3 August 2022

Manpower and Tourism Industry: Challenges and Recommendations

By Dr Komathi Wasudawan and Dr Agnes Lim Siang Siew

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many front-line workers, especially those in the tourism industry, to turn to other forms of employment.

As one of the most impacted industries during the COVID-19 crisis is however on its way to recovery. Being one of the main contributors to the world’s economic development before the pandemic, the industry saw a sharp decline in demand due to travel restrictions and policies, and international borders closed. Millions face job cuts leading to income reductions, especially among the rank and file across the industry. Sarawak was no exception.
From 4.7 million tourist arrivals in 2019, the figure dropped to 1.2 million in 2020, dropping a further 0.2 million in 2021. Only this year is the industry slowly recovering.

With travel restrictions slowly being lifted, Sarawak opening its borders and various initiatives by the state to rebuild its tourism industry, there is now the opportunity not only for those in the industry but also for the community, to engage in tourism-related socio-economic activities. Ahead of this, one of the major challenges that need to be addressed is the shortage of labour for a more resilient future within the industry.

The volatility of the tourism industry to market changes has affected the current labour market’s perceptions of its attractiveness when making career choices. In preparation for tourism, the industry would require purposeful human resource planning and a state-of-the-art recruitment strategy to re-attract an experienced and talented workforce to achieve competitiveness.

 Local communities and stakeholders in the industry need to be empowered while collaborative efforts are necessary to revamp the industry if the nation were to achieve a more sustainable future in tourism.

The foremost challenge would be the lack of new talents in digital transformation skills, and in the use of tourism innovation tools, and digital platforms. These skills were identified when Malaysia was named to be a part of a cross-cutting training fund policy to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on the industry. The training fund policy includes a reduction of the training levy imposed on tourism-related operators, the lessening of support to businesses that offer digital skills training and a decrease in financial support for this training.             

Bringing together leading tourism stakeholders including governments, academia, private corporations, SMEs, social enterprises and tech investors and incubators, will also ease collaboration and training.

Through these many efforts only can the state resolve the lack of new talents, meet the challenge of learning and updating knowledge in tourism innovation tools, help enhance digital transformation skills through digital investment and encourage the knowledge acquisition of digital platforms such as video chat and conference calls, Chatbots, Live Chat, messaging app, social media, websites and project management tools such as ProofHub. As a result, this collaboration and training will require the implementation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) Virtual Reality, and Augmented Reality that will help rebuild and re-boost the tourism industry in Sarawak.

Dr Komathi Wasudawan is a lecturer with the Faculty of Business, Design and Arts. Her research interests are in pro-poor tourism and sustainable tourism. Komathi is contactable at kwasudawan@swinburne.edu.my

Dr Agnes Lim Siang Siew is a lecturer with the Faculty of Business, Design and Arts. Her research interests are in Human Resource Development and Total Quality Management. Agnes is contactable at aslim@swinburne.edu.my