Top management – the market needs and application of managers in rural tourism in Slovakia

  1. Top management – the market needs and application of managers in rural tourism in Slovakia

Ing. ZUZANA LUŠŇÁKOVÁ, PhD.

Department of Marketing

doc. Ing. MÁRIA ŠAJBIDOROVÁ, PhD.

Department of Management

Faculty of Economics and Management

Slovak University of Agriculture

Nitra, Slovakia

zuzana.lusnakova@fem.uniag.sk

maria.sajbidorova@fem.uniag.sk

Abstract

It is not easy to find a good and loyal employee, but not impossible. The basic trend now is a need for change in attitude already at offering the job place. To get good quality and suitable employee expect to focus on his expertise and skills that are necessary for his job and specific job position.One of the objectives of the company owners, who lead the competition fight for the customer on the market, is a satisfied employee who represents the company to customers in a positive way. In today’s ever changing environment it is necessary to educate staff continuously and develop their abilities, because the knowledge gained in high school, college or vocational courses is not enough.

There is the lack of job opportunities in the field of rural tourism in Slovakia so we decided to find out how it is with interest for labour forces – top managers and the current facilities management in rural tourism in Slovakia.

Strategic plan for promoting the application of the labour force on the labour market in the field of rural tourism was drawn up on the grounds that qualified managers find just very difficult the application in family enterprises operating in rural tourism facilities and is essential for them to apply on the labour market. Our aim was also to provide them a strategic plan how to find their own place on this rural tourism labour market.

Key words: top manager, rural tourism, rural tourism facility, labour market

1 Introduction

Today it is ineffective to use the media as a newspapers and magazines to promote job places. The direct and active search for specific people who best meet requirements for the job is much preferable today. As the second effective method we consider jobs online presentation, especially on the own website of the company. This method particularly prefers younger generation, among which the trader can also find real talents. Furthermore, there is particularly appropriate the recommendation of middle management – manager recommends manager. The reason is that a worker who knows his job, knows whether a particular person fit for the job and if it would be beneficial to society. We can not forget the social networks such as Facebook in finding staff for a particular job or the use of good quality and recruitment agencies.

Before it is any suitable candidate selected, it is important to know the company’s requirements for a worker. Willingness to longer-term employment is important beyond the usual requirements such as education, the necessary experience or at least an interest and relation related to a specific type of work. This will alleviate the current problem with fluctuating staff right in tourist facilities, because as we discovered on the basis of research, the reason for employee redundancy is not always the low wage, but the unwillingness to work and inadequate education.

If the company finds a suitable candidate for job position in middle or top management, it is necessary to offer him time and space for adequately orientating in the issue and also in the environment.Subsequently, the manager can provide adequate and expected performance. Ideally, the manager should remain in job position for at least two years, to be able to evaluate his work results and then further advance is possible. If a company has subsidiaries or partners abroad, it is appropriate and beneficial for the manager to find out how they are functioning. This is not common in Slovakia, managers do not migrate for work very often and are fixated on the environment in which they live.

The challenge for management is also creating of the favorable working conditions for their employees, such as a friendly working environment, convenient working hours within the limits of the facility, organization of non-work events, providing discounts for services offered by the facility for employees and their families. The quality remuneration system should be introduced at the middle and top management level, not exclusively financial. Equally important is the verbal assessment of their work, which encourages managers to further value creation.

Continuing education and development of managers increase the quality of obtained education, skills and abilities. The basic properties that employers currently require are flexibility, adaptability and proactivity. Training and development better prepare staff to cope with new tasks and challenges, as employees should be prepared to cope with new demands from their superiors, but also be ready for change of their job position in the organization.

The development and training should primarily depend on the employees themselves, but businesses would also have to show initiative. First, it shows the employees that company care about them and on the other hand, also because the people use other sources.
Staff holding the necessary knowledge is the most valuable asset of organizations in this century. “The only way of organizations development and gaining competitive advantage in the market is to employ and support those people who are able to work, enjoy and develop their knowledge potential.”

