Tourism and HRD: Some Perspectives
Professor in Operations
Bimtech Institute of Management Technology,
Greater Noida( India)
Tourism is fast expanding. For many nations it provides the main source of GDP. Tourism depends more on the HR capabilities of the service providers. This paper examines tourism from the perspective of business. It considers that the success of tourism will depend upon the business approach of facility planning, marketing and promotion, transportation, efficient supply chain of food and beverages, ensuring quality in delivery and aiming at customer satisfaction. The central focus, the paper investigates is HRM, which is present in all of its activities. The success of tourism depends on training, development and knowledge of the service providers and operators who will run transportation, hotels, and accompany tourists as guides. Finally the papers highlights the importance of culture of the people at large in the society who can convert customer satisfaction into customer delight through their conduct where, as per an old Sanskrit saying, athithi devo bhava, that is ‘ the guest is god’.
Simply defined tourism is the business of travel. Expanded it means anything we do to serve the needs and demands of travellers. More elaborately tourism is referred to,
‘ the temporary movement of people to destinations outside their normal places of work and residence, the activities undertaken during their stay in those destinations, and the facilities created to cater to their needs’( Hunt and Layne 1991).
Tourism is diverse; tourism is dynamic; tourism is all inclusive of many facets of activities and is therefore difficult to bound it by a formal definition. Cook,Yale,and Marqua(2007) refer that tourism includes a wide array of people, activities and facilities. Therefore, tourism is normally considered to comprise of provisions and services of transportation, accommodation, food and beverages, attractions and destinations for visits, entertainment and information. All of these components have one predominant feature, that is customer service. It is basically the service which determines the satisfaction of the traveller who can be more appropriately referred to as the ‘customer of tourism’.
Customer contact model and tourism
The service element is unique in this sector of industry. Services in general follow the ‘customer contact model’. The degree of contact between the customer and the service provider often determines the customer satisfaction. Higher the contact , higher the degree of satisfaction. Conversely, low and indifferent contact can spoil the satisfaction and in some areas creates a negative state. The degree of contact is also differently described as service encounter.
Every interaction between a service provider and the tourist becomes a service encounter. Both a tourist and the tourism service provider carry their expectations when they meet and interact. A tourist has built up his expectations from several sources of information. It comes largely from his friends, relatives who have visited the destination before and have spoken of their experiences. I t can be a personal experience of the tourist who this time once again desires to visit the place possibly with his grown up family or new friends. His past experience has been in a state of ‘delight’ and the destination is exercising a great ‘pull’. The tourist in these days of website revolution is also greatly influenced by the promotion publicity provided by tourism promoters over the internet through glossy photographs and a superlative language. As a matter of fact, tourism promotion through internet is emerging one of the major influencing components in enhancing tourism. In a similar context the tourism service provider has great expectations from the tourist. No doubt, tourism is business and every business has to finally result in a good bottom line for the service provider. The service provider therefore carries expectations that the ‘deal’ of a tourist visiting the destination will go through. The service provider has to equip himself with all the knowledge, information, props to win the customer. An encounter is often compared to a theatrical play, where everyone has to put up a performance as per the role demanded. In an encounter it is essentially the ‘performance’ of the service provider to bring the encounter to a successful conclusion. Unlike the arena of a Spanish bullfight where it is the bull who stands always vanquished, in a service encounter it is a win-win situation. The service provider wins his bottom line of business transaction; the tourist his level of satisfaction.
The front office and the back office
The success of the performance depends on the personal attributes of the service provider to create confidence, acceptability, the trust and a ‘show’ when the interaction takes place. All the service providers are not equipped with these qualities, Therefore, service operations are designed to create front office and the back office. There are two categories of service providers: one who work back stage and are happy to work as support functions to ensure smooth running of the theatre. The back stage work is also responsible for efficiency, in cutting down of costs and achieving high utilization of facilities. The front office employees then take the responsibilities of winning over the customer through direct interaction with the customers. It is not to belittle the role of the back stage. The two roles supplement each other. This integration is vital to reach success in tourism.
