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      EI Interviews Rodger Powell of Tourism Accommodation Australia

      Rodger Powell

      The Educational Institute recently spoke with Rodger Powell, Managing Director of Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA), the division of the Australian Hotels Association that represents the majority of Australia's leading hotel chains as well as independent accommodation providers via its membership. TAA leads in advocacy, industrial relations support, industry education, industry research and analysis, and has offices in every state and territory.

      Q: Visitation to Australia has increased in spite of the decline associated with the global financial crisis.  Australia is now the first country to offer electronic passports and visas. How will this move impact tourism over the next year? The next five years?  How is the Australian hospitality industry preparing to meet this increased demand?

      A:The global financial crisis has had a significant impact on Australian Tourism. Whilst international visitor numbers have increased, especially from China and the USA, the domestic tourism market (which is 70% of the total) has been flat and seen reducing length of stay and yield. At the same time the significant strengthening of the Australian dollar has allowed Australians to travel offshore (particularly to the USA) in the greatest numbers ever. The result has been a patchwork of performance with capital city corporate hotels performing well off the back of Australia's mining boom, but some resort and leisure destinations with a reliance on the domestic market struggling.

      The introduction of electronic passports and visas, together with 'smart gates' at airports for frequent visitors, is intended to make Australia more accessible and easier (more welcoming) to do business with. These initiatives have been well received by travelers and further investment is planned to extend these globally competitive programs.  Australia's greatest growth is forecast to come from our neighbor China. To this end, Australian hotels have invested in excess of a billion dollars since the global economic crisis in renewing accommodation stock and in many areas new hotels are being built. Programs to ensure hotels are 'China ready' have been initiated by hoteliers, the government and by private sector training organisations. These programs include the provision of Chinese specific in-room items, foods, translated menus and directories, Chinese speaking staff and cultural awareness training programs. Australia is actively seeking off-shore investors in order to develop new accommodation stock to meet forecast demand.

      Q: What are the current skills and labor issues challenging the continued success of the Australian tourism, travel and hospitality industries?

      A: Australia enjoys high levels of employment and although Australian hospitality workers are highly paid by international standards, the hospitality sector has strong competition for labor from sectors such as mining and from the more socially-palatable industries that work 9.00 to 5.00 Monday to Friday. A recent study undertaken for the Australian Federal Government has indicated that there are currently in excess of 30,000 open jobs in hospitality in Australia and that this number will rise to 50,000 by 2020. Equally there are shortages of skilled employees such as hotel managers, chefs and cooks.

      Q: What measures will Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA) take to successfully tackle some of these challenges?

      A: TAA is working closely with industry and governments on a variety of fronts to address these challenges. Lobbying the federal government to add hotel managers, chefs and cooks to the immigration skilled occupation list (a list which gives preference for visas to individuals with those skills) is one initiative. Extending the working holiday maker visa conditions that would allow young foreign travelers to work in Australia for longer than the currently permitted 6 months is another. Our primary objective in regards to Immigration is to persuade government to create a new category of visa for temporary workers that would allow people from other countries to work in our industry for two years. On other fronts, we are working with governments to get people who want to work back into the workforce. Programs for older people and those with a range of disabilities or training needs are actively being worked on.

      Most importantly is raising the profile of the hospitality sector generally by increasing individual employee's skills and the transportability of their qualifications from one employer to another. TAA's partnership with the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (EI) is critical to this task. TAA has just launched EI's CHA program in Australia and is working with EI to get more of EI's high quality hospitality training products into the Australasian marketplace as quickly as possible. The fledgling relationship with EI is a cornerstone of our industry education strategy. Recognising that we live increasingly in a global village, it is vital that we can deliver globally recognised accreditation programs to our members and their employees and that they individually have a path to build their own careers via industry led and accepted accreditation. We are excited by the opportunities provided by EI and to be working with CEO Robert Steele and his very professional and expert team and we look forward to a long and successful relationship.

      Published Feb. 2013.

      About Rodger Powell:
      Rodger Powell's 30-year management career includes senior management and executive roles with a number of the hospitality industry's largest multi-nationals such as Hilton, Bally, Southern Pacific Hotels (now I.H.G.) Best Western and Lion Nathan. He has served in a variety of sectors including Leisure, Tourism and Hospitality, Gaming, Information Technology, Aerospace and Agriculture, working on four continents.

      Powell is also Chairman of Otway Pork, Inland NSW Regional Tourism and Adventure Aerospace P/L and former Chairman of BIG4 Holiday Parks. He is a Director of Baseball NSW, the Sydney Blue Sox, Sunshine Coast Destination marketing, St Andrews Cathedral School and Gawura Foundations; and Deputy Chair of the University of NSW School of Business, Services Marketing Industry Advisory Group.

      About the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute
      Established in 1953 as a nonprofit educational foundation of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the Educational Institute’s mission is to continue being the preferred provider to the lodging industry, hospitality schools, and related hospitality industries by developing and providing quality resources to train, educate, and certify hospitality professionals worldwide.