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Understanding the effects of COVID-19 on tourism workers in the Spanish Balearic Islands

Understanding the effects of COVID-19 on tourism workers in the Spanish Balearic Islands
Author: Megan Crouch
2 Commentries
Abstract:

The impacts of COVID-19 have been detrimental for the tourism industry within the EU, particuarly for Spain. With the Balearic Islands so heavily dependent on tourism, the current situation has created large-scale financial instability within the tourism industry within this region, impacting stakeholders involved in operations. This paper looks specifically at the effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on employees within the tourism industry in the Balearic Islands.


Key words: Spain tourism; Balearic Islands; tourism workers; hotel industry; management; COVID-19.


The COVID-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented issues for global tourism, and subsequently those employed within the industry. Within the hotel sector, the financial burdens as a consequence of hotel closures has placed employees into circumstances such as being laid off, working on reduced hours and shift patterns, as well as changing positions within the company (Edgecliffe- Johnson, 2020). These factors have contributed to increased fearfulness and anxiety experienced by workers, due to the overarching issues of job insecurities from rapid decline of hotel business operations (Wong et al., 2021).

The tourism industry in Spain has been significantly impacted from the pandemic, particuarly for tourism workers employed on temporary contracts. With 32.5% of employees within the industry working on temporary contracts prior to the pandemic, Gomez (2020) explains that Spain's ERTE government pay-out is applicable to workers on permanent contracts who are not working, leaving those without permanent employment ineligible for sufficient financial aid. With tourism being the main sector of employment in the Balearic Islands, the 93% decrease in tourism has fuelled financial instability for the industry and it's large percentage of workers, with food banks seeing an increase of usage from those who are, or were previously employed within the tourism industry.

In order to provide a managerial perspective on the topic, an interview was conducted with the Managing Director of a franchise hotel in Mallorca. Results of the interview determine that despite most staff being offered government pay outs from being unable to work, temporary workers have suffered from the loss of their employment and being unable to claim government assistance. Moreover, the financial assistance provided is often a fraction of employees usual salaries, decreasing the incomes needed and exacerbating the financial insecurities of workers. It is also established that tourism managers in Spain have experienced increasing frustration regarding the lack of control they have, in relation to business operations and protecting their staff. Despite these concerns, this research also identified that although tourism is still significantly impacted within the Balearic Islands, tourism managers are confident that the industry will repair itself; the forecasted demand for holidays within Spain provides the optimism that there will be a boost in employment within tourism following the pandemic.

This discussion paper contributes to the existing research on the impacts of COVID-19 and tourism workers, whilst emphasising the importance of understanding how tourism workers have been impacted in the most-affected regions of tourism decline, such as Spain. Furthermore, this paper looks at the impacts on workers from a new, managerial perspective, in order to provide an additional dimension of insight, whereby the impact of workforces can be analysed more broadly. Further research should continue to develop an understanding of the impacts of COVID-19 on tourism workers in Spain and particuarly the Balearics, due to tourism being such a saturated market within this region. Additional insights into the managerial perspective on the topic would be beneficial for further research, in order to increase the representation of management insights on the topic within tourism research overall.

References:

Edgecliffe- Johnson, A. (2020) Marriott puts tens of thousands on unpaid leave. Available from https://www.ft.com/content/df2ed112-6878-11ea-800d-da70cff6e4d3 [Accessed 31 May 2021].

Gomez, M. (2020) Employment in Spain grows for the first time during COVID-19 pandemic. Available from https://english.elpais.com/economy_and_business/2020-06-02/employment-in-spain-grows-for-the-first-time-during-covid-19-pandemic.html [Accessed 1 June 2021].

Wong, A.K.F., Kim, S., Kim, J. and Han, H. (2021) How the COVID-19 pandemic affected hotel Employee stress: Employee perceptions of occupational stressors and their consequences. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 93, 1-14.




Commentary for the Discussion Paper: "Understanding the effects of COVID-19 on Tourism Workers in the Spanish Balearic Islands."
Author: Adriana Rodriguez Torres
I have decided to conduct a commentary on this paper because it is related to a crucial threat that the tourism industry faces nowadays, COVID-19, which has profoundly impacted destinations that rely on this industry for economic development, such as the Balearic Islands, Spain.

The author of the discussion paper focuses on the impacts of COVID-19 on tourism workers, interviewing a professional from the industry to gain deeper insights into the problem. The authors Rodríguez-Ánton and Alonso-Almeida (2020) highlighted that the current health crisis has deeply impacted tourism destinations, especially those heavily relying on tourism activities for economic development. The consequences of the pandemic are hard to measure for tourism service providers (Rodríguez-Álamo and Alonso-Almeida, 2020). However, different countries have created different initiatives to support both workers and companies in this industry, as the author mention in its discussion paper.

