As a prelude to Asia's premier travel and tourism week, TravelRave 2014, the Singapore Tourism Board kick started this year's multi-city media roundtable series with a panel discussion on 'Asian Travel & Tourism Industry Dialogue: Developing Human Capital & Talent Management'.
Held in Hilton Singapore last week, the discussion focused on the growth potential of the travel and tourism industry in the region and Singapore, and potential ways to attract more talent, especially millennials, into the industry.
The panelists included Ms. Neeta Lachmandas, Assistant Chief Executive, Singapore Tourism Board, Mr. Marc Dardenne, Chief Executive Officer, Patina Hotels and Resorts, Ms. Janet Tan-Collis, President, SACEOS (Singapore Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers) and Chief Executive Officer, East West Planners and Ms. Margaret Heng, Executive Director, SHA (Singapore Hotel Association) and Chief Executive Officer, SHATEC (Singapore Hotel and Tourism Education Centre). The session was moderated by Ms. Caroline Boey, Senior Correspondent-China/Special Projects, TTG Asia Media.
Over the next decade, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) predicts Asia's travel and tourism industry will grow by more than 6 per cent each year—the fastest expansion rate of any region in the world. By 2020, Asian travelers will account for nearly one-half of all global tourism expenditures. Out of the 70 million new jobs the industry will create globally in the next 10 years, about two-thirds (47 million) will be in Asia.
"While the job opportunities within the tourism industry are phenomenal, we are competing with other sectors for talent. The competition and war for talent is stiff. We need to equip ourselves to make sure that we are getting the best talent, the best skillsets to join our industry," said Ms. Lachmandas.
The panelists felt that changing the perception of the travel and tourism industry was crucial to attracting more talent to the industry. Some of the solutions that were discussed included profiling the success stories, the host of opportunities in tourism and the international exposure that the industry offers.
Ms. Lachmandas said, "At the end of the day, we need to have a hard think about how we are appealing to the younger generation."
One way to encourage millennials (born between 1981 and 1995) to play a more active role in the industry is by empowering them and harnessing their creativity to appeal to travellers from the same generation.
"As we look at consumption patterns, the reality is that millennials are going to consume differently. If we want to be relevant to them, I hope we are bringing in young talent into the industry and using the talent to design experiences for the future," said Ms Lachmandas.
Emphasising on the need to professionalise the industry, Ms. Tan-Collis shared that SACEOS has been tailoring its programmes to meet the needs of the young people by developing internationally-recognised courses. "Let the young people come in and decide where they can make the change," she said.
While the discussion on talent war focused on the millennials, the panelists also emphasised on the importance of equipping middle management with competencies to sustain the industry.
"My recommendation is for Singaporean managers to travel and get experience out of Singapore. That is how you really learn – by going through challenging situations. In our profession, it is all about having international experience, understanding different customers, being open minded. You learn this when you go out of your comfort zone," said Mr. Dardenne.
Agreeing with Mr. Dardenne, Ms. Heng added, "The strongest link within the organisation to retain talent is the middle management. Middle managers play an important role in creating an environment to encourage retention."
The fifth run of TravelRave will take place in Singapore from 27 to 31 October 2014. Building on the issue of human capital, conferences such as AIPC Asia Summit and Hotel Management Singapore Summit will target knowledge and application competencies for professionals while Future Leaders which is part of ITB Asia, involves mentorship of tourism and hospitality students and clarifies their perceptions of the industry.
Yesterday's discussion sets the tone for a series of roundtables in the region. The series will continue in Bangalore on July 10, Beijing on July 21 and Shanghai on July 23, before ending off in Jakarta on August 26.