Staff shortages are set to remain a key issue for the tourism sector during 2022, despite rising supply and demand. Importantly, the sector’s recovery is contingent on its ability to solve this issue and to be able to meet the increasing demand for travel.

COVID-19 continues to effect tourism jobs

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a devastating impact on the travel and tourism industry. According to GlobalData, global international departures plummeted by 69% YoY from 1.5 billion in 2019 to 465.9 million in 2020. Consequently, the contribution of the travel and tourism industry to the global GDP contracted to 5.5% in 2020 from 10.4% in 2019 due to COVID-19 restrictions on mobility, according to an ‘Economic Impact Report’ by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). The report, based on analysis across the UK, the US, Spain, France, Italy and Portugal, also revealed that 62 million jobs have been lost globally.

While increasing demand for travel experiences has a potential to accelerate the recovery of the travel and tourism sector, it will continue to be hampered by staff shortages. This is especially true as the emergence of new COVID-19 variants such as Delta and Omicron led governments to restrict mobility once again. According to GlobalData’s Job Analytics Database, active job postings declined by 8.3% between October 2021 and January 2022, demonstrating the adverse impact of the Omicron variant on the travel industry.

Skill shortages will exacerbate already suffering industry

Several developed economies introduced government support packages or schemes to alleviate the strain on tourism companies. For instance, the UK implemented a job retention scheme, which paid furloughed workers 80% of their pre-pandemic income. The French government offered a furlough scheme, ‘activité partielle’, through which the government covered 70% of worker’s gross salary. However, one contributing factor to rising staff shortages is a significant number of furloughed or redundant tourism employees moving to other sectors during the pandemic, which will have exacerbated staff shortages in the travel and tourism industry.

According to GlobalData’s Job Analytics Database, the most in demand skills for active jobs in the travel and tourism sector pertain to digital media (13,636), social media (6,486) and big data (1,266). The pandemic and lockdown restrictions have limited offline lifestyles and the development and integration of new digital into

personal and professional lives has accelerated. In tandem, GlobalData’s Q4 2021 Consumer Survey* reveals the overwhelming popularity of online travel with 24% of global respondents reporting to use an online travel agent the last time they booked a holiday. As such, enhanced digital literacy and skills will be key to ensuring the resilience and strength of the tourism industry’s workforce. Addressing the challenge of staff shortages and potential skills gap with be paramount to ensuring a smoother travel recovery during 2022.

An overhaul in recruitment is needed

Better pay rates, improved occupational health and safety standards, and training opportunities will be needed if the industry is to attract and retain the right talent. In addition, the WTTC suggests facilitating talent mobility within and across borders, greater public-private collaboration to support educational programs and facilitating flexible working including hybrid and remote work to ensure the sector’s recovery and mitigate the threat of long-term staff shortages.

*GlobalData Consumer Survey Q4 2021 – 22,074