Why Europe Will Have to Train More Tourism Workers After 2022


The tourism sector is among those hit the hardest during the COVID-19 pandemic. Its effects can still be felt in 2022 and other serious challenges the sector will face. One of those challenges is the labor shortage famous European destinations like Greece, Italy, France, and Spain face as we approach the summer’s heart. Professionals in the tourism industry were anticipating summer 2022 as everything was pointing towards a record-breaking tourism season, closer but not exceeding the pre-covid numbers.
What are the reasons for this labor shortage of seasonal tourism workers? Read on to find out.
The paradox of the labor shortage in tourism
Speaking about labor shortages in Greece, Spain, or Italy is a paradox. The reason is that all three of these countries have the highest youth unemployment rates in the EU. For example, as of February 2022, Greece ranked first in the youth unemployment rate at 31.1%, followed by Spain with 29.8%, and then Italy with 24.2%. Specifically, in Greece and Spain, there is a labor shortage in the tourism industry of about 50.000
each. Such staff shortage endangers local tourism businesses, especially the smaller ones, and lowers the quality of their services.

Figure 1 Youth unemployment rate in the European Union as of February 2022, by country
Source: Statista

Considering that tourism is ideal for youth employment, two things should be the reason behind this. There could be a significant skills mismatch in young people, the working conditions are not good, or a combination of these two. In either case, there is a lost opportunity for youth employability and the tourism sector, which is an important economic contributor to the economy in all these countries.

Figure 2 Share of travel and tourism’s total contribution to GDP in European Union member countries (EU 28) in 2019 and 2020
Source: Statista

What are the main reasons for this labor shortage?
For decades, Greeks have been flocking to the Greek islands for seasonal work in the summer months. Still, especially this year, they don’t to be interested in that type of work. Let’s find where we should attribute this labor shortage.
Bad working conditions
Behind the luxurious five-star hotels and expensive restaurants, hard-working people work long hours (about 12hrs), seven days a week, and for low pay (~700 euros). Additionally, their living situation is not better as they are usually cramped in small apartments which they share with other workers. Comparing it with what is happening in other sectors of the economy, it is easily understood that seasonal tourism work is only a choice of need.
Tourism workers sought work elsewhere
With the uncertainty created by the pandemic and the high demand for skilled tourism labor in many other parts of the world like Germany, many tourism workers have left, seeking better opportunities. And they are not to blame. In north European countries or countries of the Gulf region like the UAE, wages and living conditions are significantly better than those in southern Europe.
Rising energy and gas prices
According to the Panhellenic Hoteliers Federation, operating costs are 25-30% higher than in 2021, mainly due to higher energy bills. Adding to that, many hotels have signed contracts that reflect 2019 prices, as most of these are signed at least a year before the tourist season begins. Increasing energy and gas prices significantly reduce the profit margins of tourism businesses, and as a result, they are not in the position to offer more money to attract workers. Their inability to offer better pay and conditions drives the skilled tourism labor to seek work elsewhere.
There is a very high demand for skilled tourism labor in Europe in 2022. Europe should focus more on training young people to become tourist professionals, especially in countries where youth unemployment is high, as the tourism industry offers plenty of work opportunities. However, if factors like the rising gas and energy prices are not tamed, at the same time, working conditions in famous tourist destinations will not get better anytime soon. In that case, skilled tourist labor will always prefer to work in rich countries where wages are higher and the work situation considerably better


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