Talent development holds key to stronger hospitality, MICE future

keynote panel of IT&CM Asia and CTW Asia Pacific

Changes in tourism and business events, as a result of the pandemic, have highlighted a crucial need for industry organisations to maintain investments in talent development, so as to enable staff to adjust processes the right way forward.

Speaking at the keynote panel of IT&CM Asia and CTW Asia Pacific on November 16, Carina Bauer, CEO of IMEX Group, said “the pandemic has shown some skills gap in our industry” and pointed to capabilities in design thinking, user experience and engineering as being valuable in the MICE industry of the future.

Speakers on the keynote panel of IT&CM Asia and CTW Asia Pacific addressed how the sector can continue to attract new blood even throughout this pandemic

She emphasised that courses should be carefully selected, and encouraged industry peers to consider online options which are abundant today and affordably priced.

Choe Peng Sum, CEO of Pan Pacific Hotels Group, chimed in that reskilling and retooling decisions must be strategic and lead to improved efficiencies.

He added that training today must also aim to improve leadership. He explained that with good leadership, an environment of trust can be established in the workplace, which will improve inter-department communications and speed up work processes.

“In hard times like these, we shouldn’t have to go to work and feel like we have to constantly look over our shoulders (when getting our job done),” he remarked.

The Philippine Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) has set an example for the industry in terms of talent investment, said Arnold T Gonzales, acting deputy chief operating officer for marketing and promotions. The organisation has continued with staff promotions and hiring despite the tourism and MICE crisis, and has maintained weekly online learning programmes for staff, as well as tourism professionals.

TPB’s talent investments are joined by high-level support, in the form of US$2 million in government funding for training and subsidies for tour guides affected by the tourism freeze. Both TPB and the Department of Tourism have also conducted job fairs to aid displaced tourism workers.

When asked if graduate engagement programmes, such as the IMEX-MPI-MCI Future Leaders Forum, would see challenges attracting new blood into a hospitality career today and in the immediate future, Bauer said: “I don’t see a tougher job to convince students to join us in the mid- to long-term. Our industry is robust and business will come back when the pandemic ends.”

The Forum, which has been inspiring hospitality, event and tourism students since 2003, will continue to be relevant even as the pandemic decimates hospitality business, opined Bauer.

“FLF and other initiatives around developing students will continue to show the breadth of our industry, from hotel management to event services and marketing, and the many career opportunities available to them,” she said.

Bauer added that this is instead the ideal opportunity to demonstrate industry stakeholders’ continued confidence in the business, while emphasising the efforts being made today to transform the industry for improved efficiency and resilience.

Meanwhile, fellow panellist, Kaye Chon, dean of School of Hotel and Tourism Management, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, said the tougher hiring landscape may cause new hospitality graduates in the immediate future to turn to other industries that hold these students in high regard for their interpersonal skills.

To remain an appealing employer, Chon said the industry must improve hiring conditions and groom indigenous and female leadership to give Asian students hopes of fulfilling career advancement.

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