Tourism is a major economic activity of many countries in the world. It is a sector that has experienced a rapid rate of growth for the last fifty years. Countries have gone to war and after that they are forced to live in economic hardships, however, tourism has emerged as one of the vital social economic activities to these countries especially those with economies that have less developed service industries.
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The many benefits and the rapid growth in this sector have seen many countries seek ways of having a share of the cake. These benefits include generation of revenue, exchange of culture and creation of employment opportunities. One of these countries is Scotland, which has seen tourism bring a lot of revenue into its economy. Tourism ranks as the forth employer in Scotland yet this sector still faces the problem of recruiting and maintaining skilled workers.
It is known that the success of any industry depends on its human resources and how they are managed and developed. In this paper, we will investigate the issues that affect the labor market in the hospitality and tourism industry in Scotland and how they can be solved. In finding the solution to these problems, we will look at how the educational system in Scotland can help in supplying skilled labor to the industry (Yeoman, 2004, 67).
Creating and maintaining customers who are satisfied and therefore, profitable, is the main objective of any business, but customers can only be satisfied if a business meets their needs. This means that for businesses to satisfy their customers, they need to understand them and build their businesses around them.
This is very important especially in the service industry that tends to be dominated by operations instead of customer issues. It is important for any business to create satisfied customers because customers who are satisfied tend to make repeat purchases and will talk favorably to others about the business and thereby creating more customers to the business (Kotler, 2003).
There is also an increasing expectation for quality among customers, this puts many businesses in a dilemma bearing in mind that it is not easy to find and retain skilled labor. This problem coupled with the issue of seasonality that is experienced in the tourism sector, limits the ability of many tourism operators to give good quality services that the market demands (Baum and Lundtorp, 2001, p.5).
It is also said that the attitude and performance of employs determines how customers will be satisfied. The way employees behave and their skills relate to the quality of service they produce and this influences how customers judge that particular service.
To ensure better service quality, organization employ people who are well trained and also pay them well because well paid workers will give better services with less supervision. Such workers tend to stay longer on their jobs. This in most occasions brings about customer satisfaction and repeat purchases.
However, getting quality employees in a small labor market is not easy. For instance, many tourism businesses are found in remote areas and therefore, they find it hard to attract workers who are skilled. Unemployment in countries also determines the availability of labor. Expanding economies in developed countries has reduced the number of people seeking jobs in the tourism sector. Demographics also play a role whereby you find many young people in the tourism industry as compared to the older people (Riley et.al. 2002, 15).
Uniqueness of the Service Industry
The unique characteristics of the service industry also serve as a big problem to the tourism sector. Services are usually intangible, they are inseparable, they are heterogeneous, and are not perishable.
These characteristics affect the service industry differently as they do to the other industries. Therefore, those in the service industry need to understand these characteristics so as to deliver their services in a way that will satisfy their customers. To do this, they need to first understand their workers because employees play a very big role in service differentiation.
To meet the demands of their customers, they need to employ the right people; they should empower them through training to a standard that will ensure that they deliver quality service to the satisfaction of customers and also that will maximize profits. It is hard for any business in the hospitality industry to offer superior and unique experiences to customers in a world full of technological advancements without employees that have received adequate training and education (Kusluvan, 2003, 336).
Tourism Sector in Scotland
So far we have seen the various issues that affect the service industry. We will now look at how these issues affect the tourism sector in Scotland. For instance, how service quality can enhance tourism growth in Scotland, the need to have skilled manpower that will produce quality services, and also look at how education and training can help in the supply of skilled labor in the tourism and hospitality industry in Scotland.
Scotland is one of the four countries that form the United Kingdom. It is found in the northwestern part of Europe. It is made up of a mainland and 790 islands. Scotland’s capital city is Edinburgh although; the largest city in the country is Glasgow. The country has diverse religious affiliations that include Roman Catholic, Islam, Presbyterian, Baptist, and the Episcopal Church.
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Its natural beauty and the many manmade attractions make Scotland a popular destination to many tourists from all over the world. This has made tourism an important sector in the economy of Scotland contributing to creation of jobs, offering training and skills to the Scottish population (Scottish Development International, n.d.a).
Figures show that the number of tourists visiting Scotland is increasing every year. The beautiful scenery and the many outdoor activities such as boating, hill walking and climbing, cultural attractions during Scottish festivals and many others make the country a tourist destination of choice.
The increasing trend in the number of visitors is projected to continue for the next 20 years, from 17.3 million in 2005 to 27.3 million in 2025. This period will also see an increase in tourist expenditure. These projections are an indication that the tourism sector in Scotland is growing rapidly. This means that in order to provide better services to the many tourists, there is an urgent need to employ more workers.
