As the world learns to adapt to living with COVID-19, global tourism is making its gradual recovery towards pre-pandemic levels. Photo by Tanathip Rattanatum @ Pexels
Tourism is making a comeback – albeit at a gradual and cautious pace – as countries around the world are easing or lifting travel restrictions as part of efforts to revitalise the economy and adapt to living with COVID-19.
Thus far, the result, according to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), has been encouraging. Between January and September 2022, there were an estimated 700 million people travelling around the world, which not only accounted for more than double the number recorded in the same period of the previous year, but also 63 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
Plus, in its economic and employment impact of travel and tourism, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) notes that the sector has been improving since the pandemic, with an increase of the global gross domestic product (GDP) by USD1,038 billion to USD5,812 billion in 2021.
Perhaps more importantly, there had been a rise in the number of travel and tourism jobs by 18.2 million to 289 million in the same year – or one in eleven jobs worldwide.
Job creation is among the key benefits of a thriving and sustainable tourism sector, complementing other advantages including inclusive social integration promotion, heritage protection, biodiversity conservation, and sustainable livelihoods and well-being among local communities.
It is especially beneficial to those in search of work for the first time or those struggling to find employment. Globally and conventionally, this can apply to women, youth, retirees, ethnic minority groups and migrants, as well as those possessing low qualifications or undergoing work transitions.
In Malaysia, employment in tourism accounted for 3.52 million people or 23.4 per cent of total employment in 2021. Majority of jobs come from economic areas namely food and beverage, retail trade, and country-specific tourism services.
Specifically in Sarawak (as of 2020), there were 298.8 thousand people employed in the sector, which contributed to 23.67 per cent of the State’s total employment. Apart from the aforementioned areas, they can be found working in the passenger transport services, travel agencies and other reservation services, as well as retail sale of automotive fuel.
As illustrated above, employment in tourism is diverse in nature, ranging from large tourism companies mostly in accommodation and transport activities, to small and micro businesses in formal and informal sectors.
This is because the sector, as UNWTO and the International Labour Organization (ILO) describe it, is “about people”, whether they are visitors to another country or state that isn’t theirs or employees ensuring effective business operations.
“Tourism products and services are also about people. The tourism industries are heavily dependent on the human factor (in addition to other factors such as such as natural resources, infrastructure and capital) to ensure delivery and quality of its products and services,” they add.
As such, if you are interested in pursuing a career in tourism, it’s worth noting that you have a wide range of options to consider, be it physical or virtual, and even beyond the obvious ones like hospitality and tour and travel management, as we have discussed in our previous articles.
Basically, jobs in the sector can be divided into two types, given their involvement and contribution in businesses:
- Direct employment, referring to workers being in constant contact with tourists and catering for tourist demand, e.g. jobs at front offices in hotels, restaurants, travel agencies, tourism information offices, aircrafts, cruise lines, resorts or shopping outlets
- Indirect employment, i.e. employees who may not have direct interaction with tourists, but are still relevant in the tourism supply chain, e.g. jobs in restaurant suppliers, construction companies that build and maintain tourist facilities, as well as necessary infrastructure, aircraft manufacturers, various handicrafts producers, marketing agencies or accounting services.
Given how the sector has become a major driver of socio-economic growth for many countries around the world, it has been incorporated in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly targets in Goals 8, 12 and 14 (Table 1).
|Description and Target
|Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
|Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Target 8.9: By 2030, devise and implement policies to promote sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products
|Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
|Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
Target 12.b: Develop and implement tools to monitor sustainable development impacts for sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products
|Goal 14: Life Below Water
|Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
Target 14.7: By 2030, increase the economic benefits to Small Island developing States and least developed countries from the sustainable use of marine resources, including through sustainable management of fisheries, aquaculture and tourism
For Sarawak, opportunities to find work related to tourism is building up, with the Sarawak Government undertaking efforts to increase the likelihood of such prospect.
In the not so far future, a number of initiatives is expected to be carried out under the 2023 State Budget as part of the Government’s aggressive approach in promoting the sector.
Among others, it is in the midst of developing, upgrading and preserving historical sites, natural heritage and other tourism products and facilities; supporting local and international events and festivals such as Sarawak Regatta, Rainforest World Music Festival and Spartan Race; establishing the Sarawak Handicraft Centre; and developing tourism investment zones, of which five areas have been identified for this purpose:
- Sarawak Delta Geopark
- Santubong Peninsula
- Hydro-lake Development Areas
Long-term wise, under Post-COVID-19 Development Strategy 2030 (PCDS 2030), the State is looking to become a leading eco-tourism and business event destination in the ASEAN region by 2030.
Achieving this goal will involve undertaking various strategies and initiatives that will equip the tourism workforce with the necessary knowledge and skills, and empower local communities to conserve heritage, culture and biodiversity, as well as promote investment and development in the sector.
If all goes well, by 2030 the sector’s contribution to Sarawak’s GDP will increase by up to 11 per cent; arrivals to the State will experience an annual growth rate of 7.5 per cent with longer period of stay from 5.5 nights to 7.5 nights; and most importantly, total employment will account for up to 25 per cent.
Department of Statistics, Malaysia. (2022). Tourism Satellite Account 2021. https://www.dosm.gov.my/v1/index.php?r=column/cthemeByCat&cat=111&bul_id=NGtqNllWaTJIYm9uV0lwM0J1Y2RZQT09&menu_id=TE5CRUZCblh4ZTZMODZIbmk2aWRRQT09
Economic Planning Unit Sarawak. (2021). Post COVID-19 Development Strategy 2030. https://premierdept.sarawak.gov.my/upload/file_folder/SPU/Post%20Covid19%20Development%20Strategy_FINAL_SEP2021%20(1).pdf
Ministry of Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Sarawak. (n.d.). Sarawak Tourism Quick Facts. https://mtcp.sarawak.gov.my/page-0-228-200-SARAWAK-TOURISM-QUICK-FACTS.html
Office of the Premier of Sarawak. (2022). Ucapan Belanjawan Tahun 2023. https://premier.sarawak.gov.my/upload/file_folder/Speeches/2022/YAB%20PREMIER%20BUDGET%20SPEECH%202023.pdf
United Nations. (n.d.). The 17 Goals. https://sdgs.un.org/goals
World Tourism Organization. (n.d.). Tourism in the 2030 Agenda. https://www.e-unwto.org/doi/pdf/10.18111/9789284416158
World Tourism Organization. (2022). Tourism Recovery Accelerates to Reach 65% of Pre-Pandemic Levels. https://www.unwto.org/news/tourism-recovery-accelerates-to-reach-65-of-pre-pandemic-levels
World Tourism Organization & International Labour Organization. (2014). Measuring Employment in the Tourism Industries – Guide with Best Practices. https://www.e-unwto.org/doi/pdf/10.18111/9789284416158
World Travel & Tourism Council (n.d.). Economic Impact Reports. https://wttc.org/research/economic-impact