An Integration model of Tourism
Cook et al( 2007) present an integrated model of tourism. It is explained that a traveller as a tourist is the focal point for all tourism activities and forms the centre in this model. The authors explain that‘radiating from this focal point are three large bands. Each band has several interdependent groups of tourism participants and organizations. These three bands have been titled as :Tourism promoters, Service providers, and External environment. The band of tourism promoters has professional services such as tourism agencies, tourist boards, travel agents, and tour operators. The band of Service providers caters to provision of services of accommodation, food and beverages, transportation. The last band represents the External environment with components of economy, political environment, technology, and society/culture. A change in these dimensions can make a vital change in forcing the status of tourism in a geographic region/ a country. The model stresses on integration, working together of various components to enhance tourism.
Systems Approach to Tourism
This paper considers that tourism can be visualized to operate following a systems approach. In systems theory of management, a system has several components, called as sub-systems and sub-sub-systems in case the systems are large. These sub-systems interact with each other, impinge and influence each other and are interdependent. It is the holistic performance that counts. The performance of the silos carries a little significance as no subsystem is responsible in entirety for its performance. In this context the tourism as a system operates as an open system , where there are no boundaries creating isolation of each of the sub- systems. The influence permeates across the sub systems.
The following sub-systems are proposed:
Tourism Strategy Sub-system
This sub-system is a management sub-system, is central to the organization and provides support in policy matters to all other sub-systems concerning tourism in the country. The main objectives of this sub-system are to lay down policy directions for establishing, expansion and growth of tourism. How a nation views tourism as an engine of economic growth, as an opportunity to generate employment and conceives innovative programmes to encourage tourism is a subject which is the focus of this sub-system. Most importantly, this sub-system determines a nations attitude to the growth of tourism and this is reflected in allocation of funds, taxation policy, incentives to open new areas, new capacities, and permission to new initiatives. Simultaneously, the policy decisions take care of conservation of natural and cultural heritage from exploitation to the extent of decimation, ethical issues, and permission to enter some certain tourism pursuits. The state regulators have a major role to play and develop a strategy of tourism for the country. There are visible different policy directives and these vary from one country to another. India, for example does not permit casinos on Indian soil, whereas in some of the destinations, Macau for example Casinos play a major role to attract tourism.
HRD and Tourism Strategy Sub-system:
Gupta(2003) mentions that tourism is a major social phenomenon of the modern society with enormous consequences. Promotion of the tourism generates a plethora of both economic and social benefits, infrastructure development, and social integration. Tourism as an economic sector has challenges to meet the needs of trained and educated manpower for various facets of tourism management. Ashraf and Pooja Mathur ( 2003) point out that there is an increasing demand of human resources who can plan, design, develop, manage, promote tourism or even train manpower to run agencies, to operate tours or even to act guides. The customers are increasingly becoming more discriminatory and look for more quality services. Globalization has added a further dimension of awareness amongst the tourists. There is increased competition from all areas. A tourist expects to be guided on convenient travel, places of destinations to be visited, comforts, care, social customs practiced to avoid annoyance to the local population, availability of preferred food, use of scarce funds. HRD has emerged as a major factor to determine competitive advantage for tourism industry. A trained right human resource enables to provide the right context to a tourist. The sub-system has a role to create a resource of skilled, trained personnel for the range of tourism activity. Tourism requires trained human resource as managers on one side, and staff to carry out both front office and back office operations. Leaving aside some large organizations such as chains of hotels which can afford to set up their own training schools, It becomes the responsibility of the central regulators to create an infrastructure of training schools and provide a choice of professional courses to create trained manpower. New demands have emerged on tourism in this age of international traveller and internet. The trained manpower needs to be exposed and educated in understanding the management function, behavioural aspects of conduct and encounter, relationship management, comprehensive understanding of the human nature, knowledge about the unique demands of a customer coming from a foreign country, knowledge of IT, exposure to money transactions, handling of grievances and professionalism. A capable HR manager in tourism is instrumental to implement the central policy , create a climate of trust, and openness through his professional conduct. Apparently when such trained manpower is available, there is also going to be an impact on policy making. Professional advice would now improve the quality of such policies.
