The Malta Independent 4 August 2020, Tuesday

Diversity in different sectors of the tourism industry

Malta Independent Thursday, 8 August 2013, 10:39 Last update: about 7 years ago

Tourism is undoubtedly a pillar of the Maltese economy.  Data shows that tourism is growing, therefore efforts need to be made to ensure that the industry is managed well in order to enable it to prosper, ultimately benefiting all those who are directly or indirectly impacted by it. Thus, the effective management of people working in the industry is key.

Effective people management in the tourism industry is a principle with which all stakeholders agree. However, the implications of this are not clearly and coherently understood. In particular, the management of diversity within the tourism industry is a craft that still needs to be grasped well in order to allow it to reap its full benefits.

The need for managing diversity in the tourism industry stems from the fact that, due to immigration, globalisation, and contemporary tourism trends, people both working in the industry as well as its consumers, tend to come from diverse backgrounds, thus creating a collective mixture. In hospitality for instance, it is obvious that a substantial number of people working in the industry are non-Maltese. With low cost airlines linking Malta to an ever- increasing number of other countries, customers also come from all parts of the world. The same can be said for the travel and leisure industry, where one can spot a milieu of nationalities and ethnicities. Other differences that may not be so quickly identifiable at face value, such as religious belief and dietary preferences, and sexual orientation, also need to be taken into consideration.

Any collective mixture is characterized by differences, similarities and tensions. When managed well, a mixture leads to identifiable and measurable positive results, whereas if left unmanaged, the differences and tensions that characterize that collective mixture will often lead to negative consequences. Thus, for instance, lack of cultural awareness may lead to awkward and unpleasant customer experiences; lack of accessibility for disabled persons may alienate potential customers; and lack of family friendly measures may drive a valued employee to a competitor.

On the other hand, it has been established that effective diversity management can lead to a number of ‘business benefits’, such as the attraction of new customers, retention of staff and reduced staff turnover, and increased staff motivation and productivity.

Large international companies such as Marriott International have long understood the importance of strategic diversity management and have developed a track record in implementing various successful diversity initiatives.

Diversity initiatives do not have to be costly to be successful.  However, a clear understanding of the benefits of diversity across all levels of the organization, as well as a clear commitment from the top, are essential if any efforts aimed at addressing diversity are to be effective. Are Maltese tourism operators ready to take up the challenge?

For this purpose the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) recently embarked on a new EU funded project ‘Retaining and Attracting People within Tourism through Diversity Management’ ESF 2.78. Operational Programme II Cohesion Policy 2007-2013. The aim of this project is to identify the issues affecting the employability of workers in the tourism industry by addressing retention and recruitment challenges. This will be supported through a set of research studies, a training programme and an online interactive resource portal all focusing on the concept of diversity management and aimed at aiding practitioners in their tourism management fields.

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