Interview with Véronique Brizon, General Manager of ADN Tourisme. AND Tourisme is a French national federation that gathers all tourism boards across the country (cities, regions…).
As a federation, we have structured ourselves in such a way as to strengthen our links with our members and thus be even more in tune with their needs. We have therefore created a position, that of "territorial animation" project manager, to listen to them and develop tools, services or practices for their use. The actions that we are putting in place must enable them to save time, to be more efficient and to pool resources in order to move forward more quickly. This is an imperative today.
Our federation plays its role by allowing actors to get ahead of the game. We can also identify issues that can be dealt with at a national level and then implemented at a territorial level. This is why we set up a ‘foresight commission’ in 2020 to identify, both externally and internally, elements that could impact our organisations between now and 2030. It seemed pointless to try and look further into the future, given the acceleration of transformations and changes.
We have identified 13 variables, including climate change, issues related to changes in the relationship with work, the place of the citizen, public service, financing, etc. These are all elements that we will share with our members during a working day, as well as three scenarios for each variable defined by the Foresight Committee. The idea is to invite managers to look forward to 2030 on the basis of these multiple scenarios. Perhaps, for example, it will one day be necessary to train ecological rangers in tourist offices to preserve biodiversity, and so forth.
The Covid period changed our way of working, our members were waiting for information in order to accompany the professionals in their territories. We therefore had to set up a flow of information quickly and efficiently from national to local level. Everyone in their own areas and territorial ecosystems was then able to organise themselves.
Coping with recruitment difficulties
In my opinion, recruitment difficulties are across society and the problems are different depending on each sector. The problems of the restaurant industry are not similar to those of leisure parks or to ours.
The aspiration of the younger generation to have more free time and a real differentiation between professional and personal time, to be able to work from home etc., there are certain elements which cannot concern all service professions. A reception position cannot entail working from home. However, in order to meet the needs mentioned above, one of the solutions might be to have tourist establishments open only 4 days a week. This would potentially have an impact on the tourism offer at the level of the destination. How to inform the customer as best as possible, how to be a welcoming destination with diversified offers… these are all issues that could potentially arise.
Structural factors that lead to these recruitment problems
I think there is a problem with the age pyramid, and this creates tension. It is not just a question of the attractiveness of the professions. There are organisations that have worked on an employer brand, that have made quality of life at work a priority, and yet are still struggling to recruit. The ageing of this pyramid is a very visible phenomenon in the medical professions. The employees who were born after the war and who were very numerous are retiring. There are now fewer people working. It will therefore be necessary to potentially automate certain functions in the knowledge that there will not be an actual person manning them from behind.
We are a sector where the pay is not huge, but one in which the working conditions are rather pleasant. Selling travel or dreams is a rewarding job.
Some jobs are occupied by overqualified people. People with 4 or 5 years of higher education are employed in jobs that are intended for less qualified workers. This generates turnover and dissatisfaction. There has to be a match between the level of education and the position being offered.
Today, the balance between the number of higher education courses in tourism and the positions that require such a level of training has not been achieved. The 2-year degree has been devalued, even though it meets the needs of a certain number of positions. There is therefore a responsibility on the part of the training curricula regarding these subjects. Encouraging students to take bachelor's or master's degrees is a good thing, but the number of jobs requiring a qualification above a 2-year degree is not high enough.
Sharing an attractive image of the profession and confronting issues
We are working on these subjects on the employers' side, as ADN Tourisme is the representative organisation of the branch of tourism organisations. We work a lot on the theme of the quality of life at work and on the employer brand. The objective is to enhance the value of the work done within a tourist office, a local tourism committee or a regional tourism committee.
However, our institutions have a special nature. It is a public service where the political dimension is significant. Commitment to the general interest is also central. This means recruiting staff who are motivated by the general interest.
In addition, there is the problem of housing for seasonal workers. This is usually in destinations with extremely high real estate pressures, particularly in tourist areas.
Let's be aware that it is not just a question of efforts to be made on the part of the employer. There are more and more seasonal workers who do not honour their commitments. Instead of staying for the duration of their fixed-term contract, which includes training, they leave after a few weeks, and then the rest of the team is in difficulty. Employers put many benefits and processes in place but there is a lack of loyalty. How do you find the balance between the investment the employer makes in an employee, in terms of training for example, and the time you can expect to keep them in your organisation? It is a real challenge to retain an employee for at least 3 years.
