The people predicament: How will we retain talents whose faith is broken?

For an industry that often says its success depends on its people, losing good people to despair and other industries is worrying. On the bright side, this crisis could be a turning point for the travel, tourism and business events profession.

For as long as I have been covering travel, tourism and business events news – just 15 short years – laments of talent shortage have never ceased. There was always not enough folks who were both educated or experienced and passionate enough to outlast the pressures of long hours, frequent travels, and more attractive salaries offered by other industries.

These laments will deepen because of the dire straits the pandemic has put the industry in, which has resulted in an exodus of talents through business closures, retrenchments and dampened spirits.

According to ACI Report 2021, an annual salary and employment trends study published by ACI HR Solutions, 24 per cent of the industry was made redundant in 2020, and nine per cent have yet to secure re-employment.

For some, the state of joblessness provides a rare time for rest and family reconnection. For others, it is a period of endless anxiety because from where will the next meal come?

This period of endless anxiety is not reserved just for displaced workers. Those holding on to their jobs are now shouldering additional loads in place of their retrenched colleagues while drawing a reduced wage. Half of 829 respondents from across Asia-Pacific and surrounding regions took a pay cut in 2020, with 36 per cent of them getting 25-50 per cent less income.

A depressing year for our industry has led 20 per cent of respondents to lose confidence in our industry. Even worse, 68 per cent of respondents plan to quit or exit the industry in the next 12 months, with 27 per cent open to exploring opportunities outside of the industry.

Kaye Chon, dean and chair professor of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s School of Hotel and Tourism Management, has often emphasised on the versatility of the hospitality expertise. Hospitality graduates and professionals are highly sought after by luxury retail companies, banks, medical services or any businesses that require a tender human touch.

For an industry that often says its success depends on its people, losing good people to despair and other industries is worrying. On the bright side, this crisis could be a turning point for the travel, tourism and business events profession.

There are some practices effected during lockdowns that can work great now and forever more, and not just for the multinational companies but also for small outfits. For example, working from home and supporting it with a proper structure; relegating less critical meetings to web format; flexi-hours with wage adjustments as an option; and a regular mental well-being programme.

Here’s one more – compulsory skills upgrading for all staff which counts towards their performance appraisal. If there is one thing this travel and tourism crisis has taught us, it is that constant innovation is critical. Skills and jobs can be made obsolete by new challenges which require creative, new solutions. Constant staff training could be a company’s insurance against redundancy.

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