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Hard Work Finding the Right People, say Tourism Businesses

Hard Work Finding the Right People, say Tourism Businesses

Just under half of New Zealand tourism businesses are struggling to hire the skilled people they need, according to new research released today by ATTTO (the Aviation, Tourism and Travel Training Organisation).

Of more than 300 tourism operators surveyed, 42% said they had difficulty recruiting people with the right skills and experience over the last 12 months. Around 50% said they expect their staffing requirements to increase over the next three years, indicating a growing need for skilled/experienced tourism employees.

The 2011 Tourism Workforce Survey was conducted by Angus and Associates on behalf of ATTTO in June to inform an update to New Zealand’s Tourism Workforce Development Strategy, a project being led by ATTTO.

Survey results give a picture of the size, demographic profile and seasonality of the tourism workforce, and the extent to which lack of skilled staff is impacting tourism businesses.

ATTTO Chief Executive Elizabeth Valentine says the survey reinforced known factors, such as the high seasonality of tourism employment and the average smaller size of tourism businesses. The average number of staff employed by businesses surveyed was 16.

“However results also showed that people working in the tourism sector come from all age groups and backgrounds, with around half holding tertiary qualifications. This goes against the perception by some outside the sector that people in tourism are largely younger, unqualified workers,” says Ms Valentine.

“Tourism offers careers for people of all ages, with a wide range of customer service, technical, professional and managerial roles available. Unfortunately one finding of the survey is that wages and salaries are often lower than the national average, which posses a challenge for operators looking to attract and retain top people.”

The survey found that around 40% of people in tourism businesses are employed in customer service or sales roles, and that customer service skills were in the greatest demand. More than 50% of respondents said they anticipated needing more customer service skills/experience in their businesses in the future. This was followed by skills in marketing (50%), sales (44%) and languages (30%). Compared with other issues tourism businesses may face over the next few years, a quarter of respondents said attracting, retaining and developing staff was likely to be more difficult.

Elizabeth Valentine said the research will help prioritise how ATTTO works with the tourism industry to help businesses develop and adapt to the needs of new markets, such as the sophisticated demands of wealthy Chinese travellers.

“These results further underline the need to ensure tertiary qualifications and training are well matched to the needs of the sector.

“ATTTO is currently working with tertiary providers, industry and the NZQA to review tourism qualifications. These results are a timely reminder that we must ensure training equips people with the skills tourism businesses need to increase yield and profitability, and further grow the industry’s economic contribution.”

For a summary of research findings, visit


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