Digital skills gaps in tourism: A study

Part of Cowork4YOUTH’s focus areas is youth employment in tourism-dependent, island or remote coastal regions and specifically the enhancement of current  relevant policies, as well as to suggest new or complementary ones. For people to improve their chances to find a job, skills development is an important and probably, as technology constantly advances, necessary step; and this advancement has given a special place to digital skills, which are becoming a “big deal” nowadays.

In this article, we are discussing a paper titled “The digital skills divide: evidence from the European tourism industry[1] published at the Journal of Tourism Futures, whose aim is to present the results of a research conducted on the digital skills gap in tourism and hospitality; and as noted, “this research is part of a large European survey on the skills gaps of tourism and hospitality employees, implemented within the framework of the Next Tourism Generation (NTG) Alliance funded by the KA 2 Erasmus þ Programme”.

A mixed methods research was done,  with 1688 people participating in 8 European countries, including Italy, Ireland and Spain. Since these three, with Greece being the fourth, countries are the focus of the Cowork4YOUTH project, our interest in this study is well justified.

The results revealed some rather interesting points in the topic, and a confirmation of “[…] the influence of the rapidly changing digital environment via the perception of digital skills[…]”- but also a differentiation between low and high digital skills was identified: Lower-rated digital skills include social media and digital marketing, whereas highly advanced digital ones pertain to AI and Robotics. In these lines, data scientists, robot engineers and IT specialists need to be equipped with high digital skills in order to execute their tasks, but learning how to use a computer software and using the device for day-to-day activities such as emailing and surfing the Internet are less effort-demanding skills that could be developed via practice at home.

What about the highest gaps?

These were found in augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR) skills, and also in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics – but those are yet not deemed necessary for enhancing the tourism and hospitality industries. The authors of the paper, though, do underline that sectors like visitor attractions could use the opportunity that AR and VR present “[…]within the heritage and cultural organisations to improve the visitor experience of historical and cultural properties[…] ”, and they add “[…] creativity, storytelling skills and the ability to create experiences without or with the use of AR, VR, mixed reality and mobile phone applications are even more important here than in the other sectors”.

Overall, the findings show that the most important future digital skills that will be required for tourism and hospitality are “[…] online marketing and communication skills, social media skills, MS Office skills, operating systems use skills and skills to monitor online reviews”. And the largest gaps between current and future ones are AR, VR, robotics and AI skills – although these were also considered at the least necessary for the time being.


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[1]Carlisle, Sheena & Ivanov, Stanislav & Dijkmans, Corné. (2021). The digital skills divide: evidence from the European tourism industry. Journal of Tourism Futures. ahead-of-print. 10.1108/JTF-07-2020-0114.


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