Jobs with commonalities
Working as a receptionist in a tourist office or in a hotel is identical in terms of savoir-faire and interpersonal skills. There may be differences in terms of knowledge, but for the rest, there are many similarities.
We are working on hospitality issues, particularly with an eye on the major events that will soon be held in France. How can we move from reception to hospitality?
One of tomorrow's questions is also how to work with the local. How can we include them in a reception process as individuals who have come to spend time in a place made up of lively forces, whether it be a hotel, a restaurant or a tourist office? The fact that accommodation providers are opening up their spaces to local people is a very good thing, it brings life to the destination. It also responds to a current change where there are no longer workers on one side and holidaymakers on the other, but that there can be tourists who are on holiday all whilst working at the same time. We therefore need to adapt the spaces to be able to respond to this demand.
The presence of local people who consume leisure in their own area will also grow due to the increase in energy costs. The train offer can potentially provide access to more remote areas if the prices are adapted. In any case, local customers do not have the same average spend as customers from further afield.
How do organisations, at their own level, take these trends into account and adapt themselves?
We have a joint OPCO (skill operator) with private sector companies. In particular with cultural, sports and audiovisual professions. This promotes joint thinking. Thinking that has also been done by the French state, which is reflected in the communication campaign that has been launched. The recruitment difficulties are transversal to the entire tourism sector.
When we work on employer brands, we are also able to compare the actions of each different one. Crossovers exist in the thinking of today. However, on the ground, employers need to change their paradigm. There is a tendency to recruit profiles that are familiar. Work is therefore being carried out on job descriptions to visualise the bridges between jobs. We are only at the beginning of our work on these subjects. This implies an awareness on the recruiter's side but also on the candidate's side. Candidates must be willing to apply to companies that are not their core business. The employer also has a role to play in highlighting the skills of their employee.
Training employees of ADN Tourisme members
We run a training committee alongside training organisations within our network, both at regional and national level. This leads us to ask ourselves “what are the needs in terms of training?” We have drawn up a map on the evolution of skills and professions. These tools are made available to members.
Our extranet allows us to share documentary resources but also to discuss certain subjects. This can also be extended, in a physical form, through theme days. For example, in 2023, we are planning a day dedicated to observation and data, to look at how data is collected and how it is interpreted and made available. These are professions that are changing rapidly within our network. It is also a question of working together so that those who have resources make them available to others.
Now, to talk about active people in retraining; training in France is not adapted to career changes. Everyone has the right to make a mistake and to want to change jobs, but changing jobs is extremely complicated. It doesn't matter what sector you're in. Besides VAE [French procedure for the recognition of prior learning], it should be possible to value other skills and to value them differently. The system is complex, it's difficult to get information, which is limiting.
It is also important to get different generations to co-exist within organisations. Each person, depending on their age, experience and maturity, has something to contribute to a company or an institutional body.
A local government sector that has changed significantly in recent years
The NOTRe law [promulgated in 2015] has had a significant impact on tourist offices by creating numerous groupings and boosting professionalisation. The regrouping with a central structure and information offices has resulted in a strengthening of the teams. The local tourism committees, in order to legitimise their regional level, have been challenged as regards their efficiency, so this has been a booster for professionalisation.
Exogenous factors have also had an impact, such as the arrival of data or the disappearance of intermediation. There is a tendency at the regional level to no longer be a central booking office, but rather to be a marketing support. On the other hand, the tourist offices have acquired new functions such as the management of a convention centre for example. Some offices are transforming themselves by acquiring a delegation to manage a facility or by doing business.
The structures are becoming hybridised with several professions, and some organisations are also becoming attractiveness agencies, so they can work on recruitment issues in the medical professions. To deal with the problem of what can be put in place to attract a tourist or a doctor, the arguments will differ, but the techniques are similar.
Many tourist offices have become public institutions of an industrial and commercial nature, so their links with their supervisory authorities have changed.
Covid has triggered and accelerated transformation, particularly internally with WFH and hybrid workstations. Climate change will continue to mean that we will work more closely and more extensively with professionals in the sector. There is still a gap between the impact of tourism authorities and the image that private professionals have of them. A tourist office is no longer a distributor of brochures, and the local tourism committees and regional tourism committees are promotional agencies. They are on the ground, accompanying professionals or providing them with services. They intervene in a large number of fields: finding investors, observation, qualification of offers, marketing, reception... to name but a few.
A message to professionals
Tourism is based on a triptych: the state, local authorities and professionals. Each of these has its own role to play.
We must not all get stuck in our own individual vision of things.