The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on jobs and society – the tourism sector: the face of job insecurity

From April 30 to May 2, 2021, an international seminar on “The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on jobs and society – the tourism sector: the face of job insecurity” took place, organised by FIDESTRA (Associação para a Formação, Investigação e Desenvolvimento Social dos Trabalhadores) with the support of EZA and the European Union.

The seminar was attended by a total of 62 participants, 38 in person and 24 online, from Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece and Romania. They were mainly representatives from workers' organisations from various areas connected with the tourism sector.

It is worth highlighting the following:

Opening session - Perspectives and changes in tourism after COVID 19:

Tourism was hit hardest by the impact of all the measures taken during the pandemic. Knowing that tourism is important to people, it won't die, but it will change. And it is these inevitable changes that workers organisations must direct their actions and concerns towards.

To achieve sustainability in tourism, it is necessary to learn how to do it well. This requires creativity, appropriate entrepreneurship and also training of the workforce.

Much will change, there will likely be a before and after the pandemic. As with a contagious disease, the disruptions it causes will also affect other sectors.

The effects of COVID 19 on the tourism sector also require strategies to overcome unemployment.

Impact of COVID 19 on the tourism sector: The opinions of professionals in the sector are summarised below:

New terms appear in our daily life: virtual, hybrid and networked. New strategies are needed to minimise the effects of the pandemic.

Investment must be made in health to give tourists confidence.

The role of trade unions needs to be strengthened to protect industrial relations and compliance with the law.

Young university graduates and employees live and work more precariously; Connections are brittle or missing.

Sustainable tourism provides a job opportunity in other geographic areas that have previously been left unexplored.

Tourism professionals adapt to the new reality and adapt it. New partnerships are formed with the local economy, small farms and a selection of regional routes.

The working methods are very different nowadays, it is difficult to adapt, but it is happening. There is a climate of uncertainty and fear. We need to invest in health security. The future goes hand in hand with digital technologies and standardisation, but luxury tourism segments will always require differentiation.

The vision of the trade unions and workers' organisations

The pandemic: economy/social issues

The unions' concerns are related to the state of work in Europe. Unemployment is global and workers are losing purchasing power as the middle class is squeezed. In a sector in which a large number of workers are still employed, labour represents a significant cost factor.

The vision and the goals are identical in the various sensitivities, depending on the area or country, and differ in the procedures and strategies for coping with the problems and proposed solutions. 

In summary it can be stated:

Tourism, with its numerous sub-sectors that integrate it or are directly and indirectly linked to it, was severely affected by the pandemic crisis.

Despite government support in various countries, it has not been possible to contain high unemployment, as well as precarious employment in this sector, where seasonal dependency has further weakened workers.

Government support has proven to be insufficient to combat poverty and social exclusion, especially in countries that are heavily dependent on the tourism sector.

The opportunity caused by this pandemic crisis can arise in a new way of looking at and shaping tourism. Tourism will definitely not go away, but it will be necessary to rely on the requalification of companies, entrepreneurs and employees for the new demands.

Sparsely populated rural areas may find a form of growth in a new vision of tourism. There is an opportunity to create jobs for the people who live in these areas.

The traditional tourist destinations, which have been heavily attacked in this crisis, will be forced to diversify by relying on so-called creative tourism. This requires the re-qualification of employees and a strong investment in vocational training and in digitisation.

The aviation sector has also been badly hit, with unprecedented unemployment rates. Hence, national and European action is crucial to start recovery.

Finally, it is important to realise that Europe must be united in order to overcome this health crisis, which has resulted in high levels of unemployment in various sectors, which has plunged many European citizens into poverty and has social exclusion as a result.