Putting People at the Heart of Our Tourism Industry

Putting People at the Heart of Our Tourism Industry

LCN Speaks to Eimear Callaghan, Tourism Northern Ireland…

“It’s no exaggeration to say that people are the driving force behind any tourism industry and much of the appeal of Northern Ireland’s tourism offering is rightly attributed to the warmth and friendliness of our people.

One of Tourism NI’s core objectives is to encourage more people to consider whether they might be the sort of person who could forge a career in tourism. 

Tourism and hospitality employs close to 70,000 people across the region, accounting for something like one in 12 jobs in Northern Ireland. The sector is an inclusive employer, employing people of all ages and 70% of all jobs in the tourism sector located outside of Belfast. 

This wide reach gives the tourism industry in Northern Ireland a unique opportunity to address economic disparity in our urban and rural communities and to bring people
who have been outside the labour market back to a working environment that can offer flexibility and tangible career options. 

However, there is still a lack of understanding about the unique careers on offer in this vibrant, rewarding and accessible sector. To remedy this, Tourism NI has embarked on a number of initiatives to encourage as many people to see tourism as a career of choice. 

Careers in the tourism sector can offer flexible working and career progression – positive aspects which are often overlooked or perhaps unknown. 

We are also working with employers in the industry to help them offer training opportunities and career progression pathways to their existing employees.

Make It Here

The ‘Make It Here’ campaign, which has been running since last year, aims to shift perceptions of what it’s like to work in the Tourism & Hospitality industry, dispelling common misunderstandings and outlining the benefits of a career in this sector. 

The ‘Make It Here’ campaign emphasises the skills people might already have which make them suited to a career in the Tourism & Hospitality industry, whether they are entering the jobs market for the first time, considering a switch from another career, or keen to go back to part time employment after retirement.

The campaign has benefited employers in many ways with several tourism employers reporting an increase in the number of overall applications for roles as well as an improvement in the quality of those applicants overall.

The ‘Make It Here’ campaign also aimed to help employers with the retention of staff by reaffirming the great benefits of working in Tourism & Hospitality, such as structured training, pay progression and flexible hours.

Real change in perceptions and behaviour takes time and so the aim of ‘Make It Here’ is to move the dial on how the world at large views tourism and hospitality, which in turn will improve long-term recruitment and retention.

Wellbeing & Development Promise 

Another initiative which is helping change perceptions is the Hospitality and Tourism Industry ‘Wellbeing and Development Promise’, a UK wide initiative for the hospitality and tourism industry, to promote the wellbeing and development of staff within both sectors.

Tourism Northern Ireland, in partnership with Hospitality Ulster and the Hospitality and Tourism Skills network, is delivering the rollout of this Promise in Northern Ireland with a number of ‘People Potential’ workshops.

Employers are encouraged to sign up to the Wellbeing and Development Promise and commit to best practice in the workplace, but also in supporting people in the wider lives. The promise acts as a signpost for employers and staff to access support resources that will ultimately help those in the industry reach their full potential and enjoy long careers in the sector. 

Ensuring that team members feel well-supported and are being given development opportunities is fundamental to any successful business. But it is particularly vital for the hospitality sector, which is built on providing fantastic customer service, and an exciting, enjoyable experience. 

It is therefore critical that careers in tourism are attractive both for jobseekers and existing staff and that team members feel valued and supported within their workplace. 

A focus on wellbeing in the workplace has been proven to boost productivity and reduce absenteeism. Creating such environments will deliver a sense of belonging, positively impacting on the mental health of team members.

The Promise seeks to foster such an environment.


Training Opportunities

Tourism NI has supported two accredited training courses, run by Belfast Metropolitan College, which are designed to encourage people to ‘Get Into Tourism’ and upskill existing staff in the industry.

The ‘Get Into Tourism’ course is a free Level 2 City and Guilds accredited short course. It is focused on supporting individuals, who ordinarily would not have applied, to engage in and improve the skills profile of our local tourism workforce.

The course provides participants with the opportunity to explore pathways in the industry and ensure the best fit for their future career.

Participants also have the opportunity to visit some of Northern Ireland’s best tourism attractions and experiences as part of the course. 

Those who complete the course are awarded a Level 2 qualification in the Principles of Customer Service. The course is fully funded by Tourism NI.

The ‘Bighearted’ course is another course funded by Tourism NI and run by Belfast Metropolitan College, which provides participants with a Level 2 Award in ‘Principles of Customer Service in Hospitality, Leisure, Travel and Tourism’. 

It is aimed at those who already have experience in the sector and want to refresh their skills. Providing excellence in customer service is vital to deliver the giant welcome our visitors deserve ensuring they return again and again whilst also improving the reputation of our destination.

The ‘Bighearted’ course was fully subscribed, demonstrating the appetite of existing staff in the tourism sector to hone their skills. 

Tourism NI will continue to emphasise the opportunities and benefits available within the tourism sector to people of all ages and backgrounds. We will continue to provide support in upskilling those who are already enjoying fulfilling careers within Northern Ireland’s tourism industry. 

Through this work, Northern Ireland can continue to offer the best tourism experience to all who visit here and encourage them to keep coming back for more.