Curaçao. Tourism is the considered the largest contributor to the Curaçao economy and to support the growth of the industry, in demand of skilled labor. Research on perceptions of tourism as a career has been concentrated in developed countries (Ernawati & Pearce, 2003). Forasmuch this thesis answers to gaps in the literature by examining shortages of skilled labor in a developing country like Curaçao that affirms tourism as the main industry to the economy. Key stakeholders involved in this matter have been identified: the government, the industry and the educators. A qualitative approach has been employed to collect data from these stakeholders by conducting face-to-face interviews with key informants from the relevant government ministries. Therefore key industry bodies and educators in the tourism sector were approached.
As denoted in the first chapter, the research objective of this thesis is to investigate what key tourism stakeholders in Curaçao have been doing in promoting tourism as a career, to determine the current measures and future plans of the Curaçao government policy in attracting more students to choose tourism as their career. Moreover, to explore the industry bodies policy and tourism employers perceptions of the current situation they face in terms of the quality and quantity of tourism graduates and to explore their efforts in promoting tourism as an attractive career option on Curaçao. Furthermore, to explore tourism educators policy and perceptions of the quality of their graduates and educators relationships with other organizations in the promotion of tourism as an attractive career option on Curaçao and develop a framework to explain the relationships among these stakeholders with respect to tourism as a career in Curaçao. This thesis has accomplished these objectives by clarifying the promotional activities undertaken by the stakeholders, relationships among them, and by pointing out the gaps that still exist. Students perception of careers in tourism and factors leading to these perceptions have not been identified due to the qualitative approach that has been conducted, but is strongly suggested for further research on this topic.
The main research question addressed by this thesis was: how do key stakeholders policies in Curaçao promote and perceive tourism as a career? Different stakeholders have different perceptions with respect to tourism as a career. This thesis found that there were various types of promotional activities undertaken by the stakeholders at different degrees. It was also suggested that there were different types of promotion, namely, promotion of tourism programs and tourism careers. Both were suggested by the stakeholders to encourage students to choose tourism as their career after graduation. This section of the conclusion addresses each of the four research questions that relate to each of the stakeholders: the government, industry and educators.
Sub question 1: How does the government policy help by promoting careers in tourism to the students on Curaçao?
The government has segmented efforts in promoting tourism as a career, driven by different areas of responsibility held by each ministry. The Ministry of Education, which belongs to the education environment promotes tourism programs at the secondary schools, which they also perceive as promoting tourism careers by bringing students to the tourism career path through knowledge and skills training in tourism. The ministry contends that they promote tourism careers through the promotion of tourism programs.
The Ministry of Labor which belongs to both the education and tourism environments by overseeing human resource development in Curaçao, also promotes tourism programs rather than careers. The Ministry of Tourism which governs the tourism environment promotes tourism as a career, however the reach is limited. Tourism career seminars reach only secondary school students The Ministry of Tourism plans to expand its efforts and promote tourism careers to students at secondary schools by collaborating with more of the industry bodies in Curaçao. The industry and educators believe that current policies by the government in promoting tourism as a career are inadequate and the outcome is not apparent in addressing the skilled labor shortage issue in Curaçao. What is suggested as lacking in the policies is a clear career path to the students on how to get to careers in tourism. The conflicting views amongst the stakeholders imply that effective two-way communication is missing from the government-industry/educators relationships. This situation may result in tourism human resource in Curaçao is being ‘administered’ (managed from the top down without input from other stakeholders) rather than ‘developed’ (through consultation and participatory management).
Sub question 2: What is does the industry policy do to promote careers in tourism to the students on Curaçao?
