Government endorsement of a tourism and hospitality sector deal is key to changing the industry’s image as a “lesser career”, a Future Skills in Travel and Tourism seminar has been told.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body UKHospitality, which represents hotels, bars and restaurants nationwide, said jobs in the hospitality, tourism and travel sector currently had a poor reputation despite clear opportunities to progress up the ladder.

Speaking at a seminar hosted by Abta, she said: “We fail the mums and dads’ test. They think of our sector as low paid, low skilled jobs that you do before moving towards something better. As a sector, tourism, hospitality and travel is seen as a lesser career. The focus is on the bottom end.”

Professor Dimitrios Buhalis, director of the eTourism Lab at Bournemouth University, agreed: “Our industry is not recognised as a career path. How many people earn more than £30,000 in tourism and hospitality?”

Nicholls said she was “hopeful” the tourism, hospitality and travel industry would be approved by government this summer.

This would effectively mean the industry would be taken more seriously and would encourage young people to work in the industry as well as leading to funding to “up-skill” the workforce, she added.

She said: “The government has identified nine sector deals [so far] and we will hopefully be the 10th. This will be a significant boost and endorsement of this sector of the economy.

“The aim is to boost productivity. There is a proposal for an industry-led £10 million campaign to shift perception about jobs in hospitality and tourism and to go out to young people and talk about careers and how you can progress, and promote the diversity of jobs.

“Our ambition is to encourage people to join the industry at all levels. Government endorsement is key.”

Nicholls said she wanted to retain staff within “this vitally important industry” which directly employs 3.2 million people and is the UK’s third largest employer.

There are already talks underway on how the travel and hospitality industry could work with government to produce a national training programme to make the sector of a “career of choice”, she added.

Travel Weekly is media partner of the Future Skills in Travel and Tourism event.

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