Tourism Facilities Sub-system
This sub-system concerns tourism facilities and these include destinations, accommodations, food and beverages, transportation, sports and entertainment. Destinations cover a wide spectrum. On one side there are holiday homes, resorts, golf resorts, health rejuvenating centres which should not be seen as temporary accommodation to spend a night or so but rather a restful place for away from the maddening crowd. The other destinations include experiencing a past glory in the form of heritage cottages, havelis, old forts, palaces, memorials, city sights to make the dreams come true. New forms of destinations are getting invented. These include visits to places of spiritual experience, watching ceremonies such as change of guards at international borders( a big daily draw at Indo-Pak border), worship rituals at major temples, sites of worship, sound and light shows etc. The traditional destinations such as museums, shows, displays of antiquity, zoos, botanical gardens wild life sanctuaries, night safaris, jungle travels continue to be popular .
Accommodations in the form of hotels, pensions, economy hostels are the sources of major income and generate a good degree of employment. These are made available for different classes of customers depending upon their capacity to pay. Besides, the demand can vary in a substantial manner from season to season. Use and availability of technology is increasingly playing an important role. Transportation is another major facility which can make or mar a travel and customer satisfaction. Tourism in recent times has got a major boost because of innovatory schemes such as creation of old charm trains dedicated to tourists, linkages to important centres of destinations creating tourist-sectors, designing the travel schedules to the convenience of the tourists (Delhi offers convenient connection to the Taj Mahal so that a tourist comes back same day without having to spend a night at Agra).
Hospitality is incomplete without mention of food and beverages. Globalization has created a major impact on this sector. People coming from various backgrounds demand their preferred food. It is very common to see tourism promotion advertisements in Indian media offering Indian vegetarian food to group tourists planning a trip to Europe. Offer of vegetarian food to air travellers by any carrier is now a no more a novelty the way it was perceived a decade earlier. Sports and Entertainment is a fast emerging a major tourism interest sector. There are amusement parks offering various types of shows as folk dances, rock–music, magic, animal performances, tricks; theme parks, wax museums, ocean parks, Disneylands, planetariums, sound and light shows etc. Then there are water games, skating, rafting encouraging tourists to participate. Most of these are manmade creations and are innovations. Organising sports events is yet another form. The world cups with lavish start and closing ceremonies, the presence of the cheer leaders, the league matches in cricket, soccer, baseball have created another category of tourists who would travel from far and near to be a part of the excitement.
HRM and Facilities Sub-System
HRM is needed in all of these areas. There is both diversity and complexity in these facilities. One cannot have an expert in travel arrangements to take care of hospitality in a hotel or be knowledgeable about various cuisines. The operational demands of these facilities require skills, trade knowledge and core strengths of subjects. There is thus a need for professional schools for each of these areas. These are to be supplemented with communication and other behavioural skills. These facilities are integrated. A tourist desiring to be present at a sports event needs travel arrangements, transportation to reach the destination, accommodation, food, beverages, health care and other needs. These are vital as otherwise his visit is meaningless and cannot take place. There is therefore not only a need to run these facilities in a professional manner but even to create a coordination and a holistic performance. The coordination of such a complexity calls for the use of manpower with high analytical skills and knowledge of IT.
Tourism Marketing Sub-system
Tourism is to be seen as any other business( Burns et al.2005). The fundamentals of marketing as are followed in any business segment are also applicable here with only minor changes. The foundations of marketing tourism are built around understanding the needs of the tourists and making an offer of tourism attractions fulfilling the needs of the tourist customers. The approach follows the classical steps of carrying out marketing
The process starts from seeking information about the travellers. This may cover their personal profile including the age groups, education, exposure to external surroundings, their life-style, attitudes to communities at destinations, their reservations on food, leisure pursuits, levels of trust in fellow travellers, tour agencies, attitude to move together, exposure to adventures etc. Another area of interest to any business, including tourism would be understand the affordability of the tourist to spend. The human nature changes. There are also changes necessitated because of globalization of the society . The tourist gets exposed to new standards of comfort and enjoyment. Information therefore needs to be collected frequently and updated on a continuous basis(Cohen 1972).
Motivation to travel
Together with information about the tourist, it is necessary to find out and understand the motivations of a traveller to embark on travel or plan a tour. Cook( 2007) describe that there exist two theories: the push and pull motivations. The travellers are pushed to travel by personality traits or individual needs and wants. These refer to inherent desire of a human being for travel, to go for adventure, to enjoy life after a hard work and success. Students, executives, businessmen are seen to reward themselves of travel to in the name of holiday after a success in their studies, business pursuits, or projects. The traveller wants to escape the mundane routine and seeks a destination away from the stress and worries for a while. He looks for getting pampered and an award of treatment reserved for the kings. The pull theory refers the attractions and compelling desires or appeals or attractions of a destination to a tourist. He is attracted for example to see the Taj Mahal in India, because he has heard about it as one of the seven wonders of the world right from his childhood. The recent royal wedding in England attracted millions.
In marketing of products or commodities, it is well known that one cannot satisfy all the customers all the time. This is more true in case of services such as tourism. The tourist has his own inclinations and needs. Successful marketing strategy segments the customers and then targets them to attract following the pull or the push motivations. Both Singapore and Malaysia have understood the psyche of an Indian tourist seeking a clean conservative family entertainment and have designed the tourism around the this tourist. Both the countries have claimed a big success. Nepal on the other hand targeted inner urge of a male Indian to go for casino, banned in India. It is no wonder that Nepal casinos are crowded by Indian males sans families. You find Hindi as the lingua franca in these casinos. Segmentation of tourism market is a complex issue. It follows several approaches. The segmentation can be demographic, geographic, psychographic. This could also follow segmenting on interests such as historical sites, spiritual tourism, wild life, heritage oriented.
Marketing and promotion go together. Promotion actually highlights the destinations suited the needs of the customer. The promotion can take place different routes: facilities, easy travel, amenities, promise of experience and fantasy. The vehicles used for promotion are several and change with technologies of the time. Internet and websites have emerged as the main vehicles. Wordof mouth publicity continues to tower. A tourist plans his programme because some one has spoken high of his experience.
HRM and Marketing sub-system
The sub-system has the highest need of trained human resources. Tourism service supplier caters to a number of services related to tourism. The tourism promoters can be found as tour operators, travel agents, tourist boards and as tour guides. It covers provisions of transportation, accommodation suiting the pocket of tourists, serving food and beverages, entertainment, and as tour guides at destinations. The last mentioned in it is a high variety occupation. It covers historical places, safaris to wild life, visits to religious places, attractions, places of cultural impacts and several more. The tour operation and the occupation of tour guides need training, exposure to history, knowledge about the sites, habits of the wild life and more. A specialization is now emerging in this profession.
A successful tourism operator is one who has knowledge of consumer characteristics or what can be called as consumer behaviour. This calls for a grounding in basic aspects of human psychology
The objectives of providing tourism service are to generate customer satisfaction. Services in tourism are essentially intangible in character . These also cannot be inventoried and preserved for future usage. Besides satisfaction of a customer implies fulfilment of his specific needs, which may vary from person to person. Unlike physical products, it is therefore difficult to define quality in the context of tourism. Cook et al( 2007) refer that additionally hospitality, an essential component of tourism cannot be separated from Quality of tourism. The two factors are once again linked to perceptions of customers; actual service received as against expectations carried by the customers. The comparison or the gap between the two determines the level of customer’s satisfaction. A delighted customer is a valuable customer who passes on the word of praise to other customers indecisive to take to travel. Recourse is often taken to PZB Model or the instrument of zones of tolerance to carry out evaluation.