The promotional activities undertaken by the industry are limited and they believe educators are better promoters of tourism careers. Nevertheless, there is evidence of some promotion, either by the industry to promote careers in their own sectors/organizations like the newspaper and website advertisement regarding vacancies in Tourism Curaçao, or a larger scale promotion in the case of the hotel association’s cooperation with the Ministry of Education in publishing newspaper articles about career opportunities in tourism. This industry-government relationship also implies that a lack of financial resources is an issue for the industry to conduct more aggressive promotion of tourism careers, hence calls for support from the government. Industry bodies argue that they lack the resources but not the willingness to promote tourism as a career.
Other stakeholders, the government and educators , believe that the industry offers low salaries which make careers in tourism appear unattractive to students. The industry was also said to not recognize graduates academic qualifications and insists that they start from low level positions. As a result the graduates of tourism, according to some stakeholders, decide to choose other sectors that provide them with better remuneration that is compatible with their academic qualifications.
Sub question 3: To what extent do tourism educators policy promote careers in tourism to students studying tourism at universities and secondary schools on Curaçao?
The educators play an active role in promoting tourism careers by conducting internal promotion like providing careers opportunities through lectures, invited speakers and career fairs, as well as external promotion by visiting the industry and developing student placement in the industry through practical training. Educators have direct contact with students at the higher learning institutions throughout the period of tourism programs, and are also a trusted source of information for students regarding career advice. Hence, the educators role is very important to shape students career expectations and decisions before they enter the labor market. The role of educators as effective promoters of tourism is also recognized by the industry bodies.
This thesis confirms that a shortage of skilled workers in tourism in Curaçao is an issue that the country struggles to address. Such a situation, if allowed to persist, will hamper the country’s objective to develop skilled workers for services sectors including tourism as stipulated in the Strategic Tourism Master Plan for the island of Curaçao. The investigation of the key stakeholders policy perceptions found that each stakeholder has to make some improvements in the way they promote tourism to students. The government initiatives are segmented due to different responsibilities. However, there is lack of activities targeted at students at tertiary institutions who are the potential source of tomorrow’s workforce in the tourism industry. The lack of attractiveness of tourism jobs offered by the hotel and travel agent sectors affects graduates interest in choosing them as their career. Educators, although playing an active role in educating and promoting tourism to their students, needs help from the industry to provide students with skills that the industry needs.
What is needed now is for the above stakeholders to address the above issues associated with them. Concerted efforts including more integrated forums and stronger collaboration amongst the stakeholders are the essence of the recommendations made by this thesis to ensure a more successful promotion of tourism as a graduate career. Stakeholders should promote tourism the students by providing them with the necessary information on career opportunities, the skills they need to excel in the industry, as well as positions and wages that are compatible with their qualifications. Only by doing this, tourism stakeholders in Curaçao could ensure that students will have positive perceptions of tourism as a career, which will be translated into practice through higher participation of tourism graduates in tourism in the future.
This thesis has supplied insights on the relationships amongst key tourism stakeholders in promoting tourism as a career in Curaçao. From the findings, various strengths of relationships and gaps have also been identified.
Recommendations for the Government: As examined, in promoting tourism as a graduate career the government seems to have fragmented efforts, considering the various responsibilities of the different government agencies. In promoting tourism programs the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Labor are participating. By promoting tourism programs is one way to promote tourism careers. Nevertheless, to students already in tourism programs there may also be a need to promote career opportunities, particularly to students in the last year of their program. The Ministry of Tourism could take a principle role in promoting tourism careers in this manner in partnership with a different industry bodies. The research interview with the official from the Ministry of Tourism pointed out that such initiatives must continue to be executed. This is imperative to complement the efforts by other ministries in promoting tourism programs to interest students into the tourism industry. All relevant ministries could work on a more integrated and consistent approach in promoting both tourism programs and tourism careers to students and by this means be able to guarantee a more competent promotion of tourism careers to students and a more consistent message is supplied to the students.
