Employment trends in tourism and hospitality

Labour market information: tourism, hospitality and leisure in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

At its peak the tourism and hospitality industry in the Republic of Ireland had between 150,000 and 250,000 employees across all areas (depending on which criteria you use), earning over €6 billion for the Irish economy. But as with all sectors, the economic downturn has led to recruitment freezes and job cuts in all public and private parts of the industry, outside of specialist roles.

But it is not all doom and gloom: this sector will also be one of the first to recover. When consumer confidence returns and people begin to know where they stand financially, the industry will see the benefit. Corporate business will also return to the industry as national and international trading begins again.

Hospitality

Fewer job opportunities currently exist in the hospitality sector due to lower occupancy rates and less private and corporate functions taking place. According to the FÁS/EGFSN National Skills Bulletin 2009: ‘The demand for hospitality staff is set to decline and there are no shortages at present, nor are any expected in the medium term.’ This report also states that ‘between 2007 and 2008, there were 2,000 net job losses in selected occupations, with bar and waiting staff and chefs accounting for most of the decline.’

But take heart from the fact that most job losses are in casual employment rather than graduate positions. Some of the larger hotel chains have continued to grow, albeit at a slower pace. A strategy of special offers and packages has been adopted by many accommodation providers.

Tourism

Tourism jobs have taken a hit due to falling visitor numbers and less consumer spending. State bodies have seen recruitment freezes, job losses, non-renewal of contracts and reduced seasonal staff. This has also led to fewer job options with public and private tourist ventures.

The leisure industry

The leisure industry has suffered as people have less disposable income. However, with health, fitness and ‘wellness’ issues remaining topical, a certain level of demand will remain and will grow into the future, according to the various tourism bodies.

Sport

The larger sporting organisations appear to remain strong due to the ongoing popularity of sport in Ireland and elsewhere. However, those in the sports industry more dependent on state funding (eg local authorities) have been hit much harder and hence have limited graduate opportunities.

The events industry

The events industry is one of the first to be hit during an economic downturn as companies or individuals are unwilling or don’t want to be seen to fund costly events. But keep your eyes open. Events will still happen – but probably on the cheap – so get involved. Also, marketing budgets often remain high even when all other department funding is cut.

Growth areas

The cruise line industry has seen growth in recent years and remains an employment option. Some catering management companies in the ROI have reported growth leading to graduate opportunities.

Fáilte Ireland, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism have targeted a number of strategic areas as potential growth areas worth investing in:

  • Cultural tourism: a significant growth area worldwide, which has had an estimated value to the Irish economy of over €5 billion annually.
  • Festivals and cultural events initiative: aims to spread events around the country and invest in attractive and sustainable events to enhance local and regional tourism.
  • Food tourism.
  • Sustainable/eco tourism (also called agri, agro and rural tourism): a real global growth area.
  • Adventure tourism.
  • Short city breaks: Ireland as a city break destination.
  • Car touring: seen by many tourists as a cheaper way to holiday.
  • Sports tourism: involves a focus on bringing major sporting events to Ireland, particularly those which showcase Ireland as a tourism destination. Piggy-backing on events such as the Olympic Games in London 2012 can also be lucrative. Recent reports have suggested that tourism in the Republic and Northern Ireland could benefit to the tune of €58m and €12m respectively from the 2012 games.
  • Leisure pursuits/amenities: walking, hill walking, cruising, angling, golf, cycling, equestrian.
  • Spa and wellness/well-being activities.
  • New and developing markets such as China and India: knowledge of these markets (eg a desire to travel in groups) and the offering of suitable products is vital. Language skills can be vital for building these ‘tourism’ relationships.
  • English language learning.
  • Business/corporate tourism: offers real growth potential through marketing Ireland as a conference/business and incentive travel destination. The success of the newly opened Convention Centre Dublin is an example of this. The potential benefit to other sections of the tourism industry is also great, eg accommodation providers, leisure pursuits/amenities, food and drink sector.
  • E-tourism: potential opportunities for those who want to innovate in and work on online marketing/sales and information management.
  • Rapidly aging populations: this will mean a need for a far more expansive range of products and services aimed at this demographic group, eg cruises.

Time to innovate

Innovation and entrepreneurship will be key factors in the recovery of this sector. This may be in the development of new products or services, or the re-invigorating of existing products that have become predictable and stale.