Improving the tourism sector’s ability to nurture young talent was in focus at the UNWTO Forum on Talent Development in Tourism: Investing in Youth, which gathered in Medellín, Colombia, ahead of the 21st UNWTO General Assembly (11 September 2015).
As a labour intensive sector, tourism’s capacity to attract, retain and develop human capital is essential to its competitiveness. The first UNWTO Forum on Talent Development in Tourism, organized by the UNWTO Knowledge Network jointly with UNWTO Affiliate Member University of Medellín, brought together Colombian tourism students with representatives from the private and the public sector from around the world to explore how to better match supply and demand of skilled labour in tourism.
“Tourism and hospitality students, such as the young people gathered here today, are the future of the tourism sector. Today, our sector offers excellent entry points into the job market, but we need to improve its capacity to provide opportunities for long-term careers in order to help maximize tourism´s contribution to inclusive development”, said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, opening the forum.
The same challenges were highlighted by Sandra Howard, Vice Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, Colombia, who emphasized the essential role of young tourism students in shaping and upholding the Colombian tourism sector´s success.
As part of the forum, students from different Colombian institutions had the opportunity to exchange views with the UNWTO Secretary-General on issues such as the inclusion of tourism ethics and sustainability in academic curricula, the role of innovation in tourism, and the sector’s ability to foster community development and peace.
During the panel discussions, participants emphasized that talent development in tourism depends on the joint efforts of tourism educators and institutions; the private sector; and public bodies. They further pointed out the important role that international organizations can play in this regard. Above all, participants stressed the need to provide opportunities for the development, implementation and reward of creativity and innovation by the workforce and prospect recruits.
At a subsequent meeting, the UNWTO Knowledge Network agreed to an action plan to advance the issues identified during the presentations and discussion at the Forum.