The first episode of hotel group Accor’s new Heart of Hospitality series discusses the ‘magic of tourism’ with the UNWTO. Jenny Southan reports

As the global staffing crisis continues, Accor says that it is using its sector leadership in Europe to “spotlight the industry, its people, opportunities and careers, and champion hospitality as an economically crucial sector and a personally fulfilling career choice”.

Hosted by Accor’s CEO of Northern Europe, Duncan O’Rourke, the first episode of season two of the Heart of Hospitality podcast, features an interview with Natalia Bayona, director of innovation, education and investments at the World Tourism Organization, UNWTO. (Guests for subsequent episodes have yet to be announced.)

Together they discuss the importance of innovation; the role of technology in service, sustainability and education; the value and power of education and the importance of leadership and development in global communities.

Bayona says: “If you have the energy and if you want to learn different things, you can empower yourself to an amazing career. The best way to get educated is by travelling because it’s the way you open your brain to cultures. Tourism is a driver of peace, enabling you to see how people from different cultures are joined together for the same cause.”Natalia Bayona, UNTWOO’Rourke says: “Travel and hospitality is fuelled by people. As the world reopens and recovery continues at an exceptional pace, people are once again travelling the world, experiencing different places and cultures, creating memories that will last a lifetime and extending their business beyond the virtual screen.

“It is people that make that possible, who craft those moments and welcome travellers all over the world. Hospitality and tourism contributes billions each year to global economies. It remains the employer of one in ten people around the world.

“Far beyond this macro view, hospitality is all about people and the heart, craft and passion they demonstrate as they grow through their rewarding careers.”

The episode also celebrates the Gen Z perspective, a demographic that contributes 50% of the global tourism workforce, and discusses the opportunities and importance of young people in the sector.

Bayona says: “Innovation has to be led by the youth and we need to empower them in order to shape the future. Hospitality is the sector that employs the most number of youth, so it’s a very young, dynamic and innovative sector.

“It is the most human economic sector, for people and by people. Because it is so human-centric you need to innovate every single moment because each human is different in the world.”

She adds: “That’s the magic of tourism – it is very human and you can see the benefits immediately. It’s not a thing of five years from now or five months from now. It’s something that can change your life immediately, so I don’t think any other sector can do that for you.”