24 Nov, 2015
The surge in travel & tourism over the last few years has attracted many young people who see it as a promising job opportunity. They are enticed by the glamour of working in a nice environment, meeting people of different cultures, enjoying good food and, if they stay the course, being able to travel at other people’s expense.
However, recent developments have shattered a few myths. Travel, tourism and transportation icons such as hotels, airports, aircraft, museums, shrines, are becoming key targets of terrorism. It is being exposed as an unsafe, unstable, unpredictable and risky industry, and likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.
Just so that Gen Y job-seekers have the facts to make a more informed and comprehensive decision, here are some points to ponder:
(+) Travel & tourism claims to be an industry of peace but it has been hijacked by the merchants of death, e.g., terrorists, state terrorists, financial terrorists and eco-terrorists. Geopolitics and the global power struggle amongst the major powers are now its biggest threats. This struggle is still its infancy and has at least a decade to go. The power-brokers will not give up easily. When the elephants fight, the grass WILL get trampled.
(+) Travel & tourism is the first to be affected by all kinds of crises, be they man-made disasters such as conflict and terrorism or “acts of God” such as health pandemics, volcanic eruptions, floods and hurricanes. These are becoming omnipresent, frequent and ubiquitous. Why work in an industry so prone to back-to-back crises?
(+) Job security is dead. When crises strike, it’s last-in, first-out for the staff. Those who prefer to stick around are well aware of long working hours and low pay. Get rich quick investors, for whom travel & tourism is more about “flipping” and real estate than hospitality, means revolving-door corporate ownerships. Cut-throat competition is triggering a race to the bottom, which in turn will lead to miserable wages and poor working conditions.
(+) Any doctor will testify that the first step towards treating an ailment is to accurately diagnose the symptoms and tackle the cause, especially the root cause. But travel & tourism loves to live in denial and sweep issues under the carpet. It has zero tolerance for dissent, democratic debate and alternative perspectives, lest the sponsors get offended. The health & wellness sector is well aware of the importance of “holistic” treatments. Such treatments do not exist in travel & tourism where the usual remedy is: “Take two aspirin and call me in the morning.”
(+) Industry leaders often claim to consider themselves merely custodians of this earth, holding it in trust for the next generation. That’s debatable. The twin all-important buzzwords, “responsible tourism” and “sustainable tourism” apply only superficially to safeguarding the marvels of creation. They do not cover the decision-making structures of travel & tourism which are both irresponsible and unsustainable. The industry is good at creating jobs, not at saving them.
(+) Travel & tourism is set to become a victim of its own success. China and (soon to follow) India will be churning out millions of visitors. They will generate billions of tons of garbage and consume even more gargantuan volumes of global resources and water. The ecological and socio-cultural impact of this massive movement of peoples has never been calculated. Travel & tourism is driven by a lopsided set of indicators — with economic growth getting a disproportionate priority. The industry salivates at the prospects of a billion Indians and Chinese stashing up on brand-name handbags and cosmetics, but will avoid telling you how much water they will consume. Short-term profitability trumps long-term sustainability by a long shot.
(+) Finally, and most important, travel & tourism leaders never learn the lessons of history. They don’t even try. Analyse the policy statements and speeches of industry ministers, CEOs, heads of various industry associations and others over the past years, decades even, and you will never, ever hear the words, “What lessons can we learn from this experience?” NEVER. Those who don’t learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it, which is exactly what is happening. The preposterous, oft-repeated claim is that some events are outside our control, this is a resilient industry and it will “bounce back.” As the heads are firmly ensconced in the sand, the cycle of crises turns, yet again.
In its purest form, travel & tourism is indeed the world’s greatest industry. Everyone who works in it deserves to be proud of that. Those who truly want to work in this industry, and thrive in its creativity, challenge and energy, need to make those who are responsible for the current global mess accountable for it.
If current trends continue, there is no future. A perfect storm of geopolitical, environmental and economic crises may strike any time, either at random or in tandem. In spite of its size, distribution and power, the travel & tourism industry is not prepared to deal with them. Nor does it know how to prevent or pre-empt them.
Many other economic sectors offer much better job options. Get into the safety and security sector or become an arms dealer – the merchants of death will be making hay during the many years of sunshine to come. So will the medical and pharmaceutical industry, and Information Technology for sure.
This warning is intended for both Gen Y and Gen X. When Gen X discovers that Gen Y is steering clear of an unstable, unpredictable, unsafe and risky industry, they will come to their senses and start focussing on fire-prevention rather than fire-fighting. Money is found easily; manpower less so. When the manpower shies away, Gen X will start asking “Why?”
Then, and only then, the so-called “custodians of the earth” may come to their senses.