Developing the next generation of Asian travel and tourism leaders

The fourth part of Travel Daily Asia's series exploring the growth of Asian travel, in association with the STB's TravelRave 2013

One of the biggest challenges for an area experiencing rapid growth is the war for talent, and in Asia, the battle is intense.

As businesses continue to flock to the region to pursue the opportunities presented by an emerging customer base, they are increasingly faced with intensifying competition for talent and leadership – fundamental assets to achieve business sustainability.

While the quick fix is to bring in talent from abroad, in order to address the gap, it is critical that companies accelerate the development of the next generation leaders to support future business growth.

A 2012 report by consulting firm Deloitte revealed that 71% of survey respondents felt there was an overall scarcity of talent across Asia. The report noted that this talent shortage leads to competition for the same resources, which in turn results in challenges in attracting and retaining the right employees.

The situation is particularly acute in the Asian travel and tourism industry, as highlighted during last year’s Asia Travel Leaders Summit (ATLS), an event of TravelRave.

Asian travel leaders believed that the top-most challenge for the region’s tourism industry is developing the next generation of leaders.

Specifically, some of the relevant findings and insights that were shared included a need to develop managers with broader competencies to compete in a more complex and dynamic operating environment.

In addition, more programmes and initiatives are needed to meet the development needs of the industry.

Neeta Lachmandas, Assistant Chief Executive, Singapore Tourism Board, who spoke at the recent India Travel Forum, said increasingly business success “is driven by leaders who possess a global outlook reinforced by well- rounded experience and market exposure”.

Asian travel leaders believed that the top-most challenge for the region’s tourism industry is developing the next generation of leaders
Asian travel leaders believed that the top-most challenge for the region’s tourism industry is developing the next generation of leaders

“Addressing the gap in existing training and development platforms, especially for middle and senior management executives, requires a paradigm shift in the way businesses operate,” she continued.

“Companies need to empower human resources to play a more strategic role in driving talent and executive development.”

Equipping future leaders with well- rounded experiences and initiatives for talent attraction

Recognising the importance of retaining high-potential and critical-skill employees, organisations such as Thomas Cook India and Park Hotel Group have started to prioritise talent development.

Recognising the importance of retaining high-potential and critical-skill employees, organisations such as Thomas Cook India and Park Hotel Group have started to prioritise talent development.

This is part of a holistic approach to cultivate future leaders within the organisation and in doing so, increase their global competitiveness.

An example of this is Thomas Cook India’s internal programmes that provide training and skills development as well as opportunities for potential talent to enhance their roles and responsibilities depending on performance.

Furthermore, a system of appraisal and rewards along with career advancement opportunities through their ‘career pathing plan’ also serve to motivate higher performance.

Madhavan Menon, managing director, Thomas Cook (India) Ltd and Asia Travel Leaders Summit attendee says the company is developing “a competency-based framework to broaden internal capabilities” aimed at equipping employees with the right skills that “contribute to the success of the business”.

“In doing so, we hope to cultivate and foster future leaders in the organisation who will in the long run, showcase enhanced growth for the organisation,” he adds.

Park Hotel Group has invested significantly in developing facilities, resources and programmes focused on strengthening employee capabilities, as well as grooming potential talent and future leaders for the business.

Internally, there is a management trainee programme which includes quarterly reviews with the management trainees to monitor their progress.

Separately, an Executive Development Programme was also introduced to fast track high potential candidates to prepare them for management positions within shorter time frame of five years.

Mohd K Rafin, chief corporate officer, Park Hotel Group and speaker at this year’s Asia Pacific Tourism Destination Investment Conference at TravelRave asserts that people are the biggest asset in an organisation and “it is important to hire the right people with the right attitudes for the right job”.

“We strongly believe in developing talents and investing in training as a means to unlocking an individual’s potential,” he continues.
“In the longer term, succession planning is also important to achieve business growth.”

Providing a platform for industry professionals to have access to insights and expertise across related industry sectors is what the STB envisioned the region needed to leverage the growth of Asia’s travel and tourism industry.

The brainchild of this was TravelRave, a comprehensive platform of quality events that brings together players from the entire spectrum of the Asian travel and tourism industry in a week.

Through these cross-sector interactions, the event aims to help the industry spark off collaborations and explore solutions to address key challenges faced by the industry such as that of talent and leadership development.

Engaging the next generation

In the quest to find and retain the right managers, engaging the next generation of leaders is critical to a successful future for the industry and individual organisations.

The industry must continuously determine and articulate the type of talent it needs to meet evolving consumer demands.

The Singapore Association of Convention and Exhibition Organises and Suppliers (SACEOS) for example, has embarked on initiatives to tap and develop talent in Singapore.

Lilian Kuan, SACEOS executive director, says students are being given more opportunities to network with industry professionals, partake in site visits to MICE facilities, attend workshops conducted by members and expand internship opportunities.

“In addition, we want to work closely with universities to introduce new and relevant professional courses for MICE professionals,” she continues.

“These strategies will inject fresh pools of potential MICE talent, while raising career development and professional standards among existing MICE talent. We have to start tackling the manpower and talent retention crunch.”

At TravelRave this year, the Singapore Tourism Board will be partnering ITB Asia and Nanyang Technological University to curate a ‘for- students-by-students’ initiative.

Held at ITB Asia, the conference, ‘Future Leaders – Building Quality Tourism Careers’ is aimed at cultivating future talent for the travel and tourism industry in Singapore and will be a platform that brings together local students with the industry to bridge the gap between job- seekers’ aspirations and what the industry has to offer as employers.

Also held as part of TravelRave, next- generation conference Web in Travel (WIT) is taking a different approach in their engagement of the student communities with the launch of the WIT Developer & Designer Challenge. The Challenge aims to spark the creation and development of new commercial applications in travel as well as uncover new talent and foster entrepreneurship among student communities, developers and designers.

TravelRave: Unlocking invaluable opportunities and insight

Talent and leadership development continues to be a key topic at TravelRave 2013 and will be explored in greater detail by the industry’s top decision makers and opinion leaders at the Asia Travel Leaders Summit (ATLS). Aimed at cultivating future talent for the travel and tourism industry, the Singapore Tourism Board is partnering Nanyang Technological University and ITB Asia, to organise a half-day conference during ITB Asia, ‘Future Leaders- Building Quality Tourism Careers’ involving students and industry with a strategic focus on Quality Internship. Related topics on Generation Y such as ‘What does Generation Y want from your association?’ will also be explored at events like UIA Associations Round Table – Asia 2013.

These are just three of the events in an exciting line up of eight quality events under the TravelRave umbrella. Held from 21 to 25 October 2013, TravelRave will see an exciting line up of travel and tourism related events featuring a range of quality Asia-focused content and networking opportunities across related sectors from hospitality (Hotel Technology Conference), tourism investment (Asia Pacific Tourism Investment Destination Investment Conference), technology (Web in Travel) to aviation (Aviation Outlook Asia). Other highlights include the inaugural UIA Associations Round Table – Asia 2013 and ITB Asia – an established B2B trade show and convention for the Asian travel market.

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