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Preparing the Tourism Workforce for the Digital Future

The policy paper examines the role of digital technology in tourism and its impact on work organization, examine how digitalization affects the demand for skills in the tourism sector and the role of government in creating the conditions to support the digital transformation of tourism business models, and preparing the tourism workforce for change. Its main rationale is that tourism SMEs are also seen to face challenges in their digital transformation such as the introduction of basic digital tools, platforms and systems, their lack of financial resources to invest in digital systems and tools, or the specialized staff or skills needed to direct or optimize digitalization investments and also their lack of digital capabilities (e.g. to redevelop digital platforms). The main outcomes of the survey conducted in the framework of this policy paper show: A common experience across advanced economies is that smaller tourism businesses are unaware of how digitalization could potentially enhance their business. There is an increasing demand for developing digital skills or to receive support in areas such as: website development and articulation; e-commerce including online bookings and digital payments; digital marketing including social media integration, online marketing, search engine optimization and data management and analysis including generating analytics and insight reports. Digital and related skills necessary for a quality tourism experience identified as essential include: Data science and tourism data analysis; Digital tourism marketing sales professionals; Artificial intelligence and machine learning specialists; Specialists in new technologies and tourism innovations; Project and process managers Tourism business development managers; Software, application developers & analysts; Tourism information technology services; Big data analysts and professionals; Digital transformation specialists. Also, likely digital fluency needs across different tourism occupations include general user skills in Ms. Office; online communications; digital purchasing; data literacy; big data and analytics; content creation; data and systems security; traveling and bookings management software. Some other digital skills needs identified were: problem-solving via social digital tools; multilingual and fast response to customers (e.g. communication, digital marketing, website and graphic design, etc.); and data handling with interpretation, presentation and security. Lastly, the digital skills shortage identified in the selected country survey include: Skills in AI and augmented and virtual reality; Digital knowledge in digital processes and technologies; Open data systems; Digital marketing and sales; Customer orientation; Dealing with and operating software systems; Sustainable action competences; Shortages for handling reservations via booking engines; Maintenance of software (all sectors); Data handling, data safety and security skills (notably digital security for air carriers); Digital marketing and sales skills; Managing and analyzing data and digital content; Yield management using digital systems; Revenue management using digital systems; Social media integration and content management; Online distribution management; Specialists in digital security and personal data protection.