Furthermore, before the pandemic, the Balearic Islands were destinations with the highest tourists flows in Spain (Moreno-Luna et al., 2021). Although the Balearic Islands have been the most affected region in terms of tourism workers in Spain, the GDP of the destination shows the highest negative figures in comparison to the previous year, -26.4% because most of the tourism workers from the Balearic Islands start working in the summer season (Moreno-Luna et al., 2021). The authors' Khan et al. (2021) analysed the impacts of COVID-19 in the hospitality sector, suggesting that due to the uncertainty created by the pandemic, the workers of this industry are suffering from insecurity, fear and mental health problems. In addition, managers in this industry need to provide guidelines for dealing with employees' mental health difficulties generated by the crisis, promoting effective employee management techniques (Khan et al., 2021).

Further research should be done to investigate what mitigation strategies fits best the destinations and their segment. Also, for the tourism industry's initial re-start, the Balearic Islands tourism organisation could investigate their capability to attract a new domestic market segment as a short-term solution until the industry has recovered and international tourists return to the Balearic Islands safely. Providing more job security slowly to the employees of the sector.

References:

Khan, K.I., Niazi, A., Nasir, A., Hussain, M. and Khan, M.I. (2021) The Effect of COVID-19 on the Hospitality Industry: The Implication for Open Innovation. Journal of Open Innovation: Technology, Market and Complexity, 7(1) 1-17. Available from https://www.mdpi.com/2199-8531/7/1/30 [Accessed 08 June 2021].

Moreno-Luna, L., Robina-Ramírez, R., Sánchez-Oro Sánchez, M. and Castro-Serrano, J. (2021) Tourism and Sustainability in Times of COVID-19: The Case of Spain. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(4) 1-21. Available from https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/18/4/1859 [Accessed 08 June 2021].

Rodríguez-Ánton, J.M. and Alonso-Almeida, M.M. (2020) COVID-19 Impacts and Recovery Strategies: The Case of the Hospitality Industry in Spain. Sustainability, 12(20) 1-17. Available from https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/12/20/8599 [Accessed 08 June 2021].
A commentary on: 'Understanding the effects of COVID-19 on tourism workers in the Spanish Balearic Islands'
Author: Alistair Cocks
I have chosen to comment on this paper as I am passionate about travelling and the tourism industry. The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the tourism industry and in turn has affected millions of workers around the world. It is crucial to research the effects of the pandemic on the industry so that it can be restarted efficiently, sustainably and ethically.

Tourism workers are what keeps the industry operating, emphasising the importance of this research. The paper agrees with suggestions made by Higgins-Desbiolles et al. (2019) that tourism workers are crucial within the industry, however, many businesses are heavily profit orientated, causing the workers to feel ‘invisible’ after the pandemic. The author of the paper has provided in depth research into how the pandemic has affected workers, with a specific insight on the Spanish, Balearic Islands. The author has found that many issues relating to tourism workers stem from economic issues because industry managers cannot afford to restart operations to provide work, and so protect their staff.

The author has looked at mitigating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on tourism workers from a managerial perspective, enabling a greater understanding and reduction of the mentioned effects to be possible. While looking into the effects from a managerial perspective, the author could have further probed into the psychological effects inflicted on the tourism workers, as highlighted by Khan et al. (2021), and how managers must employ methods to reduce these psychological effects, such as by setting up superior safety support, in turn reducing negative coping strategies (Yin and Ni, 2021).

Further research could continue using a managerial perspective in order to evaluate the effects of the pandemic on tourism workers. This research focused on the Spanish Balearic Islands, however, this framework can be applied to many other destinations such as Greece, Italy and Portugal, which have similar tourism industries in Europe.


Higgins-Desbiolles, F. (2021) The “war over tourism”: challenges to sustainable tourism in the tourism academy after COVID-19. Journal of Sustainable Tourism 29(4) 551-569.

Khan, K.I., Niazi, A., Nasir, A., Hussain, M. and Khan, M.I. (2021) The Effect of COVID-19 on the Hospitality Industry: The Implication for Open Innovation. Journal of Open Innovation: Technology, Market and Complexity, 7(1) 1-17.

Yin, J. and Ni, Y. (2021) COVID-19 event strength, psychological safety, and avoidance coping behaviors for employees in the tourism industry. Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management, 47(1) 431-442.