Training opportunities and clear career paths are essential to improving productivity in the tourism sector.

Dr Andreas Chai, from Griffith Business School, contributed to the June 2017 CEDA report into the economic consequences of Australia’s productivity performance in the service sector.

He suggests that more can be done to boost labour productivity in tourism by improving the quality of training opportunities and the management of casual workforces.

“In the short term, a casual workforce is fine as it keeps costs down and helps business owners survive,” Dr Chai said.

“But in the longer run, it will create a skill shortage due to the digital revolution.

“There will be an increase in demand for works who have IT skills or programming skills, with companies like AirBnB and hotels already marketing themselves on big digital platforms.

“The industry will have to compete with this and it will drive up costs.”

Adaption is key

But Dr Chai said there was still time for businesses to adapt.

“We need to think about career paths, about managing someone who starts in an entry-level job and giving them the opportunity to develop skills to move up into jobs with better wages and conditions.

“If businesses play the long game, they will benefit as their employees will stick around.”

Dr Chai said empowering workers in the tourism sector is particularly important as 60 per cent are female, and a large proportion are young.

The ability to transfer skills between jobs is also crucial.This does exist in Australia though standard qualifications and apprenticeships, but there’s still a low degree of buy-in from small businesses as they simply don’t have the time.

“More needs to be done,” Dr Chai said.

Now that companies like AirBnB and Uber are shaking up the sector, it’s clear theworkforce composition of tourism is changing.

“Some people will criticise their arrival and say it’s creating more of those casual jobs, but it’s more complicated.

“People are looking for part-time work or short-term opportunities outside their regular business.

“So we need to make sure their contracts are handled correctly, that they’ve got enough superannuation – and the government hasn’t quite worked this out yet.”

You can read the full CEDA report here.