In recognition of this year’s World Tourism Day theme, “Tourism and Jobs: A better future for all,” we interview Jason Lin, Founder of Talent Basket, an on-demand talent technology company built for the global experience economy.
CHI: Hi Jason, firstly, what is the “global experience economy” and how is it different from just the tourism sector?
JASON: The concept of the experience economy was first articulated by Joseph Pine and James Gilmore back in 1998. It defined the progression of the economic value of an experience is as such “An experience is not an amorphous construct; it is as real an offering as any service, good, or commodity. In today’s service economy, many companies simply wrap experiences around their traditional offerings to sell them better. To realize the full benefit of staging experiences, however, businesses must deliberately design engaging experiences that command a fee.”
The tourism industry is a prime example of the experience economy as travel operators deliberately stage their experiences with a meticulously calculated pricing tag to justify it. However, the experience economy at large is much broader than just tourism. One can argue that any services that involve active customer participation can be an experience, and if one can stage it for a fee, it can turn into a business.
During the Code 2018 conference, the Airbnb co-founder and CEO, Brian Chesky, mentioned that if the combined market cap for Amazon and Alibaba, a merchandise-based e-commerce marketplace, is over a trillion dollars, and 2 out of 3 millennials say they prefer to buy experiences over products, you can imagine the “experience economy” could easily be a multi-trillion dollar industry.
CHI: As you know, the tourism industry is often cited as being responsible for 1 in 10 jobs globally, which means that our industry can play a big role in achieving SDG 8: decent work for all. Specifically, the WTD2019 site says, “New policies are needed to maximize tourism’s potential to create more and better jobs, especially for women and youth. New policies are also needed to reflect and incorporate ongoing advances in technology.” Can you reflect on this? When government policies are slow to be adopted, who can help to pick up the slack? And what is technology’s role in the HR and talent world?
JASON: Global tourism has the tremendous potential to be the force for good by empathic human capital development. While the attention for empowerment is undoubtedly there in the industry, the implementation is hugely inefficient, both public and private sectors. Tourism is a people business; however, the tourism workforce is exceptionally fragmented, across aviation, hospitality, tour operation, food & beverage, retail, technology, marketing, event, the list goes on. There are too many “touchpoints” in tourism, and the traditional economic indicators don’t accurately reflect the real tourism employment.
On the other hand, many of the most robust online travel platforms (OTA), do not focus on talent developments. The OTA is principally in the business of selling tourism as a marketplace to connect travel buyers and suppliers. The current digital travel value chain has a considerable talent development gap. That’s where we find an opportunity. Talent Basket wants to become the “talent technology layer” of this missing piece and effectively create a career ecosystem for the global workforce in the experience economy. Our technology will become a career aggregator for talents who are interested in getting into tourism to learn more about the various opportunities in different travel industry verticals. We also plan to develop an online talent marketplace for travel industry employers to find suitable talents based on their unique requirements for designing, selling, operating an experience-based business.
CHI: How will this promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, and productive employment? And how will this help to advance a sustainable future for tourism? What trends are you seeing in the jobs space in the global experience economy, and what will it look like 20 or 50 years from now?
JASON: The emerging trend that impresses me the most is how passionate the generation Z is toward being a global citizen, and how multi-cultural the youth are today. There is tremendous opportunity to educate our youth, particularly at the university level, about sustainable tourism. The sustainable future starts with how we incubate these young entrepreneurs and change-makers for the next 20 to 50 years. Talent Basket is heavily involved in youth developments this year, especially in some of the remote corners of the world. This year, we work on programs in the Philippines, Kazakhstan, Guam, and Papua New Guinea. We provided mentorship to tourism students all around Asia through the PATA Young Tourism Professional platform. Last month, we also organized our first travel technology summit in Guam. The event featured speakers from Booking.com, Airbnb, Ctrip, Naver, Line, and Skif to educate young content creators and industry stakeholders how to design social media marketing with the next generation 5G technologies and how to design a multi-channel online travel distribution strategy. In October, we will conduct the first China Outbound Tourism workshop in Papua New Guinea to help open up its tourism market for Chinese visitors. We are excited to bring a positive vibe and energy to ignite the youth innovation in these emerging destinations.
CHI: When it comes to talent specifically, what are some challenges that you see in the experience economy in acquiring/developing/retaining talent? How does that hinder team building?
JASON: The skillsets on a conventional resume may not always suit the need for an experience business. For example, if I were to look for a marketing talent to promote a Travelife certified tour operator, what I like to see in a candidate are beyond Microsoft Office, Adobe Design Suite or Google Analytics. I want to see more “soft skill metrics” such as how much the candidates care about environmental protection, how much do they love eco-activities, what are their interests and passions? The experience industry could use a more efficient workforce matching engine to search, screen, and evaluate talents on a global basis. The candidates also need a more robust “career scorecard” explicitly for reflecting their experience performances. It’s almost like a financial credit score, a new talent measurement system. It will support ongoing development, evaluation, and training of continuing career optimization. The ultimate vision is that whether the talents come from New York, Mumbai, Tashkent, or Palau, they can enjoy a level playing field to experience economic opportunities all around the world.
CHI: What should the tourism sector/individual organisations do to sustain and retain talent? Does it start with a strong HR role in CSR policy?
JASON: Most operators in tourism are small to mid-size businesses. Corporate giants such as Marriott, United Airlines, or Booking.com have active workforce training programs, but many SME tourism organizations do not. It makes it difficult to sustain and retain talents. It also hurts the growth potential and stifles experience innovation on the community level. We believe that destination marketing offices can play a more active role to help. NTO and DMO have access to the tourism stakeholders in their regions. They can anchor the training effort with an ongoing education syllabus, learning modules, and evaluation system under a destination sustainable tourism policy.
CHI: Agreed. And in this way, both governments and private sector can address the gaps while engaging with community stakeholders. Last question: how will Talent Basket recognize World Tourism Day this year? Honestly, we will be doing what we do every day, one talent, one destination, and one day at the time. We will keep building, iterating, and bringing innovative disruption to the global workforce development in tourism, in a sustainable fashion!