Can Travel Companies Afford to Put Education High on Their Agenda?

In part 1, Patrick Richards examined tourism’s relationship with education and the negative consequences resulting from years of neglect. In today’s part 2, makes the argument for more sector investment in education and how this can help us meet our challenges…


Given that many are fighting for survival, can travel companies afford to put education high on their agenda? A recent survey by Skillsoft provides the answer. They found that poor basic product knowledge alone cost companies 8% of their revenue. Moreover enhancing this knowledge would result in a 40% improvement in customer satisfaction. The stakes are rising all the time.

Organisations need to adapt more quickly than ever

The home-working revolution will bring greater challenges than ensuring employees have decent home Wi-Fi. Companies will have to adapt rapidly to a less hierarchical structure, where networking, partnerships and innovation can be fostered and the demand for higher ethical standards can be protected by its employees. The future winners will be agile in their approach to all of the above.

So where should travel enterprises target in the future? A UNWTO survey identified four key areas:

  • IT (68%)
  • Customer service (53%)
  • Data Analytics (38%)
  • Leadership (23%)

Here, I would add one of my own, namely destination knowledge. Customers will continue to become ever more sophisticated in their choices and if travel professionals are to provide value then their overall knowledge must exceed their client’s. Regardless, it is clear that tourism needs to transition away from the legacy labour intensive approach, with investment in skills. The pay-back for this will be a more attractive industry for talent, greater loyalty, productivity and pay. It will also use talent across gender, race and from older workers capturing invaluable wisdom and experience.

E-learning affords people the freedom to fit education into their busy lives

So, you may ask, isn’t all this easier said than done? Here I suggest looking to recent success stories like zoom or Amazon for the lead. E-learning affords people the freedom to fit education into their busy lives, at a time and place that suits them. It also addresses the huge geographical and demographic challenges posed by educating populations in key emerging markets like India and China.

Consequently, Global Market Insights forecast that the already booming global e-learning sector will further double from $190 billion in 2020 to $375 billion in 2025. The industry has also successfully solved a number of its previous roadblocks to success, with new-generation Learning Experience Platforms (LXP) optimizing learning styles through the smart use of gamification, interactivity and data feedback.

Ultimately a responsibility also lies with each individual to manage their own career

A transition from the “world of education” to the “world of work” is a redundant concept. It is predicted that in future, the average person will make 5 to 6 career changes in their lifetime. Each of these will require re-skilling.

Learning will be a lifelong pursuit

So going forward, learning will be a lifelong pursuit. In growth markets where the tourism business kept growing relentlessly, the incentive to change may have been absent. This is no longer the case and all of us need to keep pace with a future of constant and rapid evolution.

The UNWTO survey also found a marked discrepancy between the value that employers put on “commitment to work” against workers and students, a square that surely needs to be circled. After all the ONS forecast that just a 1% rise in productivity would bring an extra £1.43 billion of revenue into the UK tourism industry. Now wouldn’t that be a nice message to realise in 2021?