Tourism needs changing to become viable as a career

The thoughts of school leavers like you will help shape the plans of the tourism industry as it struggles to attract the workforce it needs.

Tourism is NZ’s number one export earner, worth $36 billion annually and directly employs more than 230,000 people.

And plenty more are needed. In Auckland the sector is forecasting a 27 per cent increase in the number of jobs in the sector in the next 3 years, predicting that over 75,000 Aucklanders will be working in the industry by 2021.

Reality is the industry struggles for workers 

Sounds great, but the reality is the industry struggles to attract the young workers it desperately needs, and new research from ATEED and Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA) points at a number of reasons why this is the case.

Chris Roberts, TIA Chief Executive, believes the tourism industry offers a wide range of jobs and career pathways to young people, from frontline customer service roles, to back office business-focused positions. Positions are available in every region, and often in locations where not that many other opportunities exist.

But the truth is that the industry has been more successful in marketing New Zealand to visitors than promoting itself as a career destination to young New Zealanders.

Key findings from the research


  • Young people studying and working think tourism is an important part of the economy;
  • Three out of four recent tourism recruits find the industry appealing to work in;
  • Tourism is growing and there are lots of opportunities;
  • No qualifications required, you can jump straight in or you can get some core qualifications to get started and grow from there;
  • It’s an experience-based industry so you can work your way up;
  • Others will think your job is fun, interesting and exciting;
  • You’ll work with outgoing, passionate and easy-going people representing New Zealand;
  • Huge variety; you don’t need to be bored or stuck in an office.


  • Tourism jobs have average pay, like our agriculture sector does. These are NZ’s biggest industries but among the poorest paid;
  • Tourism jobs are perceived as low-status, anti-social and temporary, with limited career pathways. Smart businesses will create or show career pathways for employees;
  • A tourism career is a hard-sell to parents, and also to career advisors who the research showed aren’t strong tourism advocates;
  • At school, tourism is viewed as an easy subject for those not up to the hard ones, and tourism is for the unambitious.

Opportunity still there for success

It’s a good job all this negativity wasn’t there when A J Hackett decided to set up his bungee jump business in Queenstown in 1988. In the years since, bungee jumping has earned an estimated $2 billion for the NZ economy, while the average salary of employees of Hackett's operation is $62,000.