2 Problem formulation

Tourism is very important for the European economy. It accounts for 5 % of direct employment and proportion of European GDP and has a tremendous multiplying effect over other economic sectors, enjoying forecast stable growth for the future. Tourism has one of the highest labour mobility rates across Europe, permitting discussion of the emergence of a truly European economic sector and a labour market with a truly European dimension. Thus, the discussion about new occupations and future skill needs for the sector in Europe has a particular significance. (Tessaring, M., Strietska – Ilina, O. 2005)

The definition of rural tourism has been the subject of many debates in the literature without arriving at any firm consensus (Bramwell 1994). First of all, rural areas where rural tourism occurs are difficult to define since criteria used by different nations vary enormously; secondly, not all tourism which takes place in rural areas is strictly “rural” – it can be urban in form, and merely be located in a rural area; thirdly, different forms of rural tourism have developed in different regions and hence it is hard to find characteristics that are common to all of the countries; fourthly rural areas are in a complex process of change due to the impact of global markets, communications and telecommunications that have changed market conditions and orientations for traditional products. Besides, though some rural areas have experienced depopulation there are many of them that are experiencing an inflow of people to retire or to develop new non-traditional businesses.

Rural tourism has long been considered a means of achieving economic and social development and regeneration. More specifically, it has been widely promoted as an effective source of income and employment, particularly in peripheral rural areas where traditional agrarian industries have declined. More recently, however, a number of established tourism destinations have also turned to rural tourism in order to diversify their tourism products and markets and to spread the benefits of tourism away from the coastal resorts into the hinterland. (Sharpley, R. 2002)

Now that the novelty factor of visiting the former communist countries of Eastern and Central Europe is over, the focus must be on product quality, professional service and value for money if an internationally competitive tourism product is to emerge. The natural assets of the Slovak Republic point towards an unful”lled potential for rural tourism. (Clarke J., Denman R., Hickman G., Slovak J. 2001)

Although not expressed in the surveys, the most important labour shortage in tourism is of managers (top and middle management) and entrepreneurs. There are several reasons for this. For a long time, Montenegro’s tourist industry was dominated by large public enterprises. Most often, top and middle management were not appointed and promoted according to their

education and capabilities but according to other non-professional criteria. Education at all levels, especially higher and university education, has not been producing a competent labour force. Management education has been especially weak, with no specialised education for management in tourism. Some available programmes were of too general a nature and with little practical training. In the last decade, the best people left the country, or left the sector, to

survive and some of them left the public sector to start a private business. (Sisevic, B. 2005)

The knowledge and skills required to provide services shaped by current social trends become

highly interdisciplinary. Multiskilling and new hybrid occupations reflect the trend for   new types of tourism products and services – more complex and sophisticated in nature – and the growing demand for functional flexibility in the labour force. The debate about the role of qualifications in the tourism sector touched on the problem of losing human resources to other

sectors’ appreciative of personnel from tourism and employers’ failure to attract qualified     personnel to the sector. Taking into account the need for qualifications from other sectors (e.g.

ICTs), the workshop participants agreed that transversal and hybrid qualifications with a broader general basis might be useful and could lead to new occupational profiles. (Tessaring, M., Strietska – Ilina, O. 2005)

Tourism basically demands a considerable labour force and offers a high job supply for both highly and less qualified manpower. An indispensable factor in developing the tourism sector is a professional client-oriented attitude, a basic product component being personalised service. Currently, however, some deficiencies may be observed both in skills and in handling

clients. It is, at present, a quite common contradiction that young people graduate from schools involved in tourism education, whereas businesses need qualified Professional  anpower with practical experience. Hungarian tourism training and education opportunities are continually expanding and training programmes performed in foreign languages are also available in secondary and tertiary education. Tourism education, however, became student market oriented, which resulted in overeducating in certain fields with shortages in others. The number of those graduated in tourism tertiary education exceeds labour market demand, explained by the interests of the institutions being maintained on a market basis as well as by the inflexibility of the education sector. Nevertheless, tourism is still a fashionable profession;

it is also quite popular among those young people who wish to carry on with their studies but do not have a specific choice of profession. A considerable number of qualified tourism experts continue their careers outside the profession. (Szabó, M. 2005)

3 Problem solution

Ministry of the Labour, Social Affairs and Family in Slovak Republic do not account almost any offers to fill jobs positions in TOP management in rural tourism throughout the year. Also web pages like www.profesia.sk do not offer jobs for the applicants of TOP management in this area. Offered jobs are mostly for cleaners, barmaids, waitress and sometimes occurs the offer for the facility operator.

