Tourism, the travel bubble and the future of jobs in NZ

The effects of COVID-19 have been keenly felt by industries across New Zealand, with some such as tourism – of utmost importance to the economy – enduring a tougher 2020 than most.

A year on, thanks to easing travel restrictions both domestically and abroad, along with a dip in unemployment and a rise in job ads, there’s cause for optimism.

Here’s a look at the current state of New Zealand’s employment landscape, including the future of tourism and other industries that are well-placed to rebound.

Employment trends

Despite a tough 2020, the outlook for New Zealand’s economic recovery is brightening. Westpac has predicted unemployment will shrink from 5.7% to just 5% by the end of the year, while other commentators forecast a rise of 4.5% in GDP for 2021 (following a drop of 1% in the last quarter of 2020).

This is thanks to a trend in rising job availability and many industries advertising for roles ­– the last quarter of 2020 saw job ads rise by 19%, which takes the number of published job ads close to pre-pandemic levels.

A change in working patterns

A hybrid of working from home and the office has been adopted by many organisations across New Zealand, a change that PwC notes will almost certainly remain. Pre-2020, around 5% of the workforce worked from home. During 2020, this figure increased to 40% and is predicted to rest at around 20-30% as we settle into a post-COVID ‘new normal’.

From an employer perspective, 83% believe the shift to remote work during COVID was successful for their organisation.

How is the tourism industry faring?

Up to March 2020, tourism in NZ accounted for a massive including a total contribution to GDP of $16.4B, or 5.5%. Lockdowns and increased global travel restrictions have seen tourist numbers decrease by 98.6% in the year to February 2021, from 67,000 people down to just 5,800 – a significant loss for the industry. Over the past year, four out of 10 (40%) industry workers lost their jobs due to a drop in visitor arrivals and tourism.

The travel bubble’s effect on employment

With the recently instated trans-Tasman bubble allowing quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and Australia, there is light at the end of the tunnel. With 1.4 million Australians visiting New Zealand in 2019, the reopening of travel between the two countries represents a big step forward for New Zealand’s economic recovery – especially for workers within the tourism industry.

Job ads in the sector are already booming with growth of up to 114% between September and November 2020 compared to the previous two months. Expect the bubble to keep the trend growing.

Industries that are rebounding

There’s good news for other industries too, with overall job advertising increasing by 10.1% in March 2021 compared to March 2020. Job ads increased most markedly in many industries that experienced significant downturn during 2020. The industries experiencing the biggest job bounce back include:

  • Legal ­– among the top 20 roles advertised are property law, corporate and commercial law, in-house generalists, law clerks and paralegals.
  • Human resources and recruitment – specifically internal recruiters.
  • Hospitality and tourism – roles such as front office and guest services, waiting staff and housekeeping are all on the rebound.
  • Advertising, arts and media – specifically jobs in programming and production.
  • Agriculture – specifically horticulture.
  • Design and architecture – architectural drafts people, urban designers and planners, architects and interior designers are all in demand.

Do your due diligence

As industries rebound and job advertising surges in New Zealand, employers must wade into the hiring pool with caution. The need to fill positions quickly to further boost economic growth is understandable – however, a scattergun approach to recruitment can open you up to unnecessary risk.

For example, remote hiring and onboarding is increasing in popularity, meaning recruiters may never meet their new recruits face-to-face.

Employers are re-hiring and re-instating workers placed on leave – some may have been away from the organisation for months if not a year.

And continuing lockdowns and virus break-outs mean employers are weighing up the benefits of hiring contract workers as opposed to full-time staff and moving to a hybrid working model.

All of the above makes getting a complete candidate picture more challenging, and thorough background screening an even more valuable tool in your pre-employment tool kit.

In order to build a strong, trusting relationship between your organisation and the people it employs, it’s important recruiters do their due diligence through background screening.

Rather than be a barrier to hire, vetting candidates shows you are committed to bringing the best people into your business so your customers and employees can enjoy better service, products and culture.

And this can only be a positive in COVID-19’s continuing uncertainty.

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