Tourism and Hospitality's Young Workforce: The Challenge of Acquiring Foreign Language Skills

Tourism and Hospitality's Young Workforce: The Challenge of Acquiring Foreign Language Skills

Andreea Fortuna Şchiopu (The Bucharest University of Economic Studies, Romania)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1423-8.ch003
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This chapter aims to study the perspectives on the foreign language skills based on the Romanian tourism and hospitality young workforce views. Qualitative and quantitative methods help collect data to identify the main barriers to foreign language learning, the fluency in English and a second language and the willingness to learn a second language when necessary, and the young workforce's openness and readiness for exotic foreign languages. The results show that English is a requirement within the labor market in the tourism and hospitality sector that the young workforce knows about and that knowing a second foreign language may act as a differentiator within the labor market. China is gaining ground as a tourism market with many Chinese tourists traveling the world. This brings about a new challenge for the tourism staff: that of acquiring new exotic foreign languages. It is well understood that tourists prefer to use their native tongue or a world language such as English.
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Currently, tourism is one of the most dynamic sectors of the world’s economy. United Nations World Tourism Organization UNWTO (2018) announced that in recent years international tourist arrivals grew more than its 3.8% forecast per year for the period 2010 to 2020 (7% in 2017). Destinations in Central and Eastern Europe also recorded solid growth (UNWTO, 2018). In terms of age, the over 60s tourism market is still increasing, but new generations such as Millennials and Generation Z are gaining ground and will form the largest part of domestic and international tourists by 2040 (OECD, 2018). These new segments bring on new requirements and preferences for unique, customized, and sustainable travel experiences (OECD, 2018).

Another trend that is changing tourism is the growth of the Chinese market based on China’s economic growth and diversifying consumer demands, with more and more Chinese traveling around the world. Moreover, China is the leader in global outbound travel in terms of expenditure (UNWTO, 2018). These developments require specific responses from the tourism industry, especially regarding strategic approaches and workforce training. Romania is trying to better promote its resources and the Minister of Tourism was wishing to attract a large number of Chinese tourists to the country (, 2018). As far as human resources, a special requirement relates to their foreign language skills given the fact that tourists prefer to use their native tongue or a world language such as English.

This chapter explores the foreign language skills issue in the Eastern European area, namely in Romania, based on qualitative and quantitative research. The central research question of this chapter is “How do young professionals in the tourism and hospitality industry relate to the foreign languages issue and what is their view on foreign languages as a tool in this industry?”. It was already shown that foreign language skills have great value when communicating with people from countries where those languages are spoken (Leslie & Russell, 2006), becoming critical in the tourism and hospitality industry. Therefore, another research interest is to study young professionals’ willingness to acquire foreign languages to improve their ability to communicate with people from different cultures.

For a better depth and breadth of understanding, a mixed methods research approach was applied, that is a combination of “elements of qualitative and quantitative research approaches” (Schoonenboom & Johnson, 2017). In particular, a focus group with young representatives of the Romanian tourism and hospitality industry was organized and a detailed discussion of the focus-group results is offered in this chapter.

Next, a survey was conducted to identify the major dimensions attached to the foreign language issue. First, the perception of foreign language barriers among the young workforce is studied. Fluency in more than one foreign language may generate a competitive advantage in the complex global hospitality market (Tziora, Giovanis, & Papacharalabous, 2016). Consequently, another objective of the study is to identify what is the fluency in a second foreign language and the willingness of the Romanian tourism students, the future tourism professionals, to study a second language.

Considering its growth potential, China represents a big opportunity for Eastern European tourism industry. In Romania, the Minister of Tourism acclaimed in 2018 (, 2018) that he wishes to In order to cater to this market segment, one condition is to learn the language of this country. The most popular language in China is Mandarin Chinese (Sawe, 2018), with almost 80 percent speakers out of China’s total population. Therefore, another objective is to identify the Romanian tourism students’ willingness and readiness for exotic foreign languages such as Mandarin/Chinese. These young professionals and future professionals in the tourism and hospitality industry are the ones that represent a big segment of the workforce that could cater to the Chinese tourists that might come to Romania.

Last but not least, the survey addresses what can be done to encourage training and acquiring new language skills, what are the most efficient methods to learn a new language adapted to the characteristics of the studied segment (tourism students, the future workforce in tourism and hospitality).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Readiness to Acquiring a Foreign Language: The openness and willingness of people to invest time and effort into studying a foreign language.

Barrier to Foreign Language Acquisition: A reason that hinders the foreign language learning.

Fluency in a Foreign Language: The ability to appropriately use a foreign language.

Traditional Foreign Language: A foreign tongue that is widespread within this geographic area such as English, French, German, or Spanish.

Exotic Foreign Language: A foreign tongue that is not common within this geographic area such as Chinese/Mandarin or Japanese.

Tourism and Hospitality Young Workforce: The current young employees from tourism and hospitality industry and tourism students. The assumption made is that tourism students would continue their studies with a job in this sector.

Second Foreign Language: Another tongue utilized in addition to Romanian and English. The assumption is that, in Romania, English is the most important foreign language known and used in tourism and hospitality, assumption verified based on the survey results.

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