Earlier this year I was lucky enough to take a trip to the Phillipines, where I was struck by how many staff were allocated to each job in restaurants, hotels etc. Labour was clearly plentiful (and inexpensive), service was fast and there were smiles galore (though I had to wonder whether those smiles continued as staff headed home, often to squalid shanty towns).
Returning to the UK and visiting parks, pubs and hotels, it is immediately obvious that staff are clearly more expensive to employ and are very often hard to find. For many, Brexit is already making this harder, with recruitment agencies reporting a lack of candidates and many foreign nationals already heading home.
UK staff are clearly having to multi-task more and work harder, with needs for wide ranges of skills and long hours, as well as technology to minimise staff costs. The worry – from someone who manages tourism awards across much of the UK – is that customer service will suffer and with it profitability.
Meanwhile our government is obsessed with the ‘P’ word. No, not profitability, but productivity, in which the UK lags behind many of its European competitors.
Productivity, or ‘output per hour’ from our workforce, is a relatively simple concept to understand in the manufacturing sector, but in tourism, hospitality and much of the service provider sector, it is not a favoured term and the more enlightened politicians recognise this.
Imagine a typical small camping park, maybe run by Mum, Dad and the family. They will understand customer service and profitability, but productivity? I’d suggest not.
Tourism contributes in many other ways, through employing seasonal staff who would otherwise not find jobs, to raising skills through the enjoyment and relaxation offered to our population, to our GDP, and for many to our environment.
So what do we need to do?
Firstly, we all must get behind campaigns that demonstrate the benefits of tourism and tourism employment. At the same time, making sure we all contribute to our local economy and workforce.
We must all continue to invest in our people, at all levels, to give them the skills they will need in one of the UK’s largest and fastest growing sectors.
And finally, whatever the government may decree, we can’t take our eyes off the ‘customer service’ ball, as that is central to happy customers, return visits and ultimately, to business success.
Robin Barker, Services For Tourism,
For further information on holiday and park home industry issues, please contact our parks team on 01392 210700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article first appeared in our holiday and residential park newsletter, read Explorer