An essential part of TNQ
The cancellation of travel plans and the introduction of restrictions due to COVID-19 has left the tourism and hospitality industry grappling with rapidly changing circumstances.
For World Tourism Day, JCU’s Dr Janice Scarinci and Dr Denis Tolkach, and JCU tourism student and owner/operator of Bad Fishy Jet Boating and Cairns Boat Hire Nikki Guimelli, share their thoughts on how COVID-19 will alter the needs of the tourism industry.
How important is tourism to the Tropical North Queensland region, and what have been the effects of COVID-19 on the industry?
JS: Tourism operators and businesses are vital to our economy in North Queensland!
DT: Tourism is a major economic activity in Tropical North Queensland. Prior to COVID-19, it constituted 18 per cent of gross regional product and one in five jobs in the region were related to tourism. Tourism in Tropical North Queensland is a major contributor not only to Cairns city and major towns, but also to communities in the outback and all the way to Cape York.
NG: COVID-19 has removed inbound, interstate and cruise ship business for varying periods from the market. So businesses have had to rely on the local and intra-state market and have had to ensure their products meet the domestic needs. They have been challenged by loss of revenue, extreme in many cases, and business closures over the period.
Anticipating future needs
How do you think COVID-19 will change the skills needed in the tourism and hospitality industry?
JS: Resilience, safety management, sanitation and innovation have all been necessary skills during COVID-19. In my business communication subject, the students are conducting research on the employability skills necessary for the tourism industry. They are analysing current job descriptions to determine the skills that employers are looking for in the industry. The skills that were identified by the industry as most important were communication, teamwork, problem solving, initiative and enterprise, planning and organising, self-management, learning, technology, leadership and customer service.
DT: Creativity, analytical skills, critical thinking, risk management, long-term planning will all be required in the future. Tourism has the incredible ability to rebound, reinvent itself and manage crises. However, this requires the ability to identify opportunities, continuously innovate and be resilient. There is a need to upskill, to know about the latest world trends, and to have the management knowledge, while maintaining great customer service skills and ensuring health and safety of customers.
NG: Adaptability and safety management within the industry will be key, along with management skills to ensure that the rebound of markets at the right time is leveraged to their full potential. Sustainable and ethical tourism will be a big focus for industry and the new tourism will focus on meaningful, respectful and sustainable practices, particularly after this time of re-set.
Janice and Denis, how can the research that you and your students are working on help guide the recovery of tourism in our region?
JS: COVID-19 has changed the landscape of the Tourism, Hospitality and Events Industry Worldwide. I am involved in a collaborative research grant with academics at JCU Australia and JCU Singapore to determine if employability skills needed in the tourism, hospitality and events industry in Australia and Singapore have changed since the Pre-COVID Era. We are also preparing our students to contribute to the current challenges in the industry by adding the COVID-19 Sanitation Certification, Hygiene, and the Responsible Service of Alcohol as part of our Professional Practice Minor in the Bachelor of Tourism, Hospitality and Events Degree.
DT: I am currently working on a research looking into the experience of quarantined hotel guests. Being in isolation is both a physical and psychological challenge. We aim to understand the experiences of hotel guests quarantined upon arrival to their home countries and provide recommendations to hotel managers on how these situations can be handled better. COVID-19 has also been a major topic in our subjects. We discuss it in class, and it is one of the topics for their assignments. Students are eager to learn about crisis management and resilience techniques.
Taking action now
What can we do to support tourism operators in our region right now?
JS: The general public can support our tourism operators by taking vacations in our own backyard. We have the most beautiful backyard with the World Heritage Rainforest, Great Barrier Reef, islands, waterfalls and wildlife. There is something for everyone to visit in North Queensland.
DT: Support local businesses by purchasing their products and services. Organise personal and corporate events on the premises of hospitality and tourism businesses. Many businesses have great discounts and offers now. If you were previously discouraged from visiting attractions or hospitality venues because of being wary of crowds, now is the perfect time to experience your backyard more.
NG: Visit local businesses and share the great news with your friends and family if you have had a good time. As you can’t holiday overseas, think differently about holidaying at home. We live in a fantastic destination and now is the perfect time to support the local business community and visit local destinations, attractions and businesses in the region.
Dr Janice Scarinci
Dr Janice Scarinci is the Coordinator of the Master of International Tourism and Hospitality Management (MITHM) and the Bachelor of Tourism, Hospitality and Events (BTHE) degrees at JCU. Her research interests include guest satisfaction, motivation and marketing, sustainable tourism and lodging, and the effects of international travel on employable skills and experiential learning. She has published in peer reviewed journals, presented at international conferences and has published book chapters on these topics. In addition to her academic work, Janice has over 11 years’ global experience in the hospitality and tourism industry, including time in Florida, Sicily, and Bermuda. Janice has received awards for her teaching, curriculum development, research, and work in the hospitality industry. In 2020, Janice was honoured by the University of Florida as a recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame.