The future of New Zealand’s tourism industry depends on the country valuing it more as a rewarding and professional career, says the Tourism Export Council of New Zealand (TECNZ).

TECNZ CEO Judy Chen said, following the annual symposium in Auckland, that without a dedicated cohort of skilled new industry leaders our largest export earner could be at risk of losing value.

She said while there were many excellent tertiary courses available, some parents were steering their children away from tourism because it was no longer a NCEA subject. In 2014 tourism and hospitality were removed as NCEA subjects that could be used towards University Entrance.

“We have strong anecdotal evidence that tourism is very much under-valued as a career because parents can’t see the pathway starting at the NCEA level. They tend to see tourism as a soft option with only lower-end jobs. However the reality is very much the opposite: we need senior, highly skilled people now and will continue to require more. We need to future-proof the industry by developing a specialised tourism workforce.”

“Unless we can get a continous stream of ambitious, smart young people to fill the managerial and professional roles, we could see a decline in the standard of tourism experiences in the future.”

Some universities offered dedicated tourism degrees while others included tourism majors as part of their Bachelors of Commerce, she said. Many polytechnics and other tertiary providers also offered a very high standard of courses.

“Great courses are available but we do need support for our industry from schools, parents, government and the wider public. As a nation, we need to change our attitude towards the tourism industry otherwise our number one export earning sector will suffer.”

Ms Chen said TECNZ welcomed the Government’s recent announcement on free tertiary education for 80,000 students and hoped this would attract more into the tourism courses.

She said the industry itself highly rated the courses available and many employers also valued career progression. TECNZ supported further professional development programme through its YoungTEC membership.

This week both the TECNZ Xmas Symposium and YoungTEC Summit were held in Auckland with a record-breaking attendance of more than 340 tourism operators and suppliers.

“The strong attendance shows TECNZ and YoungTEC members value the opportunity to network, share ideas and learn about new trends in our burgeoning tourism industry.

“The increase in YoungTEC attendance was especially pleasing as it shows the level of commitment from our tourism employers to invest in the future of our emerging leaders and that there is a great career path in tourism. We just need wider support for this path.”

A highlight at the Xmas Symposium this year was awarding Queenstown tourism legend, Tony McQuilkin, the TECNZ Life Member Award; an accolade that is only given out every few years. Commercial Director for Real Journeys, Mr McQuilkin has dedicated the last four decades to tourism.

Ms Chen said she was also delighted to announce that the 2018 TECNZ annual conference would be returning to the Hawke’s Bay in August, last held there in 2005.

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