What Really Matters to Your Tourism Workforce

July 31, 2023

When it comes to building and maintaining your tourism workforce, understanding their needs is key. Raising salaries may seem like the right course of action, but, alone, it’s a simple bandage compared to a more holistic approach to creating a better work environment.

To get a better idea of what the specific needs and expectations of today’s tourism workforce are, DCI surveyed more than 500 people across the United States who work in the tourism industry, from hotels and restaurants to attractions and tour operators, to hear from them directly. The resulting report, “Strengthening the Travel and Tourism Workforce,” is an extension of DCI’s national research study on the behaviors and preferences of relocating talent, “Talent Wars,” which is now in its seventh edition.

Get to know what your tourism workforce needs and how it operates, and you can help advocate for changes to workforce policy and support existing and potential workers.

1. Personal Connections Matter
Tourism workers start young, with 46% reporting learning about the industry when they were younger than twenty years old. More than half of the respondents noted that they first heard about the industry through their friends and family, more than double job boards.

Destinations need to take this into account, to make sure that tourism jobs are framed correctly for younger audiences and posted where they are – think social media! Also, with families being a main conduit for awareness, encouraging employers to enact a family referral plan is important as part of a greater push to leverage your current workforce as ambassadors for the tourism workforce of tomorrow.

2. Pride and Positivity is Key
Working in the travel industry creates camaraderie and the tourism workforce members interviewed revealed that personal interactions are by and large the most rewarding part of their job. Those same personal connections that drive awareness are also what help workers feel good about their job and make them proud to work in your destination.

Overall, there is a clear passion and dedication to this industry among its workforce, largely guided by meaningful connections made with customers and colleagues. It is important to leverage these connections when promoting jobs in the industry and – when possible – showcase them through channels, like your DMO website and social media. Interview workers for a video series of success stories to release throughout the year, showcasing their positivity and pride.

3. R E S P E C T … Find Out What It Means In Hospitality
Workers in the travel industry face the same challenges that any industry faces – workers want to feel like humans. Low wages, long hours, and inadequate work-life balance create barriers to  keeping workers in their roles.

Additionally, 25% of respondents noted that one of their biggest challenges is the lack of respect and poor treatment from customers – something that destinations need to address by assisting stakeholders with better systems to cull bad behavior.

The travel and tourism industry is not unique in that workers value work-life balance and, importantly, want to feel valued and respected when they are in the workplace. Every destination must work with stakeholders to ensure adequate benefits and opportunities are in place to help create and maintain a talented tourism workforce throughout their entire local industry.

4. Paychecks Still Speak Volumes
And they are telling your tourism workforce, “Maybe look elsewhere.” While veteran workers are more favorable to continuing in the industry than newer workers, they mostly agree – a whopping 85% of them – that better pay is a surefire way to keep them working in your destination.

Destinations and stakeholders need to find solutions to combat low wages, especially for women who account for more than half of the entire tourism workforce. In conjunction with a better work-life balance – unsurprisingly – higher wages will help prevent an exodus of workers from your destination.

5. …But Think Beyond the Paychecks, Too!
Yes, wages are deal-breaking issues for many tourism workers who feel underpaid, but compensation doesn’t just need to be monetary. Benefits across the board are important. Destinations need to realize that upskilling and training are also valued by workers. According to DCI’s report, 69% of respondents said they are willing to undergo training or education to advance their careers.

This signals the need for employers in a destination to provide career-enhancing programs or credits for continued education in order to encourage workers to stay in place.

Even with your current workforce advocating for you and showcasing their pride, it’s pivotal to avoid the toxic mix of low wages, poor work-life balance, and stingy benefits that chase away your existing talent and scare away the new.

Building solutions for your destination’s long-term success starts with people. DCI’s newest report, “Strengthening the Travel and Tourism Workforce,” provides essential insight into what today’s talent wants and needs. Connect with Robyn Domber at [email protected] to learn more about researching the specific needs of workers in your destination.

Written by

Robyn Domber

Senior Vice President, Research