• Boost Tourism Productivity with Agile Talent Thinking

The tourism industry continues to be labelled as low productivity and labour intensive, and that is probably fair, after all, we are a people centric industry. But as tourism grows back post Covid, businesses need to work smarter, not harder.  They have an opportunity to shift the dial on productivity.

Our sector deals with seasonality relatively well using transient labour, but we can work even smarter by dialing in specialist skills and IP as and when we need it like many other sectors already do.  Specialist skills on demand.

Globally, the gig economy, outsourcing, and the use of contractors, continues to grow with some reports that this will account for as much as 50% of the global workforce by 2030.

The majority of New Zealand tourism businesses are SME’s (defined by MBIE as less than 50 employees) and in many cases traditional thinking of employing people full time to do certain tasks such as sales, marketing, and accounting pervades, with companies employing the best talent that they can afford full time.

The reality is that this level of competence or strategic thinking may not be required all the time.  The concept of “virtual” highly skilled talent such as virtual CFO’s or CMO’s is not new, but it is new and developing in the tourism sector.   Why hire an expensive marketing manager full time, when you could contract an experienced senior marketing consultant to write your marketing strategy in a fixed time frame for a fixed price, and employ a less expensive Marketing Coordinator full time to implement it.  This provides the business with both high-level strategic thinking and implementation talent, maximising the value from each role/person when you need it.

An area that most tourism SMEs are not strong in is governance.  Whilst large companies will often have a board of directors, most SME’s do not, with business owners struggling away making large strategic and day to day decisions in isolation, and in many cases without specialised knowledge in key areas.

One excellent option for SME’s is to have an advisory board made up of a small number of experts in fields that the owner or CEO may not be strong in.   Advisory boards again are not a new concept and are used widely in NZ and overseas in other sectors.

Advisory boards differ from a board of directors in several important ways, key ones being that they simply offer advice which can be taken or ignored, they cannot make decisions, are often less formal, and don’t have the same legal liabilities as directors have.  They are usually more affordable, and advisors can be changed out easily depending on the type of advice needed in the business growth cycle.

This is a win-win for both parties with owners getting access to affordable specialised knowledge, and the advisor’s networks, and the advisors being renumerated for their time and knowledge, without the accountability and risk liability of being a director.   Advisory boards allow owners to keep control, while accessing many of the benefits of good governance at an affordable price.

We are in a forever changing and uncertain world and tourism businesses need to adapt to this dynamic environment.  Having an agile talent management approach and framework helps manage overhead costs, allows for experts on demand when you need them, and ultimately will help SME tourism business improve productivity and profitability.

Jason Hill is Managing Director of Tourism Talent and board member of Tourism Bay of Plenty.  He has a career in tourism spanning 30 years and was previously Head of Auckland Tourism and Regional Manager Japan and Korea for Tourism NZ