An over depleted workforce will make tourism recovery more difficult

An over depleted workforce will make tourism recovery more difficult

Every year, at the start of winter, we officially celebrate Worker’s Day – an important day for most South Africans. Celebrated as a global holiday since 1981, it only really became a significant holiday in South Africa after the first democratic elections took place in 1994, illustrating the deep historic connections between the working class and the struggle against apartheid.

The “Workforce”, was an important weapon against the previous regime and was effectively used to assist in the deconstruction of apartheid – certainly something to be celebrated.

As time passes, the strong divide between the working classes and other levels of employment are beginning to diminish, at least in terms of respect and opportunity.
The workforce of today’s industry, are seen to be role-players at every level.

The immediate economic effects of COVID-19 on the tourism workforce 

The effects of the pandemic, certainly hit workers in the tourism industry at every level.
– from cleaners and waiters to top executives of large travel companies.
A sad reality is that by August last year, most major travel companies had, out of necessity, reduced their workforce by more than 50% and these were all COVID-19 related job losses.

Astute businesses though, retained a sufficient workforce to enable them to continue to operate, and more importantly, grow exponentially as the pandemic lessened its grip.
It stands to reason, that as this industry begins to see some recovery, there is a real possibility of an over-depleted workforce being a real problem. 

Future scenario planning must include the workforce

I believe, that as employers, we need to ask ourselves a few questions if we are to transition back to a profitable, successful segment in the tourism industry:

Do you as a business have the right resources in terms of doing your scenario planning?

Have you possibly compromised your “key ingredient” by letting too many people go, instead of just temporarily adjusting their packages?

How will you start up your business again when business travel grows – trying to run lean and mean, assuming the technology is sufficient to replace human resources?
– In most cases technology is a tool to engender better travel experiences and augment human resources – not to replace them.

Another critical thing is to remember that this industry; from airlines, tour-operators, tavel agents and taxis to hotels and entertainment facilities, all stand or fall based on one primary thing – Service!

Compromise your manpower and you compromise your key ingredient.
It’s sort of like making a bobotie without the mince! I can confidently and proudly say that within my own companies we retained the individuals that place service above all else and have continued to excel in this important area.

In a nutshell, do you still have the essential resources to provide the service for growth when you come out of hibernation?
Remember, that growth, at least locally, could be sudden and significant.
It’s not to be underestimated.

Remembering the significance of employment

As our former President and father of our nation, Nelson Mandela said,
“It is what difference we have made to the lives of others, that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

Let us never allow, “Worker’s Day” to be a remembrance of the significance of workers past.
Rather, a reminder that workers are truly the backbone of any nation and that the more we employ, the stronger we become.

Stay safe – and stay positive!

LIDIA FOLLI

CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

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