Workplace Health and Wellbeing: Considering the Tourism Workforce

Ann Hemingway
Heather Hartwell
Adele Ladkin
As a result of sustained growth in tourism activity, there are an increasing number of employment opportunities in tourism and hospitality and a subsequent need for workers to fill these vacancies. Employment generation is widely considered to be the most direct and beneficial impact of tourism to the host population (Liu & Wall, 2005). Although the accuracy of tourism employment figures is problematic, it was suggested that in 2011 the global tourism industry provided 255 million jobs. By 2020, it is anticipated this figure will rise to 328 million, one in every 10 jobs (World Travel & Tourism Council, 2012). In the UK, leisure, travel and tourism is the third largest sector employing 2.1 million people and accounting for 7.2% of the total working population (People 1st, 2011).

It is widely recognised that issues of health and wellbeing apply to all aspects of life, including a person’s working life. One consequence is that increasingly health and wellbeing at work has started to take center stage in the public policy agenda. Tourism, as a growing employment sector could have wider impacts on the health of a nation or community due to the unprecedented growth in employment opportunities. Therefore, practical actions to maintain a healthy tourism workforce is an area of importance.

Our paper is a discussion paper, arguing that public health perspectives could contribute to emerging debates on employee health-related issues in tourism.

Research from public health practitioners indicates that characteristics of certain types of jobs and working environments can lead to stress and poor health in the workplace, often resulting in high labour turnover or absenteeism. Tourism employment has a number of these characteristics.

The paper argues that by opening a dialogue between health and tourism researchers and the tourism industry, practical steps can be undertaken to facilitate both improved employee wellbeing and contribute to increased productivity in the workplace.