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Demand high for skilled tourism workers

Just under half of New Zealand tourism businesses are struggling to recruit the skilled people they need and expect their hiring needs to increase in the near future. But can they pay staff what they're worth?

Just under half of New Zealand tourism businesses are struggling to recruit the skilled people they need and expect their hiring needs to increase in the near future. But can they pay staff what they're worth?

Research released by ATTTO (the Aviation, Tourism and Travel Training Organisation) showed 42 percent of operators had difficulty recruiting people with the right skills and experience over the last 12 months. About half also expected their staffing requirements to increase over the next three years.

A quarter of the 300-plus respondents said attracting, retaining and developing staff was likely to become more difficult.

ATTTO chief executive Elizabeth Valentine said the survey reinforced known factors, such as the high seasonality of tourism employment and the average smaller size of tourism businesses. The average number of staff employed by businesses surveyed was 16.

“These results further underline the need to ensure tertiary qualifications and training are well matched to the needs of the sector," she said.

"Unfortunately one finding of the survey is that wages and salaries are often lower than the national average, which posses a challenge for operators looking to attract and retain top people.”

Pay varied significantly by organisation, with the lowest rate indicated being $10 per hour and the highest $135 per hour.

ATTTO said tourism's lower-than-average hourly earnings would disadvantage the sector in the labour market as the economy rebounded.

However, Valentine said the study challenged the perception that tourism professionals were generally younger and unqualified.

About half of those surveyed held tertiary qualifications, she said.

Customer service skills were in the greatest demand with nearly half of all workers employed in this area. More than 50 percent of respondents said they anticipated needing more customer service skills/experience in the future. This was followed by skills in marketing (50 percent), sales (44 percent) and languages (30 percent).

Valentine said the research would help prioritise how ATTTO works with the tourism industry to help businesses develop and adapt to the needs of new markets, such as the demands of Chinese travellers.