25th March 2021
Rachel Jackson – Tourism and Hospitality Management Lecturer, UCSD
It has been impossible to avoid the significant media attention of the catastrophic impact of Covid-19 on the hospitality and tourism industries, not just locally but also nationally and internationally as the world visitor economy has endured a rollercoaster ride for the last 12 months. Businesses have steadily reopened and make an attempt to recover sales before being plunged into heavy trading restrictions once again.
There are over 1000 tourism businesses in Torbay, employing over 12,000 people, and 20% of the local population, which generates in excess of £600m to the local economy (ERBID2, 2021). This is set to grow as industry returns after Covid-19 and the impact of the national and regional strategies gain momentum. Visit Britain (2021) forecasts a slow start to 2021 before a step change in the spring as restrictions ease and confidence returns. This will be followed by a recovery throughout the rest of the year and beyond, subject to current assumptions.
Businesses will now be considering what lies ahead. The sector has proved its resilience before, after the financial crises of 2008 and other negative crises such as terrorist events with the assistance of crises recovery committees and support. As the visitor economy looks beyond the struggle for survival to embracing the future, there should be focus and attention given to undoubtedly the most important asset for businesses in hospitality and tourism – their workforce.
Our current situation has been compounded by the UK’s withdrawal from Europe, ending the freedom of movement. Skills and training are a critical and essential aspect of a workforce recovery strategy and are included in the Government’s vision for hospitality and tourism sector recovery. Those businesses that choose to invest in training and skills development for their employees will see future economic growth and productivity gains in this dynamic sector.
South Devon College works closely with TDA (Torbay Development Agency). In a recent discussion around the opportunities facing the sector locally, Rebecca Davies, Senior Economic Development Officer, commented:
“Now is the time to pursue a meaningful career in tourism and hospitality. We must work together to change the perception of working in the sector – it’s not just a stop gap. The opportunities in this sector are endless, from entry level positions right through to directors within some of the world’s best known hotel brands. Torbay is seeing huge investments from international hotels, as well as independent local businesses; it’s a very exciting time. There’s Government funding available, as well as financial incentives for apprenticeships, allowing employers to invest in and develop their teams to ensure their businesses are able to bounce back from the impact of the last 12 months, making the most of the huge demand from locals and visitors as restrictions are lifted.”
Lynn Stephens is Head of Leisure and Hospitality Industries at South Devon College and is also the Chair of the English Riviera Destination Management Plan Group. She’s explained that “the time for choosing a career in the Tourism and Hospitality sector has never been better, we have so many opportunities coming to the Bay with the reopening of existing businesses, the new brands and investments into the visitor economy, aligned with huge growth projected for UK staycations. Anyone who is interested in training or upskilling will have an exciting range of career paths opening up in the coming months and years”.
In April, the College is running the Aspiring Manager programme – a fully subsidised taster for adults considering a career in hospitality or events management. This training is available through Skills Support for the Workforce (SSW), a programme developed to upskill employees within small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in Devon.