Tourism HR Forum Explores Best Practices for a Successful Future

Delegates of the eighth annual Tourism HR Forum are now ready to embrace change and look beyond the economic slowdown. Themed “On Your Mark! Get Set! Change!”, the national event attracted 250 tourism professionals, corporate trainers, association representatives, educators, and students to Montreal’s Delta Centre-Ville in late November. With the economy weighing on many minds, participants were eager to explore strategies for weathering the present while also preparing to capitalize on the slowly emerging recovery.

Presenters delivered just that, sharing their expertise and experiences related to tourism human resources. Jim Frank, former chief economist with the Conference Board of Canada, gave a brief presentation stressing the need to look beyond the current economic downturn. He particularly noted that labour shortages would re-emerge as the economy recovers and cited the usefulness of CTHRC research publications. François Meunier, vice-president of public and governmental affairs of the Association des restaurateurs du Québec, observed that the current slowdown is the perfect opportunity to train staff. Mark Reynolds, vice president of human resources for Canlan Ice Sports Corp., explained how programs like the Council’s free of charge Employer of Choice program can provide the feedback necessary to recognize problem areas in HR and the tools to effect company-wide change to address these issues.

Highlighted throughout the event was HR’s importance to the success of the sector. Wendy Swedlove, CTHRC president, remarked that through the hard work of industry organizations, HR has gained visibility to the point that the federal government now lists it as a core pillar for its tourism strategy. Opening keynote speaker Dr. Rick Johnson emphasized that treating training as an investment and fixing HR practices now will ultimately generate higher profits for organizations. In the popular session “How to Keep Your Best Employees”, Alain Samson suggested that businesses treat workers as they would treat clients, both as a means of building loyalty and as a strategy for retention. Randy Williams, president and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, advocated a focus on “personnel relations” rather than public relations, and called for more national certification in the industry as a whole.

Discussion also included education and learner and labour mobility.  This year featured event management and culinary professions, with the recent development and growth of the International Compentency Standards for Event Management (IEMS) and the progression of the Cooks Qualification Framework. Joyce Dogniez, director of global training practice for Meeting Professionals International, stressed that international professional standards define and establish recognised professions and allow for the portable recognition of skills. Another session focused on integrating sustainable practices into post-secondary programs; with an eye to creating holistic, interdisciplinary tourism studies that respect the diversity of environments and cultures.

The Forum closed with a dose of energy from Bryan Dodge, who provided strategies for leadership, professional development, and personal growth. Delegates left armed with progressive ideas and effective tools to deal with change and address their present and future HR issues.

All are invited to participate in the 9th Annual HR Forum to be held November 15 to 17, 2010 in Alberta. Details will be posted on as they become available.