Knowledge Cultures, Competitive Advantage and Staff Turnover in Hospitality in Australia’s Northern Territory

Knowledge Cultures, Competitive Advantage and Staff Turnover in Hospitality in Australia’s Northern Territory

Kalotina Chalkiti (Charles Darwin University, Australia) and Dean Carson (Charles Darwin University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-783-8.ch614
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Competition in the tourism marketplace becomes more intense as the destination matures (Butler, 1998). This is the case for tourism in Australia, which is exposed to increasing pressures from rising fuel prices, the preference of Australians to travel overseas rather than within their own country, declines in traditionally important markets in Europe and Asia, and the emergence of nearby countries (China, Viet Nam, etc) as competing destinations. Maintaining a competitive advantage, both as an individual business within a destination and as a destination-based collection of businesses within the global tourism marketplace, is likely to be dependent on the ability to manage knowledge and support innovative strategies (Poon, 1993; Carson & Macbeth, 2005).

Accommodation businesses are at the heart of tourism systems. It is the presence of overnight accommodation as part of a trip away from home that distinguishes tourism from other travel. The capacity of accommodation businesses to manage knowledge is influenced by the characteristics of their workforce, and particularly by the high levels of staff turnover that have been attributed to high levels of casual staffing, relatively low salaries, and poor pathways for career development (Akrivos et al., 2007). The strategies to deal with staff turnover have in the past mainly focused on increasing retention and improving recruitment practices (Zhang & Wu, 2004). However, the literature has more recently suggested alternative or additional strategies that recognize the inevitability of continuing high turnover rates. These strategies seek to embrace the regular influx of new ideas that come with new people (Johannessen et al., 2001) and attempt to retain context and person specific knowledge that will enable businesses to compete in an environment of constant change.

This chapter investigates the strategies used by hospitality businesses in the NT of Australia to remain competitive in the face of inevitable staff turnover. The Territory’s hospitality industry is made up of mostly small and medium sized enterprises (ABS, 2007), while tourists are attracted by the destinations experiential feel, remoteness, tropical and desert surroundings. The Territory is an interesting case because its small size, remoteness, and subsequent exposure to greater internal and external competition exaggerate the need to build effective knowledge cultures within the industry. The NT has a seasonal tourism trade, with the summers (November – April) being hot and dry in the south and hot and wet in the north, and the winters (May – October) more mild in climate and attractive for visitors.

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