Career Development in Tourism and Leisure: An Exploratory Study of the Influence of Mobility and Mentoring

By Ayres, Helen | Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management, August 2006 | Go to article overview
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Career Development in Tourism and Leisure: An Exploratory Study of the Influence of Mobility and Mentoring

Ayres, Helen, Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management

Careers in the tourism industry are relatively new phenomena and have not been the subject of extensive research. Yet, it is clear from the little research that is available that high levels of mobility and unclear career paths stigmatise tourism careers. These issues focus highly in the new 'boundaryless' career that has received much attention in human resources research recently. Mentoring has been portrayed as a useful tool to help employees cope with this new career environment. To test this premise, 23 managers in the industry were interviewed and told their own 'career story'. Respondents reported frequent intra-company, inter-company, and inter-industry career moves and rated mentoring programs as a powerful career management tool. These findings have implications for policy development within the industry and for those seeking a career in tourism. Those involved with other new and emerging professions with find this article of interest.


Recent trends suggest that the traditional organisational career offering a career for life philosophy appears to have been replaced by a more flexible and uncertain career construct characterised by intra-organisation, inter-organisation and even inter-industry career moves (Arthur, Inkson, & Pringle, 1999). Previously, careers had been the responsibility of both the organisation and the individual, but now careers appear to be owned and controlled by the individual (Arthur & Rousseau, 1996b). Careers are clearly in a state of transition. As new and emerging professions, such as tourism, enter this turbulent career environment, new and uncertain career challenges face both the organisation and the individual.

The research discussed in this article reports on a project exploring careers in the tourism industry in Australia where mentoring and mobility emerged as key influences of career success. Mobility was found to be as fundamental to career development in tourism as it is in the new career construct. Mentoring was found to be a clear management and motivational tool to those in evolving careers and assisted in the transfer of career responsibility to the individual. It is hoped that this study will pre-empt further research into careers in this rapidly developing industry and that the findings may assist those already employed in the industry, as well as those planning to embark on a tourism career in an environment of the changing career concept.

Career Development

Although jobs in the tourism and hospitality industry have traditionally been plentiful, the concept of undertaking further education and developing these jobs into careers is a relatively new trend. Consequently, few studies of careers in tourism are reported in the literature and little information is available to those who are involved in human resource management and policy development in the industry.

Many definitions of a career can be found in the literature: 'A career is a sequence of positions held by a person during his or her lifetime' (Robbins, Bergman, Stagg, & Coulter, 2000, p. 417); 'a career is a series of jobs arranged over time' (Riley & Ladkin, 1994, p. 225); 'A career is the pattern of work-related experiences that span the course of a person's life' (Greenhaus, 1987, p. 6). These definitions, however, isolate the career from external environment factors and do not reflect the dynamic nature of the new career environment. Traditionally, career paths emphasised upward movement in an organisation and the basis of much career theory centres on this concept of the bureaucratic career that involves the acceptance of qualifications, regular incremental advancement and a degree of certainty concerning prospects. However, recent trends have seen structures becoming increasingly flat in nature, and have seen organisations becoming more global. Other organisational trends are towards downsizing, restructuring, and reengineering.

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