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“Preparing the Tourism Workforce for the Digital Future” (OECD Tourism Papers, No. 2021/02, OECD Publishing, Paris, 2021).

The digitalization of the economy presents opportunities for innovation and productivity growth, yet it also alters the organization of work, posing challenges for jobs and skills. Despite the upheaval caused by the COVID-19 crisis, the tourism sector can leverage digitalization to expedite its recovery. However, this transition requires support to address skills shortages and gaps. Digitalization, accelerated by the pandemic, is reshaping the tourism sector, offering opportunities for marketing, product development, and workforce skills enhancement. Digital technologies like online platforms, mobile access, AI, and robotics are transforming customer interactions and operational efficiency in tourism. Pre-pandemic, digital technology had already begun transforming tourism from marginal efficiency gains to fundamental innovation and enhanced productivity. The pandemic-induced job losses will impact the sector’s rebound, necessitating efforts to rebuild human capital and adapt to changing demands. Digitalization will reshape work organization, impacting existing job structures and necessitating a blend of digital and complementary skills. While it may lead to job displacement in some areas, cultural factors like customer resistance may mitigate its scale. Personalized travel facilitated by AI and Big Data raises privacy concerns, necessitating improved cybersecurity measures. The tourism workforce will require varying levels of digital proficiency, with technology augmenting most jobs to some degree. New skills mixes will emerge, fostering skills convergence across sectors and intensifying competition in the labor market. However, skills shortages and gaps, particularly in SMEs and rural areas, may impede digital transformation. Addressing these challenges requires investment in training and support for both workers and managers to navigate the digital landscape effectively.