This thesis also found that different forums have been established at the Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of Education and also at the representatives of the industry bodies in Curaçao, but not on a consistent basis. The focus of a forum at the Ministry of Education is on the tourism curriculum development while a forum at the Ministry of Tourism focuses at the broader issue of human resources development in tourism. Therefore, it is suggested that that these forums need to be combined and integrated so that all relevant stakeholders will be better informed and acquainted on policies to promote tourism as a career, and the matters reviewed would accommodate the interests of all stakeholders environments of tourism and education. By being integrated and combined approaches to curriculum development and human resource development could benefit; independent government forums could be combined and liked or could collaborate. The educators are not involved in this council, at this moment. Therefore it is imperative that, the council gets them on board to get a view of tourism education issues. Human resource management in tourism in Curaçao will be stakeholder informed rather than stakeholders influenced, only with the involvement from all these key stakeholders. Accordingly by strengthening the involvement of the key stakeholders to discuss an integrated strategy to promote both tourism programs and careers in Curaçao is an area that is of high importance for the Ministry of Tourism to consider.
In this thesis, the industry and educators are of opinion that current policies to promote tourism as a career in Curaçao are not of consistent basis and need revision to increase students interest to elect careers in tourism. They advised that the students need clear directions on the career path in tourism on a consisted basis. To reach more students studying at all levels of the education system the Ministry of Tourism has indicated its plan to keep up promotional activities for tourism careers. With this implementation the Ministry of Tourism alone, will face a challenging task to ensure the reach of its promotional program to all students in Curaçao. Also, the industry bodies have indicated their enthusiasm to provide collaboration by their expertise and members all over the island, but they require financial assistance from the government to fund these efforts. For that reason, collaborating with more industry bodies the Ministry of Tourism should take advantage to help promote tourism careers and collaborate with them for the necessary resources to ensure a broad reach of the promotion of tourism careers. The Ministry of Tourism could for instance develop a national careers website that provides information about careers in tourism where tourism and hospitality employers can advertise their vacancies and training institutions advertise their practical training opportunities. The Ministry could also produce more newspaper articles and supplements related to careers in tourism in addition.
Recommendations for the Industry : In this research, the industry bodies are of opinion that the educators are better promoters of tourism careers. Notwithstanding, they are determined to give a helping hand. By demonstrating their readiness to cooperate with the government in conducting promotional activities through their members all over Curaçao and by this means make available the necessary financial support.
It is essential to recognize that promotion alone will not guarantee increase of students interests by the industry bodies. Students lack of interest to work in the hotel and travel agent sectors are a result of the negative perceptions of having to start from low positions as identified by this thesis. This is a matter of high importance that the hoteliers and travel agencies need to be perceptive of and address rapidly. Industry bodies point out that the quality of students did not meet their expectations but they must also comprehend that quality candidates would preferably work for employers who appreciate and recognize their qualifications. Quality job candidates who can add value to private sector organizations are attracted by decent pay. Future promotions should focus on not just promoting tourism as a career as mentioned above, but as a decent rewarding career. By creating awareness about opportunities and attractive benefits that students will enjoy by choosing tourism can be achieved by informing the student on why tourism should be their top career choice. The government should be able to administer the funds for more promotional activities to take place on a consistent basis, but it is only the industry that can make tourism jobs more attractive with appealing benefits and improvement of career opportunities. Even though offering better compensation to graduates may entail higher operational costs, the industry must come up with ways to make better use of skilled workers if they want to add value to their businesses and achieve higher returns and profit.
Also conflicting perceptions were found in this thesis in terms of the relevance of the tourism curriculum to the industry’s needs between the industry and the educators. The educators perceived curricula at the Intercontinental University of the Caribbean and secondary schools as relevant but doubts about to what extent these curricula are benchmarked with international institutions are questioned by the industry bodies . The main concerns by the industry bodies is the lack of English, Dutch and Spanish competence and the work attitude of graduates at the workplace. Even though these concerns should be addressed by the educators while students are at the educational institutions, the industry can also collaborate to the development of better quality graduates by providing language training programs at the workplace during the practical training period that students spend at their organizations. Also the industry can communicate more clearly the qualities required that they expect from graduates to other stakeholders through the forums and advise areas of competencies they expect from graduates in all positions to be equipped with. This information will support the government and the educators to revise or adapt their policies and training focus accordingly, and bring about graduates that comply with the requirements of the industry. Students can be better aware about what is important and what is not in terms of competencies they need to have to a career in tourism, only with such initiatives.
