Webinar “Preparing For Tomorrow: Empowering Young Workers For A Resilient Tourism Industry”
November 13, 2020

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The social and economic impacts of COVID-19 on youth have put this demographic in the spotlight, especially in the tourism sector where young people represent a dominant part of the workforce.  The crisis, however, offers an opportunity to re-think the tourism industry and to engage the young generation in shaping a more resilient workforce for the future. 

To discuss this important topic, on November 10th, 2020 the Association of Southeast Asian Social Enterprises for Training in Hospitality and Catering (ASSET-H&C) organized  a webinar on youth employment in the tourism industry in partnership with Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA).

More than 70 participants, including representatives from the tourism and hospitality industry, educational institutions, NGOs and the public sector joined the event. Inspiring speakers, with intimate knowledge of the reality on the ground, shared their expertise on human capital development, decent work, human rights and sustainable tourism. 

The webinar was co-facilitated by Sophie Hartman, Coordinator of the ASSET-H&C network, and Mr. Graham Harper, Director – Sustainability & Social Responsibility Director at PATA.

The objective of the session was to generate debate on how to encourage and further develop a human-centered approach to the crisis and to the sector’s recovery, especially with reference to youth employment. 

During her introductory keynote Putting people first in COVID-19 times”, Ms. Madhu Rajesh, Director of the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance (formerly International Tourism Partnership), presented some of the good practices developed by the industry to mitigate the negative impacts of the crisis on their human resources.  She concluded her presentation by underlining that “as we look at building back from the pandemic, the way we focus on our people and supporting them is what will make brands, and is what will help us recover quicker and that it is also a duty of care for all of us”. 

This presentation was followed by a panel discussion focusing on sustainable tourism employment. Convened by 3 prominent speakers, the panel discussion brought different perspectives to the debate. The  panel was moderated by Mr. Roi Ariel, General Manager at Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC). 

Mr. Ariel introduced the panel discussion by highlighting the importance of a holistic approach in sustainable tourism. “In the year 2020, industry challenges and solutions should be aligned with sustainability practices. Sustainability in tourism does not only refer to environmental aspects of the industry, but also to the social and cultural aspects of the destination and its people. […] There is a holistic approach when we talk about sustainable tourism and it is clearly relevant to our sector’s human resources.”

Ms. Orapin Musiknavabutr, Group Director of People and Culture at Anantara Vacation Club – Minor Hotels elaborated on the skills that tourism businesses need to survive:“Our people need to have entrepreneurship skills and drive for results. On top of that, we are talking a lot about hyper-collaboration, adaptability, flexibility. Another key word is ‘digitally and technologically savvy’, innovative in terms of working and servicing. Never forget that, in all times, our industry needs customer focus. And on top of this we need people who demonstrate high curiosity and who always question their ability to stay ahead of the curve.”

Ms. Makiko Matsumoto, Employment Specialist at International Labour Organization (ILO) shared her expertise on policies promoting decent work. She commented that “in times of crisis, and particularly the current one, the government has a major role to play in protecting people” and that “to ensure that policy responses meet the needs of the youth, more social dialogue between the employers and the workers, and the youth, at the sectoral level or at the enterprise level needs to take place”.

Mr. Jorely Mathew, Area Director for Host Engagement – Thailand and Group Director Learning and Development for Soneva Resorts, gave some examples of actions that companies can take to better address the needs of the most vulnerable in the workplace, such as internship programs for women or disadvantaged students. He stated “we have now even more reasons to support the vulnerable and to promote human rights with fair wages and good working conditions as most companies aspire to be a preferred employer”.

After these insightful discussions, attendees and speakers could share views and measures on empowering young generations of tourism professionals in times of crisis during a virtual networking session.  

“It was such a great Webinar experience for me”, commented one attendee. Others shared their interest in supporting tourism and hospitality social enterprises, saying that “as an inbound destination management company, we are always looking for social enterprises to work with when taking our passengers throughout the region” and that they would be willing to contribute to “positive changes and development that will create a great impact on the lives of the young generation”. 

To learn more on these important exchanges, watch a recap of the Webinar session on ASSET-H&C YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/vQ3KEzlehws 

ASSET-H&C wishes to thank all speakers, partners and sponsors for contributing to the success of the webinar as well as the following key informants who supported the preparation of the event: 

  • Ms. Ayako Ezaki, Director of Training, Global Sustainable Tourism Council
  • Mr. Karl Diederich, General Manager, Mulberry Boutique Hotel, Siem Reap
  • Mr. Marc Bennie, General Manager–Indigenous Programs and Community Investment, Accor Hotels
  • Mr. Miquel Angel Martorell, Head of HR and Quality Management Working Group,  Tourism Advisory Board
  • Ms. Patchareeboon Mam Sakulpitakphon, Independent Consultant on Business and Human Rights, Sustainability and Co-Founder, III Muses
  • Ms. Pukchanok Pattana, National Project Officer, International Organization for Migration
  • Mr. Tinnaphop Sinsomboonthong, Lecturer, specializing in Migration, Labour, Empowerment, Sexuality and Gender-based Violence, Thammasat University
  • Mr. Yuttana Kaeowari, Director, Human Resources and L&D, ONYX Hospitality Group

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