Real Journeys chief executive Richard Lauder says he has been appalled at the number of tourism operators who don’t pay their staff enough to live on.
Speaking on a panel discussing sustainability at the Tourism Summit Aotearoa at Te Papa this week, Lauder was responding to a question asking why there was so much reluctance in the industry to pay the living wage.
“I come from outside tourism – this is my first gig in tourism,” replied Lauder, who hails from an infrastructure background.
“And I think one of the things that has appalled me is the number of tourism operators that exploit their staff through very low wages that don’t sustain people economically in the communities in which they operate.”
One of the first things the industry should do is to start paying people appropriately, said Lauder.
He gave some insight into the debate about wages that went on among steering group members in the production of Tourism Industry Aotearoa’s Sustainability Commitment plan. The plan comprises eight goals and 14 business commitments, one of which is to “pay a fair wage to all staff”.
“When the steering group got together to formulate the Sustainability [Commitment] document, we debated long and hard whether we should adopt the living wage as our standard and, in the end, we capitulated to ‘a fair wage’,” said Lauder.
Pushing for a living wage was deemed “too far, too fast” for the steering group.
“But there was a hell of a lot of debate in the room about whether we should say, ‘actually, everyone should be paying the living wage’,” said Lauder.
“I think we’ll get there. Certainly, when we developed the sustainability pledge we wanted a soft start not a hard start and the view of the steering committee was ‘yes, let’s get it out there, let’s get it adopted widely, let’s get some stories flowing’.”
Operators needed to be able to understand how they could meet the plan’s sustainability ambitions and implement its commitments, which Lauder referred to as “complicated”.
“Ultimately, we’re going to raise the bar,” he said. “This is not a one stage event, this is the introduction of what will become a stronger tourism commitment once people get onboard and understand it.”
Visit www.sustainabletourism.nz for more details about the New Zealand Tourism Sustainability Commitment.