Recommendations for the Educators: In this thesis the educators have played an important role in means of educating and training students and stimulate them to choose tourism as a career. Teachers being a trusted reference for students at secondary schools and classified by the interviews as one of the most important sources of information in terms of careers in tourism, should carry on providing career information and motivate students regarding the potential and opportunities in this industry. The supply of tourism career information to students by the lecturers should proceed, they provide tourism students at secondary schools with the latest news and opportunities accessible to them in the industry. Accordingly teachers should gather on a consistent basis the most up to date information on the actual trends and changes in the industry as well as career opportunities in tourism so that these can be passed on to the students.
Without a doubt educators are part of the key stakeholders that can have a immense influence on students career options by having direct contact with students throughout their tourism programs. These also function as career preparatory programs. Nevertheless still lacking in terms of the promotion by the educators is the general absence of career centers at secondary schools to provide students with information about careers in tourism and other sectors. From the interviews with the educators in secondary schools, the institutions have a dean that provides information on careers in tourism. Due to the fact that students make more use of external resources like internet and newspapers to find information about careers in tourism perhaps also suggests the lack of information they could access at secondary schools. Although the existing current efforts by educators are useful and favorable to students, a career centre could assist educators to promote tourism careers to students more effectively. This intention can be supported by the government and the industry through providing adequate career information materials, publications and job opportunity advertisements which will assist students in gathering information about job opportunities in tourism while at secondary schools or universities.
Also there are areas for further improvement that the educators can look at in tourism curriculum. It has been indicated by the Industry players investigated in this thesis their preference towards institutions that taught their students in English, with the perception that it provides the students with language and communication skills that are needed in the industry. By nature tourism is an industry that deals with people from various backgrounds. Therefore, language skills, particularly English is essential in the context of Curaçao tourism. Tourism programs at secondary schools, therefore, could be taught in English to provide students with the language and communication skills that they would need the most when working in the industry. At least, tourism programs should offer a course titled “English for Business and Tourism” if they do not already do so to provide students with the basic communication skills they need to work in the industry.
APPENDIX A: Interview Questions
My name is Nadine Libier and I am a Bachelor in Business Administration student at the Inter-Continental University of the Caribbean. As a part of this Bachelor program, I am undertaking this research project to investigate stakeholders’ perceptions of tourism as a career in Curaçao. These stakeholders include educators, industry bodies/employers and the government.
The government/industry/educators are key stakeholders in this study. Therefore I am inviting you to be a key respondent to this study. This letter is a follow- up to our e-mail exchange in September 2012 when we discussed the interview. The interview will take approximately 30 minutes. I will gladly send you a copy of the interview questions in advance if you wish.
The data collected from this interview will be used for my research project and will be put into a written thesis. You will have the right to check and verify the interview notes and have an opportunity to withdraw from this study within three weeks after the interview.
If you need further information about the project, do not hesitate to contact me by telephone at 540 0896, by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Nadine Libier (Signed)
Interview Questions – Government’s Perceptions
The questions below are for the officials from the relevant government agencies. The objective is to obtain some insight into their perspectives with regard to the current policy in promoting tourism as a career to students and their perspectives regarding to what extent other stakeholders implement the policy.
Section A = Policy
In your sector what are the main tourism human resources issues faced?
What policies relate to developing human resources in tourism?
How do you implement these policies? How do you keep track of the implementation? Do you encounter problems in implementing the policy?
How often is the policy evaluated and revised?
What are the role(s) of the industry and the educators in the development and implementation of this policy?
