areas that we’ve been working with to redeploy people from the tourism industry. For those that have a bit more flexibility with location and hours there’s farming, horticulture or forestry.
Now is also a great time to upskill or retrain. For example, chefs are still on the skills shortage list and if you’re willing to work hard there’s a lot of long-term potential. It’s important to note that you may have to take a step back at the moment to be able to move forward in future.
MS: They hold a multitude of transferable skills, and will be loyal to a company and manager that they believe in. A desire to learn, and the initiative to grab and grow opportunities is common among tourism employees.
Customer service skills – people in the tourism industry often don’t advertise these because they just see them as a natural part of the job. And we’re not just talking about external customers, tourism employees often are the ones that bring culture to life within your business. They can read people, respond to their needs and wants, and bring the passion to the team.
MS: Explore your own backyard! Go to your local museum, hire bikes and cycle along the waterfront, take a weekend road trip. You know that restaurant that you’ve always wanted to go to but could never get a booking? Now’s your chance!
We know money can be a bit tight at the moment but there is a range of options to fit each budget, such as taking BYO for dinner or staying at a campground rather than a motel. It doesn’t just have to be about the big cities, the towns need your support too – for example Akaroa, Matakana, and Te Anau love having visitors.
For more information visit www.gowithtourism.co.nz/