H RM and Quality Sub-system
HR is once again the focus to deliver quality and customer satisfaction. A professionally qualified and trained service provider becomes a change agent and creates learning organization dedicated to continuous improvement. A tourism organization achieves excellence through encouraging its employees to achieve organizational excellence. It selects right type of people with positive attitude and service attitude, team-workmanship, flexible approach, willingness to help people in need , trains and develops them imparting soft skills. It encourages them to actively participate, support and work in teams, empowers the teams to make decisions and carry on improvements. It is a committed employee which can generate customer satisfaction.
External Environment Sub-System
External Environment as a sub-system envelops the other sub-systems. In other words the external environment (EE) sub-system creates an overall boundary under which the sub-systems operate. EE is referred to in terms of applicable political environment, economy, technology, and general cultural aspects of the society it envelops. The political environment determines the law and order situation, the respect for authority and trust for the visitors. Economy refers to the state of prices, availability of products and indirectly affordable travel friendly environment. The cultural aspects of the people refer to attitude of the people at large, adjustability to diversity of social practices and behaviour. The level of education, exposure to technology and belief in rationality and scientific practices is another dimension of the culture.
HRM and External Environment
E E as represented through culture of its people has a profound impact on tourism. It can transform tourist satisfaction to delight. Another culture can convert satisfaction to disastrous dissatisfaction with tourist taking a pledge never to return. Two examples from the authors personal experience are worth narrating.
Back in early seventies it was my first visit outside my homeland India. As a young employee of ABB, I was deputed to ABB’s then headquarters at Baden-Swirtzerland for a training of three months. It was the first day. As I waited at the bus stand to catch a local bus to ABB’s office, a young student of age 5-7 came up to the bus-stand apparently to catch his school bus. He wished me a polite ‘Gutes Morgan’. Nothing unusual! Followed more students possibly 20 of them who came in singles, twos or threes. And individually one by one each wished me ‘Gutes Morgan’. I was amused, surprised and confused. I looked at my dress. Did I look some prince from India or a dignitary or a celebrity? I could not discover any answer.
As I reached office I narrated this episode to a friend of mine, an Indian married to a Swiss girl and settled since long in Switzerland. I confronted him,
‘Look I did not know any one of those young scholars. Neither they knew me. Why were they so courteous to me?’
My friend looked at me amusingly and explained,
‘ Yes it is true you did not know any one of them. But you are wrong in your second observation. Every one of the school kids knew you’. I looked at him quizzically. He went on,
‘ Every single of them knew that you were a tourist in Switzerland and it meant that you were their bread and butter. You were precious for them and most welcome. You would continue to get this welcome of politeness, courtesy as long as you would be here.’ It is a part of Swiss culture towards the tourists.
That is the impression I carry about Switzerland and should have spoken in superlative terms hundred of times.
In late nineties I had to visit Singapore with my wife and daughter, then studying medicine, as tourists. That evening we took a trip of night safari, Singapore’s absolutely marvellous , well planned unique offer to see the nocturnal animals in their original habitat. It was past midnight when were returning to our hotel. We were ga-ga over the safari’s silent train and muted commentary telling the tourists about the nocturnal habits of various animals. Tired as we were, we quickly walked out of the cab after settling the bill. Once at the hotel counter to claim our room key we realized that our costly camera was missing. Our faces went pale.
From our hushed conversations in Hindi and English, the reception desk hostess realized that something was amiss. She came up, ‘ Sir you do not have to worry. You are in Singapore. In half–an hour maximum, when the cab driver discovers your camera in his cab, he would be here.’
Needless to point out that we got our camera in less than fifteen minutes. The cab driver declined to accept any reward /or tip in return.
That is the power of attraction Switzerland and Singapore exercise on tourists to come again and again.
Tourism is the world’s largest industry, generating employment for millions. It is dynamic, diverse and fast growing. It appeals to the basic instincts of a man to know more, to experience, to enjoy, to get entertained and see things for himself. Simultaneously, it is intensely HR oriented. The servers require training, development, knowledge and expertise to deal with fellow human beings. The foremost essential aspect is to understand the needs of the tourist and discover means to satisfy the needs. The human nature varies, it changes with time and environment. The tourism industry, therefore has also to work and invent new destinations, design new attractions appealing to the five senses and bring about the improvements. It is a continuous process.
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