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magh11 - Seasonality in tourism employment human resource...

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Seasonality in tourism employment: human resource challenges Lee Jolliffe Faculty of Business, University of New Brunswick Saint John, Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada Regena Farnsworth Faculty of Business, University of New Brunswick Saint John, Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada Introduction As a fundamental characteristic of tourism, seasonality is recognized as a factor affecting all aspects of contemporary hospitality industries. Seasonality dramatically influences industry employment, leading to widespread seasonal employment, underemployment, and unemployment. For human resource HR) managers, this creates a cyclical employment environment requiring extraordinary resources devoted to recruitment, selection, training and retention of staff. In Atlantic Canada, seasonality is a pervasive feature of the tourism industry. The area, consisting of the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island PEI), Nova Scotia NS) and New Brunswick NB) located on Canada's eastern seaboard, is economically dependent on the summer tourism season. In much of the region this season runs from late June until the first weekend in September. This short season creates human resource management HRM) challenges. For example, in NB the annual accommodation occupancy rate of 55 per cent rose to 75.5 per cent during July and August of 2001 Government of New Brunswick, 2001), a typical pattern for the region. Consequently, during the slower seasons, there is excess capacity resulting in staff being underutilized or unemployed. Addressing seasonality in tourism employment and the HR response to it is an issue that affects individual employers and employees, but is also of concern to entire communities and local, provincial and federal governments. Seasonality in tourism employment Seasonality in tourism can be defined as cyclical variations in tourism demand. Highman and Hinch 2002) describe seasonality as one of the most predominant, yet least understood, features of tourism. Within the industry, seasonality is viewed as a challenge and often a problem affecting many areas. In tourism employment seasonal jobs, defined as ``a non-permanent paid job that will end at a specified time or in the near future, once the seasonal peak has passed'' Marshall, 1999) are common. These seasonal positions often recur on an annual basis, influenced by the labour demands of seasonal industries Perusse, 1997). While seasonality in tourism employment is dominant as, shown in Table I, little research has been done in this area. A 1998 Canadian Tourism Human Resources Council CTHRC, 1998) study estimates the tourism-related labour force as 1.4 million employed in the tourism-related sectors of: food and beverage, transportation, accommodation, attractions, travel trade, and adventure tourism and outdoor recreation.
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