Tourism Talent for the Future Webinar

CIM South West Tourism Ambassador & Chartered Marketer, Adam Jones recently joined a panel discussion on the subject of ‘Tourism Talent for the Future’.

The webinar was part of the world’s leading travel and tourism expo, World Travel Market (WTM). A highlight of the tourism industry calendar, WTM attracts over 50,000 visitors to Excel London each year, though the event was forced to move entirely online for 2020.

The panel session explored the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the travel and tourism industry. The discussion covered the risk of 'brain drain’, as talent is lost from the industry, the potential for a 'forgotten generation' of students and recent graduates, and what the industry can do to support its employees, potential recruits, and the talent who leave tourism but may one day look to return.

Alongside Adam, the panel included Nicola Sadowski, HR Consultant for luxury travel brand Kuoni; Niki Zoli, Former Director of Social Impact, Marriott International; and James Nally, Senior Manager at Michael Page recruitment.

A hot topic of discussion was continuing professional development, and particularly the importance of continuously improving digital skills.

"CIM have seen a notable increase in the number of members and the wider community engaging with qualifications, articles, podcasts, webinars, and the members’ CPD program.” Adam said, “And the main area where we’re seeing people looking for more training is digital skills. In fact, even when people have just completed a digital webinar, if they’re asked what they’d like to do next, the answer is often even more digital training.

CIM research has shown that more organisations are broadening their marketing structures at a junior level, with junior marketers seeing significant investment in their development and increasing their technical knowledge. But it’s also vital that individuals take responsibility for their own CPD.

The same research also showed that in many head of department level roles, knowledge has actually slipped over the last two years. And looking specifically at travel and tourism, we’re in line with other industries, but almost nobody is doing digital particularly well. It’s an area that is constantly changing so people need to train to get ahead or even just to keep up.

Remote working makes it a challenge to build skills, as people can become isolated and not pick up knowledge in passing as they would in an office environment. So that makes taking responsibility for your own CPD even more important.

Now more than ever, digital skills are at the forefront of everything we do. Covid is removing in-person interaction so digital is needed to fill the gap. With digital, particularly areas like SEO and social media, you need to be constantly training in order to not stand still. And this applies to all roles, not just marketers. So, my advice in terms of CPD would be to prioritise digital.”

James Nally added that digital skills are increasingly in-demand and seen as transferable, and that digital CPD can therefore help to broaden career options. He said: "There are some skillsets that are just easily transferrable - such as finance and HR - but the digital space is also interesting, with opportunity for recruiters to pick out talent. The market out there isn't easy, I think everyone knows that. But we have had some discussions with big corporations looking at the digital talent within the travel industry."

The discussion also covered the importance of adaptability and customer understanding.

Referencing ‘needs research’ conducted by the CIM, Adam said "Employers are looking for people who are able to develop an in-depth understanding of their audiences and who can work across multiple channels. It’s important that people are able to adapt to an 'always on' culture.”

Nicola Sadowski added "All of us now going forward need to realise we are in a different world. Things change, so adaptability and an ability to multi-task are really important".

Finally, with the travel and tourism industry effectively shut down due to the pandemic, and a long period of uncertainty ahead, the panel discussed the future of the sector and the prospects for those who want to work in tourism but may face redundancy or worry about job security.

"It's ok to take a pause right now. You are talented and necessary for this industry. Make that lane change and look at other opportunities, your skills are transferrable" said Niki Zoli, “If in your heart you really want to come back to travel and tourism, the door will always be open.”

Adam added “It’s perfectly possible to gain transferable skills outside of tourism then join or rejoin the industry. You can always keep in touch with tourism while working in other sectors, then make the switch. Many employers will look favourably on this, as you’ll bring with you new perspectives gained from working elsewhere and, as discussed, you can really get ahead by ensuring your CPD is up-to-date, particularly in the areas of digital, customer understanding, and working across multiple channels.”