There are many types of employment that are brought about by tourism. For instance, research shows that more than 200,000 people were employed in the Scottish tourism and hospitality sector. These included employment in restaurants, hotels and in hospitality services. However, the rate of employment is not proportional to the increasing number of tourists. In short, there are many employment vacancies that need to be filled (VisitScotland, n.d.).
For better services, businesses need employees with an education. The education system in Scotland is built on high values. An outstanding value is that the government provides free and compulsory to all children under the age of 16. It has a broad curriculum that was designed to produce all round people that can realize their dreams in the many occupations (Scottish Executive, 2003). In Scotland, both the public and the private sector play a role in the designing, validating and providing education and training in the service industry.
There are many bodies that provide these services including universities, private colleges and colleges for further education. The University of Strathclyde has a hospitality and tourism management department. This serves to show that there is a strong representation of the service sector in the education system in Scotland. The business sector also offers training programs to their staff to raise the standards of their services (Scottish Development International, 2011, p.1).
We have already seen that in order to meet the raising expectation of customers in the hospitality and tourism sector, businesses need to raise the standards of their services. In the global business today, success is determined by quality and value, an area in which Scotland, as hospitality and tourism destination, is lurking behind other players who are providing better services.
For instance, you can not compare the cost of production in Asian countries to that experienced in Scotland. For the high costs seen Scotland to translate into income, means high tourism rates, which drive away visitors. Another issue is that the tourism and hospitality sector in Scotland is dominated by small and medium businesses, which can not afford to use up to date technologies to give customers the quality of service they need. They also lack skilled manpower for better services.
Large businesses are doing well in this area because they are in a position to provide their staff with better technologies to maintain a high level of excellence. They also have the funds to recruit and train their staff to the required standards, and therefore, they are better placed to satisfy their customers (Reid and Botanic, 2009, 54).
Issues the Need to be dealt with in Scotland
We saw earlier that employees play a role in customer satisfaction. Research on the tourism sector in Scotland shows that the industry suffers from many issues such as poor perception, high labor turnover rates, issues that inhibit the access of skilled employees, yet quality service can only be given by skilled employees.
People with proper skills are in a position to come up with services and products that will satisfy customer needs. Therefore, the hospitality and tourism sector in Scotland needs education and training that will produce the much needed skills.
With skilled labor, service quality will be maintained to the satisfaction of customers and therefore, will lead to the overall growth of the sector as it will experience repeat purchases and influx of new customers. Human labor is very important to the tourism and hospitality sector, but negative attitudes towards human capital, employment practices that are not flexible, and weak educational and training curriculum, have made Scotland fail in this area (Oliver, 2009, 15).
Not many people are attracted to this sector because it is seasonal, small and medium business in Scotland are not in a position to give people a career they can depend on, and as such, the sector does poorly in terms of getting quality employees. It is only through education that people will get clarification about the misconceptions surrounding the sector.
Many academic qualifications in Scotland are offered by universities and colleges, however, there is a lack of industry orientation and the academic institutions employ the theoretical approach which does not offer much that is needed in the tourism and hospitality industry.
This means that the conflict of interests between the requirements of the industry and what the education system offers will continue to play out in determining the quality of students that enter the job market. To solve this, education system should make sure that work related contexts are used in preparing students for the job market (Kandampully et.al. 2001, p.31).
Recommendations for Scotland
Scotland should focus on the requirements of learners that are changing everyday and also strive to address the demands of employers. Scottish students should also be helped to dispel the prejudices that surround the sector.
For instance, they should know that they are entering a sector dominated by small businesses and prepare themselves for the challenges to come. To improve the image of the sector, the Scottish government should invest more in awareness programs that will show people that tourism offers real opportunities for economic sustenance (Scottish Government, 2011).
We have seen that Scotland is one of the major tourist destinations in the world. However, the country suffers from labor market issues that tend to cripple the otherwise, vibrant economic sector. Service industry always calls for better quality services which can only be offered by qualified and skilled workers. This means a country needs a proper education system that ensures that qualified students are released into the job market. This is not the case with the education system in Scotland.
The theoretical approaches used do not produce the best quality workers that the industry needs. other problems discussed affecting the service industry in Scotland are seasonality of the sector, small and medium businesses that do not promise career jobs to job seekers and high costs of production. The solution is to put proper education system in place so that quality employees are made available, awareness to clarify on prejudices to ensure that people change their perception about job opportunities in the tourism and hospitality industry.
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Oliver, R., 2009. Satisfaction: A Behavioral Perspective on the Consumer. New York: M.E. Sharpe.
Reid, T. and Botanic, G., 2009. Hospitality Marketing Management. New York: John Wiley and Sons.
Riley, et.al., 2002. Tourism employment: analysis and planning. New York: Channel View Publications.
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