Just for the lack of job opportunities in the studied area throughout Slovakia, we decided to see how it is with interest and the current facilities management in rural tourism in Slovakia.

To identify the needs of the labor market in tourism, where we specifically focused on the possibility of applying the TOP managers in the field of rural tourism, we have compiled a questionnaire. Facilities engaged in rural tourism throughout Slovakia were respondents. The tested sample represented 124 facilities. The questionnaire was sent through the mail and was replied by 88 facilities from the whole number of respondents. All these questionnaires were usable.

All rural tourism facilities, which created the sample under consideration, offer a similar portfolio of activities – accommodation, horse riding, selling cheese and cheese products, their taste, respectively agrofarms visits and other accompanying events. Through the following questions we tried to determine the extent to which the owners of facilities considered TOP management leadership important.

1. Is your rural tourism facility the family business? Yes No
2. Is your rural tourism facility
leaded by qualified management? Yes No
3. If you feel the need to deal with the qualified business management question where     would you look for suitable candidates? (employment offices, the competition, web  sites, cooperation with universities, …)

4. Please indicate what would you require from your TOP management?
5. Do you think your rural tourism facilities thrive or fail?

As we expected, most of the facilities in the field of rural tourism in Slovakia is a family business. The results of our questionnaire survey confirmed the situation where up to 96% of respondents belong to family businesses. In family businesses, the recruitment of staff is almost always carried out without tender. This method of recruitment should be certainly applied in filling senior management positions. For efficient and good business management is vital to fill the managing post by qualified managers, which should realize also the owners of the analyzed subjects.

The second question examined whether rural tourism facilities are managed by qualified management despite our assumption that they are family businesses. We found out that TOP management is manged by owner himself in 75% of analyzed rural facilities. 10% of facilities is managed by a family member of the owner or person close to the holder. Regarding education, only in 16 cases were the owners or their family members trained in the management of rural tourism facilities. However, experience with the management of rural tourism facilities, which came into practice in Slovakia or in similar facilities abroad (Austria, Italy) where entrepreneurs have richer and more favorable experience in working in the field of rural tourism is much more relevant for owners.

When we asked respondents where they would look for potential senior managers for their business if they were needed, we offered them possible answers – the labor offices, competition, web sites, cooperation with universities. From the offered answer the cooperation with universities was marked 15 times, which is very rarely realized in our opinion. It may be due to the fact that owners are looking very rarely for the top managers for their businesses. Web site and in particular the labor offices are used also very rarely for these purposes. If the owner had already decided to employ a manager in his rural tourism facility he would do it through recommendations from friends or competitors.

The fourth question was what would respondents require from their executives. Respondents consistently said they would require practice, experience, knowledge, ability to manage this facility and love for nature and animals. Claims are high, in essence there are not vacant positions. It is apparent from the post of top executives.

At the end of the questionnaire we wanted to know the subjective opinion of respondents – owners of rural tourism facilities, whether their facilities thrive or fail in their opinion. The answer may surprise even it was foreseeable that these undertaken facilities should be effective, otherwise they would not provide their services. More than 85% of respondents immodest stated that their facility is doing well (although that is not led by a qualified management). Maybe the naswer is the result of excessive Slovak patriotism. 10% of companies were unable to clearly answer the question and 5% of facilities would not be satisfied with its functioning.

Slovakia has the opportunity to use EU funds throughout the duration of the National Strategic Reference framework in years 2008-2013. The Managing Authority, which is the Ministry of the Economy of the Slovak Republic, is responsible for the efficiency, propriety of management, provision and use of this aid in accordance with EU regulations, institutional, legal and financial systems and the regulations of the Slovak Republic.

3.1 Strategic plan for promoting the application of the labour force on the labour market in the field of rural tourism

Strategic plan for promoting the application of the labour force on the labour market in the field of rural tourism was drawn up on the grounds that qualified managers find just very difficult the application in family enterprises operating in agro-tourism facilities and is essential for them to apply on the labour market. Our aim was to prepar them a strategic plan to find their own place and job on rural tourism labour market.