Do you think the current policy is adequate to address issues influencing graduates interest to choose tourism as a career?
Section B = Students
What measures were undertaken by you to promote tourism as a career to tourism graduates?
Has this been effective? If yes, to what extent is it effective? If no, why is it not effective?
What are your plans to further promote tourism as a career to the tourism graduates in the future?
Section C = Education
Is there a forum for your organization and educators to meet and elaborate on issues about attracting graduates to choose tourism as a career? If yes, how often is it being done?
To what extent do you think that the educators have implemented your policy regarding the development of human resources in tourism?
Section D = Employers
Is there a forum for your agency and the industry to meet and elaborate on issues regarding tourism training tourism human resource development? If yes, how often is it being done?
To what range do you think the industry has applied the policies set up by the government to employ graduates or stimulate graduates to choose tourism as a career?
Interview Questions – Industry Bodies/Employer’s Perceptions
The questions below are for the senior officials from the employers and industry bodies. This interview attempts to comprehend how their activities relate to the activities of other stakeholders in regard to the promotion of tourism as a career. The objective is to obtain insight into their perspectives regarding the quality of the graduate supply to the industry especially from the educational institutes.
Section A = Industry
What are the key human resources issues your sector or organization face?
Section B = Students
What is your overall perception of tourism graduates from universities and secondary tourism schools?
What experience and qualification level should tourism graduates have?
Do you think university and secondary school graduates have a positive view of careers in tourism?
What has been done in your sector/organization to promote tourism careers to the graduates?
Many researches done in the past advised that issues like unsociable working hours, low pay, and lack of promotion opportunities have a negative impact on how tourism graduates perceive a career in tourism. Do you agree with these perceptions with regard to your sector/organization and how do you act in response to these perceptions?
Section C = Education
What is your perception of the quality of tourism education/courses at universities and secondary schools in Curaçao?
How do you think the actual tourism programs in Curaçao could be enhanced?
Would you like a greater role in developing tourism curriculums at universities and secondary schools?
Is there a forum for the industry and the universities/secondary schools to meet and elaborate on the curriculum? If yes, how frequent is it being done?
Section D = Government
Is there a forum for the industry and government to meet and elaborate on issues regarding tourism training and tourism human resource development? If yes, what and how frequent is it being done?
To what range do you think the industry is putting into action the policies set up by the government to employ graduates/encourage graduates to elect tourism as a career?
What is your perception of the current policies and activities by the government, with regard to stimulate graduates to elect tourism as a career? Is it appropriate? If no, what else can be done?
Interview Questions – Educators Perceptions
The questions below are for the directors of tourism management program in both universities and secondary schools. The objective is to obtain insight into their perspectives with regard to their tourism management program, and how their activities relate to the activities of other stakeholders with regard to the promotion of tourism as a career.
Section A = Education
Who is the creator of the Tourism Management curriculum that you are using?
What is the focus of the curriculum in general and what are the key elements?
Could you describe the practical training element in your program (if there is one).
Do you think that the curriculum is applicable to the requirements of employers?
Section B = Students
To what extent do you think that your program prepares students to meet the industries requirements?
Are there ways that students can gain information regarding career opportunities in tourism when they are in universities or in secondary schools?
How does your program promote tourism as a career to your students?
Section C = Employers
To what extent has the industry been included in the development of your tourism curriculum?
Is there a forum for the universities/secondary schools and industry to meet and elaborate on the tourism curriculum? How often is it being done?
What do you think could be done by the industry to enhance the quality of tourism careers?
Section D = Government
Is there a forum for the universities and secondary schools and the government to meet and elaborate tourism education? If yes, what and how often is it done?
To what extent do you feel that the universities and secondary schools are applying the policies set up by the government in stimulating students to elect tourism as a career?
What is your perception of the current policies and activities by the government to encourage students to elect tourism as a career? Is it adequate? If not, what is required to be done?