10 Aug 2022

Tourism Action Plan: Operators upbeat on proposals but want more than talk

6:36 pm on 10 August 2022

Tourism operators say a new plan to address the industry's workforce woes is spot on, but they want the rubber to hit the road, not just rhetoric.

Tourism Minister Stuart Nash speaks at the Tourism Export Council's conference in Nelson on 10 August, 2022.

Tourism Minister Stuart Nash unveils the draft Better Work Action Plan at the Tourism Export Council's conference in Nelson. Photo: RNZ / Tess Brunton

Historically, the tourism and hospitality industries have copped a bad reputation for offering low wages, long hours and uncertainty.

Today, Minister of Tourism Stuart Nash unveiled the draft Better Work Action Plan - a vision of how to change that perception, improve conditions and strengthen the workforce through regenerative tourism.

The industry was often a stepping stone, not a destination for many workers, Nash said.

"Many New Zealanders start their careers in tourism or a hospitality job, often the students or temporary jobs before they find 'a real job'.

"But we have done - I believe - a poor job of creating an aspirational career pathway in tourism for young people when they're considering their employment options."

Speaking at the Tourism Export Council's conference in Nelson, Nash said it was time that changed and this plan would help them do that as part of an overall tourism transformation.

The plan includes a Tourism and Hospitality Accord to set employment standards, better education, adopting technology to better future proof the industry and improve workers' experiences, developing cultural competency, and using seasonal fluctuations in demand to upskill people and provide more consistent work.

Tourism Minister Stuart Nash at a tourism conference in Nelson

Minister of Tourism Stuart Nash says there is buy in for the plan from employees as well as employers. Photo: RNZ / Samantha Gee

Some of the ideas, including the accord, were developed following a workforce wānanga hosted by Go With Tourism last year.

It has been a collaboration between businesses, unions, government and local iwi, Nash said.

"This isn't a situation where government has sat in the Beehive and said 'thou shalt do this'. This has been a bottom up thing and the unions and the workers have done an incredible job, so it's not just buy in from the employers, it's also buy in from the employees as well.

"Hence the reason we've worked so hard to come up with something that I think will make a big difference because it's had feedback from all the sectors."

iFly Queenstown owner Matt Wong said the plan set the industry on the right course.

"I think the action plan is pretty much spot on with what we're thinking as an industry anyway.

"We've all been thinking about it probably for the last couple of years or so, and now that we've got some major issues with our labour force, it's quite a timely reminder that actually as an industry we probably need to mature a little bit and address some of the labour issues that we've had for quite a few years."

Wong wanted to see action as soon as possible but said he realised it would take time for everyone to get up to speed.

He was excited to see technology and innovation play a greater role addressing workforce issues.

"Looking at how we can integrate technology, which is already being used in other industries anyway, but use it to enhance and replace some of those lower wage jobs, lower skilled jobs that aren't necessarily needed for a human being. But they're actually enhancing some of the upper management levels as well and upskilling people."

There were other areas which could use more attention, he said.

"I'd love to see a lot more development opportunities for middle management and leaders in the tourism industry to help them get through implementing a lot of these changes in regenerative tourism into their businesses and make sure that execution part of the industry transformation plan is done really well.

"So it needs support on all layers, not just necessarily those coming into the industry for the first time."

Rotorua Canopy Tours general manager Paul Button said it was a great plan in theory but he wanted to see action.

Rotorua Canopy Tours general manager Paul Button.

Rotorua Canopy Tours general manager Paul Button Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

"All of that stuff is really nice to have on paper and clearly they've got a lot of really good brains involved, but now it's just the rubber has got to hit the road. It's just about the implementation," Button said.

"Because if you implement every one of those action items, it will be incredible. What an amazing industry to be a part of."

He believed it could make a difference if it was done well.

"A lot of this plan relies on good business, it relies on healthy business. The micro-credentials are great. I know there's a lot of talk around particularly the polytech merger about that."

Feedback on the Action Plan closes middle of next month, with the final plan expected to be released before the end of the year.

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