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Polish Tourism Industry Faces Staffing Shortages and Needs Infrastructure Investments

HOSPITALITY INDUSTRYPolish Tourism Industry Faces Staffing Shortages and Needs Infrastructure Investments

The Polish tourism industry is slowly returning to its pre-pandemic condition. In 2022, despite the ongoing war across the eastern border, it managed to approach the result from 2019, and the last 12 months were probably even better. The acceleration of this process was aided by tourism vouchers, but it is slowed down by the lack of staff in the industry. This is one of the factors needed to strengthen the industry’s contribution to the national GDP. Other factors include continuous infrastructure development and proper promotion of Poland’s attractions.

The long period of closure caused by the coronavirus pandemic had a significant impact on the tourism industry. A large part of the tourism workforce probably left for good, so we must bear in mind that the rebuilding process after the pandemic is still ongoing. An additional factor prolonging this process is the situation on our eastern border, especially when it comes to foreign tourists. But this too is changing, and the industry is recovering its losses, – emphasizes in a conversation with Newseria Biznes agency Przemysław Marczewski, an expert of the Polish Tourist Organization.

2019 was a record year for Polish tourism, with over 36.5 million tourists using tourist accommodation facilities. Of this, 7.5 million were foreign guests. According to the Statistics Poland data, in 2022 there were just slightly fewer tourists – 35.4 million (almost 6 million foreign). For comparison, in 2020, the result was half lower (about 17.9 million). 2023 was probably even better than the previous year. Statistics Poland data from January to October show that the number of tourists in accommodation facilities was 31.2 million (including 6 million foreign tourists), while in 2022 it was about 29.3 million (including 4.9 million from abroad).

As the Polish Tourist Organization’s research shows, during the winter season, 53% of Poles will go on vacation with at least one night’s stay, and 57% of them will choose Poland. This is a good sign for the tourism industry. Also, representatives of the tourism industry, from both the north and south of Poland, as well as central Poland, show that this season appears promising. Reservations are higher than in the previous season. Therefore – although the conclusion is still ahead of us – if this season is at least as good as the previous one, it gives reason for optimism, emphasizes Przemysław Marczewski.

The Polish Tourism Voucher, launched on August 1, 2020, greatly influenced the recovery of tourism. It was an entitlement of PLN 500 for each child up to 18 years old. These funds could be used by the end of March 2023 for various tourist services in the country. As assessed by the Ministry of Sport and Tourism, this program turned out to be a huge success, which stimulated demand and encouraged traveling around Poland. Payments to tourism entities exceeded a total of PLN 3.1 billion. Surveys conducted among them showed that two-thirds of companies positively rated the impact of the PTB on the company’s liquidity during the pandemic, and almost 80% said that they gained new customers in this way. In every third company, voucher payments amounted to 26% of revenues. 40% of respondents highlighted that the program increased their investments.

As the POT expert emphasizes, investment in infrastructure is one of the elements contributing to the continuous development potential of the Polish tourism sector. There is still a lot of room for development in Poland. According to the OECD, cited by the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development, tourism accounts for about 4.5% of Poland’s GDP.

In the 2021 World Economic Forum’s Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI), Poland ranked 30th out of 117 countries, with a result 10.6% above the global average.

– A key factor in strengthening Polish tourism is primarily promotion, both domestic and foreign. As the Polish Tourist Organization, we want to reach both Poles and foreigners, show them our culture, tradition, the most beautiful things in Poland, while encouraging domestic tourists to spend their free time here, emphasizes the expert.

From the survey conducted by POT in 2022 about foreigners’ opinions about Poland, it turns out that the overwhelming majority of respondents associate our country primarily with rich historical heritage and consider it worth learning. From the outside, Poland is also seen as a country full of vitality, modern and similar to other Western European countries. Those who have already visited Poland, in the vast majority, are satisfied with their stay and intend to return here. Many of them appreciated the atmosphere and hospitality of Poles. This strategy will only work when someone decides to stay in Poland. Therefore, parallel initiatives are needed that will attract more tourists to the Vistula river.

The NIK report from October 2019 indicated that a significant barrier to this sector’s development in Poland is the lack of both national and local strategies in this respect. There is also a lack of a coherent system of tourist promotion and management of tourist information, especially at the regional level.

Promotion is a strong highlight when it comes to the development of Polish tourism, but not only. I also mean the development of infrastructure, hotel facilities, road networks, air connections, and other factors affecting the tourist attractiveness of a given country. As Poles, we have a lot to offer and we can be proud, happy about how much Poland can present to our guests, says the POT representative.

The PARP report “Identification of support instruments for the development of the tourism sector” indicates potential directions for the development of tourism in Poland. These include digitization, which allows tourism entrepreneurs to build their image, promote less obvious places, and allow customers to book and share opinions about places to stay or tourist attractions. Opportunities for development also include luxury services, experiential tourism, eco-friendly tourism, or services for seniors, increasingly important in the current demographic changes.

– Polish tourism also needs staff and efficient marketing and promotion, using the latest technologies such as artificial intelligence. These are various chat tools, tools for generating graphics, It’s not just that. Sustainable tourism is currently a trend that increasingly influences the actions of the tourism industry, lists Przemysław Marczewski.

PARP also emphasizes in its publication that a significant problem in the tourism sector is the low competitiveness of employment. Salaries offered are low compared to other industries, and employment itself is often not stable (including due to the form – civil contracts), which results in a high turnover. There are fewer and fewer people willing to work in this industry, which is associated with the risk of reducing the quality of guest service, as at the height of the season, entrepreneurs have to employ low-qualified personnel without experience. Experts also point out that a barrier to rebuilding staff in tourism is that vocational school programs are not well suited to market needs.

From the “2023 Economic Impact Research” report of the World Travel & Tourism Council, it turns out that in 2022, the global tourism sector recovered about 80% of its results from 2019. Forecasts for 2023 assumed that it would already be 95%. The process of workforce rebuilding is also gradually taking place. After the outbreak of the pandemic, about 70 million jobs disappeared from the tourism industry – the total number employed dropped to 264 million. In two years, it has been rebuilt to 295 million.

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