Commencing in 2021 and organised by the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), the Informal Workers Programme was designed to assist the informal tourism sector to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and increase resilience through new knowledge and skills. Whereas the focus of the 2021 programme in Bangkok was to help prepare informal workers for the reopening of international tourism and safety; in Bali and Jakarta, the needs analysis showed that informal workers required new skills to better manage their businesses.
In Bali, the training encompassed digital marketing and mobile photography; cross-cultural communication, such as understanding the needs and wants of international tourists and knowing how to use Google Translate; and financial management, which was the most requested training topic by participants. Despite their hard work, many informal workers struggle to improve their livelihoods over the years. Knowing how to manage cash flow, find break-even points, and understand profit and loss is of great value to these workers that manage their informal micro businesses.
In Jakarta, participants also requested training on digital marketing, focusing on how to promote their micro-enterprises through the Google My Business platform. Other topics included digital payment methods, health and hygiene in food handling, and the ‘Sapta Pesona’. The Sapta Pesona, translated as ‘Seven Charms’, is a unique tourism branding concept in Indonesia used to benchmark and improve the quality of tourism products and services in relation to security, order, cleanliness, freshness, beauty, hospitality, and memorability.
The programme in Indonesia was developed and implemented by the PATA and Wise Steps Consulting with the support of Visa. After 20 days of training spread over three months, the programme has successfully concluded in Jakarta, with a total of 502 tourism informal workers trained in the two destinations. In Bali, the training took place in the southern part of the island where most informal workers operate their businesses. In Jakarta, the Old Town and Chinatown were the chosen locations for the training, being the tourist hotspots of the city.
According to Patsian Low, Vice President of Inclusive Impact & Sustainability for Asia Pacific at Visa, “Many micro businesses in the tourism industry, such as street food stalls, souvenir shops, and guided tours operate informally in Southeast Asia. These businesses are a driving force in the region but often lack training and support. It is important that they take part in industry conversations and are supported with capacity building to enhance their skills, further develop their businesses and better adapt to technological advancements, changing market demands, or economic shifts.”
PATA Chair Peter Semone adds, “Soft skills training for informal workers is important because it helps them increase efficiency and productivity, which can lead to increased income generation. It also contributes to their empowerment, improves their social status, and enhances economic opportunities, helping breakdown barriers towards social and economic inclusion. We hope to continue to expand the Informal Workers Programme in many other destinations in Southeast Asia and beyond.”
For the next steps of PATA and Visa’s capacity building programme, tourism SMEs in Cambodia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia will receive a two-day training in-person and in the local language on finance and digital skills. This training will take place in July and August 2023. More updates about this initiative and more information on the Informal Workers Programme will be published soon.