Tourism, decent work and the SDGs

RX, World Travel Market, Responsible Tourism Blog, June 2017

Author: Harold Goodwin

Tourism and hospitality are labour intensive, with 8% of the global workforce employed in the sector.  As the ILO has pointed out there are many highly skilled well trained professionals employed in the sector. However, there are also many women, young people and migrant workers employed on casual and part-time contracts, receiving the minimum wage – or less. For some who only want to work part-time, or who because of family responsibilities can only work part-time, the tourism and hospitality sectors provide flexible employment. Tourism and hospitality provides opportunities for people who would otherwise be excluded from work contributing to their social inclusion and personal development.

The Resolution Foundation’s latest research suggests that the numbers employed on zero-hours contracts in Britain may have peaked and is now falling. McDonalds is offering all its employees on zero-hours contracts contracted employment, pub chains JD Wetherspoon and Greene King, and cinema chain Everyman all said they’d ditch zero-hours contracts. There have recently been some signs of improvement in employment in these sectors in the UK – in part because the labour market is tight and there are further concerns about the availability of European migrant  labour post-Brexit.

The critique of employment conditions in the sector is deeply rooted, low remuneration, anti-social hours, insecurity, limited access to training and poor career progression are charges regularly levelled at the industry. Tourism Concern has tirelessly campaigned against the exploitation of workers in the industry with its Sun, Sand, Sea and Sweatshops campaign and its trekking porters campaign.

In the World Responsible Tourism Awards we see many examples of companies choosing to have inclusive labour practices. In India Lemon Tree Hotels‘ fair employment record is very impressive, with 13 percent of employees having a disability or special need and nearly 500 employees coming from marginalised sections of society, which is an impressive 25 percent of staff. A figure they plan to double in the next five years.

In Africa Bushmans Kloof part of the family-owned Red Carnation Hotels Collection, they have demonstrated commitment to the principle of creating local employment. They not only employ over 55 percent from local communities but also house them and their families for free in their own village.
The importance of decent work  in achieving sustainable development is highlighted in Goal 8 of the Sustainable Development Goals which aims to “promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.” As the UNWTO have argued tourism is one of the driving forces of global economic growth, and currently accounts for 1 in 11 jobs worldwide. By giving access to decent work opportunities in the tourism sector, society- particularly youth and women- can benefit from enhanced skills and professional development. The sector’s contribution to job creation is specifically recognized in SDG target 8.9 “By 2030, devise and implement policies to promote sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products.”

In the WTM Responsible Tourism Awards this year we are looking for examples of tourism businesses that can demonstrate inclusive employment, decent work and good training and progression. If you are reading this and are part of such a business apply by the end of August. If you know of businesses with good practices encourage them to apply.