Sectoral Qualifications Framework for TOURISM (SQFT)

TourismThe Sectoral Qualifications Framework for Tourism is one of the largest. As the sector is complex and diverse, it comprises four sub-frameworks describing other levels and qualifications. Its authors have emphasised that numerous other sub-frameworks will be required for subsequent areas. “Our framework is entirely different from those set up for the banking or sports area, for example. People tend to believe that a sector is no different from an industry, but there are multi-industry sectors out there, tourism being one of them. This is how we ended up with a framework consisting of four sub-frameworks,” says Professor Hanna Zawistowska of the Chair of Tourism of the Warsaw School of Economics, leader of the Sectoral Qualifications Framework for Tourism development project.

Her team designed separate sub-frameworks for the following industries:
  • Hotel industry,
  • Catering,
  • Events and tourism organisation,
  • Guiding (including foreign excursions guiding), and leisure time animation.

While each of them is different, all contribute to the entire sector framework.

“In designing it, we based on defining what tourism is – what the client, that is the tourist, needs, and what he or she does when travelling. Travel triggers a number of needs, such as accommodation, meals, sightseeing, etc. While our definition thus points to the key role of the tourist and his or her needs and blends them, these needs are hugely diverse,” the project leader explains.

The team concluded that the sector has a number of key needs such as accommodation and catering – yet middleman services may prove crucial as well: Clients frequently expect someone to book their hotel rooms, their meals, their rental cars. All this has been jointly dubbed “tourism organisation”, and carries a number of other functions created for tourism purposes, such as group management, guiding, and leisure time animation – chiefly at tourist and holiday centres and resorts.

Different Levels with no Qualification Names

Albeit this makes the process of creating a single sector-relating framework hugely difficult already, another factor has to be considered: the specificity of services offered by these industries is diverse as well. This is why – apart from professions having formed part and parcel of the sector for a long time, such as a group leader, guide, leisure time animator – no sub-framework specifies qualifications. “The framework would stop being legible or transparent altogether. In order to properly name all qualifications, we ought to divide hotels up between reception and storeys staff, as this is where actual qualifications can be outlined: the receptionist, the reception manager, the cleaner, the room service assistant, the floor manager, etc. In catering, we would have to distinguish between the kitchen or galley and customer service,” Professor Zawistowska explains. “Hotel services are far from uniform, and often constitute a package of numerous skills. Accommodation apart, hotels handle catering, information services, excursion management – whatever a tourist may expect. This is why we cannot even attempt to offer any universal naming of qualifications, such as an assistant for individuals with less training or instructor for individuals with more training, and so forth. Such qualifications are developed with the use of identical knowledge and qualifications developed at subsequent levels.
In tourism, these qualifications vary,” she claims.

The qualifications of a hotel floor manager are no guarantee of being fully compatible with the knowledge, competencies, or social skills typical for reception staff. Framework authors emphasise that the two sets of competencies are entirely different – and the same principle applies to tourism organisers. While some design and draft tourist services in packages, selling them as tourist events, others (such as travel agencies) focus on sales only, with no sound knowledge of how such events should be organised. “Thus, a certain product diversity and complexity arose, giving rise to differences between the descriptions of frameworks within individual fields,” the project leader adds.

In hotel management and catering, descriptions span Levels Two through Six, whereas in case of tourism organisation, group handling, guiding, and leisure time animation the number drops, spanning Levels Three through Six. Why? “Because in hotel management, for example, we have a dishwasher or porter, that is functions requiring relatively few skills. A travel agency employee, on the other hand, has to be able to sell an event, and thus know more about it and matters related, in order to answer customer questions. In that individual’s case, knowledge requirements are slightly more extensive,” the professor explains.

This is why the Sectoral Qualifications Framework for Tourism is a very long one. “We had to describe knowledge and competencies for a number of tasks in parallel – tasks forming a whole and yet vastly diverse. The tourist is satisfied once all these components are of proper quality,” she adds.

Four Sub-Frameworks, Four Keys

As a result, four very extensive frameworks were designed. Further, when working on descriptions, framework authors based on tasks to be performed to the tourist’s satisfaction rather than on occupations. As the professor points out, “Although a hotel management technician may be employed in a number of positions, the speciality itself is narrow and diverse. Employers expect profound knowledge from their employees, albeit in a narrow field. We obviously recognised professions as well as positions in our work; yet all we needed them to do was help us identify key tasks to describe them in all categories adopted: knowledge, skills, and competencies,” Professor Zawistowska says.

What remains the common factor for all four sub-frameworks? This is where sectoral indicators come into play: common values of key importance for the hugely diverse services offered by individual industries. Experts concluded that any tourist finds the following of major importance:
  • Safety. Even when choosing a survival school, he or she wants to be sure that safe returnis obvious and that nothing bad will happen.
  • Hospitality. All tourists want to feel welcome. Albeit this is of particular importance in hotel and catering management, it remains equally valid for travel agencies selling services packages: their will to provide advice, assistance, their openness in responding to expectations are also perceived as a form of hospitality.
  • Knowledge and professional attitude, adequate from the viewpoint of the slot in the tourist services value chain. While each industry has its specifics, needs and expectationsof all tourists have to be met in service provision. Proper service quality is importantfor all industries.
  • Credibility and reliability – in service-related information and in actual service provision. Tourism is all about product perception on the basis of information provided to the client. The service provider has to be aware of what was promised, and what should thus be delivered to the tourist.
“We concluded that industry representatives have to have certain general knowledge of tourism and of its common elements, and should be aware that they form part of the tourist product and should thus co-operate,” Hanna Zawistowska points out. “A tourist product comprises a number of services. Hoteliers know that their services will be indispensable to tourists and travel agencies alike. Agencies offer events. An event is about accommodation, catering, group handling, and guide services; when at a hotel, the offer is expanded to include leisure time animation. To co-operate, they have to have knowledge of general key tasks to tourism,” she adds.

This is But the Beginning

Experts wondered whether the framework should already comprise other industries, such as tourist information. Poland has an entire system of such information – separate units are a source of simple data concerning locations and historical venues as well as any of practical information requested by a tourist or travel agency. “Nonetheless, we decided not to extend our analysis to such positions,
as that requires separate effort, a team and much more time. The report thus points out that our framework needs to be expanded to include further subsectors,” the project leader declares.

She believes there will come a time when tourism-related qualifications will be comparable internationally. For the time being, however, few countries described them. “While the Czechs have a sectoral framework, they decided to be very general. Canada drafted a framework as well – but our gradation is much more complex, arising from the European through the Polish and occupational, only then focusing on sectors”, Hanna Zawistowska says.

Works of the Sectoral Qualifications Framework for Tourism team involved nineteen experts in two teams (hotel management and catering, and the organisation of tourism, travel agencies, group organisers, tourist guides, and animators). They represented key groups of individuals concerned with the framework: businesses, business self-governing institutions, administration, and entities focusing on educating tourism professionals. The Tourism Faculty of the Warsaw School of Economics was of key importance to the endeavour.

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