Priority objective is aimed at the new jobs creation and increasing the adaptability in the area of rural tourism having regard to the knowledge society.

Target group constitutes a component of the labour force, which is looking for application on the labour market in the field of regional development (rural tourism), mostly it is focused on the alumni of the universities.

The intention of the project is to prepare potential local leaders to create projects by increasing their knowledge and skills. By means of courses we would like to train managers for positions of the regional managers within a small area and the government. At the same time we want to prepare them as potential collaborators for the Regional Development Agencies (RDA) for the elaboration and managing regional projects and give a chance to selected candidates to participate in the working process with the option of establishing their own businesses.

Measures to achieve the objective in creation of the advice-information system in the field of regional development, through the Regional Development Agencies, which are located in each region. Next action is to provide educational programs, whose purpose is to make familiar the target audiences with new trends in rural tourism. Than it is important to propose and process an innovative course material for ensuring the education of target groups. After that we need to ensure the publicity of the project outputs. The Regional Development Agency do these training programmes in cooperation with the V4 countries. The aim of RDA is to deepen knowledge in the field of rural tourism and improve the possibility of applying the human resources on the labour market.

The objective of the training courses is the target group education in the field of tourism as a possible form of self-employment and also the use of human resources, notably from the ranks of the unemployed and also a series of small businesses in tourism and motivation of unemployed for career choice in tourism.

The implementation phases of the project

  • Processing of project proposal in the form of application for the rural tourism facility,
  • Find partners for transnational cooperation and to prepare the agreement proposal of transnational cooperation,
  • Preparation of the study materials for the courses participants,
  • Preparation of the technical-organizational conditions for the education implementation,
  • Implementation of the training courses,
  • Continuous evaluation of the participants results in training courses – choice for foreign study trip,
  • The completion of the training courses implementation and the final evaluation.

3.2 Regional managers – the chance for regions

Operational programme: Human resources

The project will be supported in the framework of the operational programe Human Resources co-financed from the European Social Fund.

The main objective of project is to train qualified and flexible workforce through the courses of regional managers, which find their application on the labour market and thus facilitate the development of the whole region.

The intention of the project is to prepare potential local leaders for the projects creation by increasing their knowledge and skills and also by means of courses to train participants to the position of regional managers within a small area and the government. At the same time to prepare them as potential collaborators for the RDA for the elaboration and managing regional projects and to give a chance the selected candidates to engage in the work process, with the possibility of founding his own firm/ facility.

The result of the project will be three implemented regional managers courses with a total of thirty trained regional managers in the issues of mobilizing and managing funds from domestic sources and the sources of the EU, as well as training to launch and operation of self-employment.

Specific objectives of the project are

  • to contribute the achievement of the professional and practical knowledge for the purpose of enhancing the training for the development and implementation of projects,
  • to provide basic information about operational programmes in the social field, in the field of infrastructure, tourism development, the reconstruction of the historical parts of cities and towns and rural development, etc.
  • to provide training to create a place of people own business, to improve the potential and possibilities of target groups adaptation to demand requirements and the needs of the labour market,
  • to learn training courses participants how to use the internet with a focus on the use of the information about the financing possibilities of individual projects from the EU structural funds.

4 Conclusion

Tourism is undoubtedly one of the fastest developing and most promising industries of the Slovak national economy. The rural tourism in Slovakia represent a perspective business sector but it needs to worry about its development and improvement. Slovakia has great natural and cultural-historical potential, especially in rural areas, which can be connected with services and programs for tourists and this can bring much greater economic effect. However, Slovakia still lags behind the advanced countries, but it could be solved by cooperation with foreign countries. In this area of tourism there is particular cooperation and encouraging to development needed as well as individual entrepreneurs should care about their business advertising, get into the minds, do such actions that would contribute to greater demand for rural tourism in Slovakia. The rural tourism facilities should more cooperate with travel agencies, which would act as intermediaries between entrepreneurs and those who are interested to spent some tme in the countryside.

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