Preparing for a world of differences
A conversation with Philip Mondor, President and CEO, TOURISM HR CANADA
This week, Tourism HR Canada’s Philip Mondor talks about the new realities of tourism in the aftermath COVID-19 and the roles that travel agents and tour operators will play in this new world.In May, tourism employment increased by 83,900 jobs. This increase is equal to 9.5% of the drop in employment (881,700) that occurred between February and April.
It won’t be easy for many tourism businesses and, unfortunately, some will not survive. The sector was impacted by the pandemic early and will be one of the last to recover. Government support and investments in recovery strategies will help ensure the sector rebounds and comes out stronger than ever.
What about business strategies? It is, and this is probably a bit of an understatement, a changed world. The kind of strategies that worked in 2019 probably won’t work in 2020. Can Tourism HR Canada offer any guidance in this area? Working from home. Shortened work week. Retraining or improving skills.
The new reality of tourism in the aftermath of COVID-19 is hard to predict, but we can anticipate different travel patterns, revised growth scenarios, new products and services for new markets, increased use of technology, added regulations or protocols, increased public-private partnerships, and more. Tourism will be very different. Businesses will need to rapidly adapt their business practices to survive, and this means they need to build capacity and prioritize investments towards building a skilled, flexible, and resilient workforce.
The Workforce Recovery Toolkit is essentially a compendium of new business strategies that will help small and medium tourism businesses navigate and thrive post COVID. The topics are far-ranging and will grow. Some examples include:
- Developing targeted marketing strategies aimed at new markets
- Refinancing and accessing capital
- Reforming the business model/plan
- Product development
- Managing supply chain risk and disruption
- Building public-private partnerships
- Dealing with crisis communication
And it’s more than skills for business owners that are needed.
For example, frontline and direct customer-facing roles require enhanced training in hygiene and cleaning, and mid-level and supervisory roles are seeking knowledge and skills related to new workforce management practices, risk management and operations.
Tourism HR Canada has a battery of programs to address these immediate needs.
One of the areas that Tourism HR Canada has talked about is the creation or shifting of industry roles. Can you explain what you mean by this? Could it be applied to the travel agent or tour operator sector?
Let’s talk about travel agents and tour operators specifically.
Given the complexity of future travel, it appears that the dependence on travel service providers will grow along with the increased need for specialized services. Consumers will have a more difficult time navigating new requirements/ restrictions and will seek help to mitigate risks and deal with issues such as flight cancellations, border closures, sudden closing of hotels or cancellation of events. Tourism businesses will rely more on tour operators to help restore consumer confidence by steering travellers to safe travel destinations.
The industry is expected to undergo further digital transformation, and companies will use technology to facilitate many more customer transactions and delivery of tourism experiences – all aimed at promoting physical distancing and increasing safety.
Travel service providers will need to adapt to these changes to meet consumer demands.
These trends indicate that the roles will be more complex, and perhaps be viewed as more essential and valued.
Tourism HR Canada collaborates with a number of industry groups, like Restaurants Canada and the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada, do you see opportunities for Canadian travel agents or tour operators to collaborate with groups like these? And, perhaps, what such a collaboration might look like?
Tourism HR Canada has worked with travel agents and tourism operators in various ways.
For both agents and operators, national occupational standards for practice were set through vast consultation with professionals in the field, and recent updates to these standards have involved people from all regions of Canada.
Tourism HR Canada has also worked with the industry to develop voluntary professional certification programs, first established around 1996.
Additionally, ongoing research on occupational trends continues to be a priority in our research, for which we seek feedback from professionals to reflect current and emergent conditions in the workplace.
Are you currently working with the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA) on any initiatives? Would you be willing to?
Yes, ACTA is the national certifying body for the Certified Travel Counsellor (CTC) and the Certified Travel Manager (CTM) designations. These programs were developed in collaboration with Tourism HR Canada, and the CTC program is one of the longest-standing Emerit certification programs.
For many years, ACTA was one of the national associations represented on the Board of Directors for Tourism HR Canada and may choose to be in the future. Tourism HR Canada welcomes opportunities to work with and on behalf of the tourism industry.
Last question, are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of travel and tourism? And why?
I am an optimist. Tourism is synonymous with Canada’s identity: it emphasizes social capital and cohesion, promotes inclusion and diversity, and contributes to cultural and heritage preservation. In many communities, tourism has been a strong economic driver and is one of the largest job creators.