Owen Hembry

Owen Hembry is the business news editor of the New Zealand Herald

RWC: Skills at premium but not pay

Savvy employers are making sure workers are trained and rewarding them properly. Photo / NZ Herald
Savvy employers are making sure workers are trained and rewarding them properly. Photo / NZ Herald

On the eve of one the country's biggest tourism events - the Rugby World Cup - a survey by an industry training body shows many operators are struggling to hire the skilled labour they need.

Poor pay is is being cited as one reason.

The Aviation, Tourism and Travel Training Organisation surveyed more than 300 tourism operators in June and found 42 per cent had difficulty recruiting people with the right skills and experience.

Chief executive Elizabeth Valentine said tourism offered 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 poses a challenge for operators looking to attract and retain top people," Valentine said.

About half of the operators said they expected staffing needs to rise during the next three years, while a quarter said attracting, retaining and developing staff was likely to be more difficult in the next few years.

Savvy businesses understood the mix of employing the right people, paying at least on average and then investing in them, Valentine said.

"I think that after a really difficult time and as New Zealand matures as a brand I think our really savvy operators are starting to realise that you can't just hire any old body," she said.

"This is an industry that has got a major contribution to make to the New Zealand economy and if you're going to maximise your yields and profitability you actually need to have skilled people."

According to the Ministry of Economic Development the tourism sector directly supported 92,900 full-time equivalent jobs - 4.9 per cent of the total workforce.

The survey would be used to inform an update to a Tourism Workforce Development Strategy project being led by the training organisation.

It was working with tertiary providers, industry and the NZQA to review tourism qualifications, Valentine said.

The survey reinforced known factors, including the seasonal aspect of tourism employment and the average smaller size of tourism businesses, she said.

The average number of staff employed by businesses in the survey was 16 people.

"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."

TOURISM SNAPSHOT

The industry

*$5.6b international visitor spend, year ended March.*

* $9b domestic tourism spend, year ended March.

* 31.8m commercial guest nights, year ended April.

* 92,900 full time equivalent jobs, 4.9pc of workforce.

Skill shortage

* 42 per cent of operators have difficulty hiring the right skills.

* 50 per cent of operators expect staffing needs to rise.

* 40 per cent employed in customer services or sales.

Wages are often lower than the national average.

* Excludes international airfares.

[Sources: Ministry of Economic Development; ATTTO 2011 Tourism Workforce Survey]

- NZ Herald

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