46 TOURISM WORK AND EMPLOYMENT – Contributions by Adele Ladkin

Why should I let the toad work
Squat on my life?

Philip Larkin, ‘Toads’. The Less Deceived, 1954. Collected Poems, Faber and Faber 1988.

I have always been fascinated by work; how for many of us it shapes the rhythm of our lives, defines our identities, restrains and affords opportunities and at the more mundane, pays the bills.  I remember package holidays abroad as a child and becoming vaguely aware of people who spent their days on beaches setting out umbrellas, serving food and drink in hotels and restaurants and organising tours….was this work? People where I lived went to work in shops, factories or offices, they certainly didn’t spend days in the sunshine being hospitable and making people smile.  What was this all about? Could anyone work in tourism and hospitality? Could I?

Fast forward to my early twenties and I worked as a travel consultant in a retail travel agency, in a high street shop in those days.  By this point I was becoming less interested in work (concurring with Philip Larkin) and more interested in travel…this combined with an obsession with maps led me to a Geography degree at Leicester University, where the course I loved the most was on mobility and migration (I’ll come back to this).  Following my degree I continued to study, for an MSc in Tourism Management, and then on to a PhD, both at the University of Surrey.

At the time of writing it is now 25 years since I gained my PhD and I have remained in academia since that time.  So I did get to work in the tourism industry, but I strayed into academia and for much longer now and better suited to me, have been able to study tourism generally and more specifically, tourism and hospitality work and employment.  It is within this narrower field where my contribution lies, broadly in three areas.

Career Analysis and Hotel General Managers

The first area, under the expert guidance of my PhD Supervisor Professor Michael Riley, was to use career analysis to explore how individuals develop their skills, move between jobs, and make the most of networks and opportunities to become successful in their careers.  The career where I learnt and undertook this form of analysis was that of a hotel general manager.  This prestigious hospitality occupation, whilst being the epitome of some of those pervasive characteristics of hospitality work (long hours, customer facing, 24/7) could also be highly rewarding; attracting dedicated, ambitious individuals whose identity was intertwined with their occupation.  Largely located within the discipline of Psychology, there is an extensive body of work relating to career choice (most famously the work by Schien, 1977), a literature that had not found its way into tourism and hospitality at that time and formed the basis of my investigation (Riley & Ladkin, 1994). An important finding from this work was that experiences gained working in food and beverage were an essential route to becoming a GM, and other functions (housekeeping and front office) rarely featured as part of that career development (Ladkin & Riley,1996). Gendered aspects of hospitality work became evident in studying this occupation, as did issues around education, choice, opportunity, identify and career motivations (Ladkin,1999). Later I was able to continue this work in other countries, Mauritius (Ladkin, & Juwaheer, 2000) Australia, (Ladkin, 2002) and Greece (Akrivos, Ladkin, & Reklitis, 2007) to discover the career paths were strikingly similar.

Still relating to career analysis, methodologically this technique raises a very important question about memory recall.  If we are going to ask people about the jobs they have done in the past, can we be sure, to some degree, that memories are accurate and reliable?  To answer this I was taken to the writings of Dex (1984, 1991); Reiser, Black & Abelsen (1985), and Rubin, (1986) amongst many others.  This was one of the most challenging areas to absorb, but necessarily for the validity of my research findings.  What I learnt was the easy and reliability of recall relating to work histories, which reaffirms the relationship between accuracy of memory recall and aspects important to our self-identity (Robinson & Swanson, 1990).  This became a chapter in my PhD justifying my approach, and in order to disseminate its use to tourism researchers, aspects were later published as a journal article (Ladkin, 1999) and book chapter (Ladkin, 2004).

Migrant Workers in Tourism and Hospitality

The second area of contribution concerns tourism and migrant workers.  My early interest in migration (here is the link to earlier…) and my travel experiences had given me an understanding that for some people their work in tourism and hospitality was always intended to be a temporary arrangement.  This might be on a seasonal basis, or longer where opportunities for income were evident.  Inspired by the early work on labour mobility into tourism during times of economic transition (Szivas & Riley, 1999; Szivas, Riley & Airey, 2003) I wanted to further explore migration and tourism work in the UK context.  An opportunity to do this arose in a team of researchers, in which the UK Polish migrant hospitality workforce became the focus of the work.  This work was insightful in understanding the reasons behind the need for this workforce (Janta & Ladkin, 2009) and their experiences within the sector (Janta, Brown, Lugosi, & Ladkin, 2011; Janta, Ladkin, Brown & Lugosi, 2011), with its added value being the broader issues it revealed concerning migrant communities, networks, diasporas and connections to home (Janta, Lugsosi, Brown and Ladkin, 2012).

Work-life Balance and Employee Wellbeing

The third area emerged from the second, and focussed on the work-life balance and wellbeing of employees whose work is inherently mobile.  Whilst this is much broader than tourism, many tourism occupations involve mobility (aircrew, cruise workers) periods of time spent away from home (resort workers, tour guides) or the highly segmented group of travellers in tourism, the business traveller.  This work has centred around technological interventions in work and what this affords for work-life balance (Ladkin, Willis, Jain, Clayton & Marouda, 2016), and corporeal absence and presence (Clayton, Jain,  Ladkin & Marouda, 2017;  Willis, Ladkin, Jain & Clayton, 2017).  This theme remains with me today, in particular the blurring of work-life boundaries and how for many, work is increasingly becoming free of time constraints and spatial location.  Work is changing rapidly, change accelerated by the Covid 19 pandemic, and there is plenty to keep me occupied.

If any of this discussion has sparked interest, then the first and second areas of my contribution (and the contributions of others) are best captured in my co-authored book on tourism employment (Riley, Ladkin & Szivas, 2002) and a review article (Ladkin, 2011).  As for the third area, I’m still working on it!

I have found it quite a challenge to summarise my contribution, but I hope that cumulatively my research endeavours have served to raise the profile of the human faces in tourism.  Those who work in tourism are a vital, and sometimes undervalued part of the continuation and success of the tourism and hospitality sectors.  Despite their importance, they remain under-researched relative to other areas of scholarship.  I am trying to change this and would be delighted for others to join in.


My contribution has been possible with the help and support of many colleagues, friends and co-researchers over the years of whom there are too many to mention.  Much would also not have taken place without funding, and I would like to acknowledge the support of the (then) UK Department of Education and Science, The University of Surrey, Bournemouth University and the UK Economic and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).


Written by Adele Ladkin, Bournemouth University, UK
Read Adele’s letter to future generations of tourism researchers


Akrivos, C., Ladkin, A.  & Reklitis, P. (2007). Career strategies for success. A case study of Greek DeLuxe hotel’s general managers.  International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 19(2), 107-119.

Clayton, W., Jain, J., Ladkin, A., & Marouda, M. (2017). The ‘Digital Glimpse’ as imagining home. Mobilities, 13(3), 382-396.

Dex, S. (1984). Work history analysis, women and large data sets. The Sociological Review, 32(4), 637-631.

Dex, S. (1991). Life and work history analysis: Qualitative and quantitative developments. London: Routledge.

Janta, H. Brown, L., Lugosi, P, & Ladkin, A. (2011). Migrant relationships and tourism employment. Annals of Tourism Research, 38(4), 1322-1343

Janta, H., & Ladkin, A. (2009). Polish migrant labour in the hospitality workforce: Implications for recruitment and retention. Tourism, Culture and Communication, 9(1/2), 5 – 15.

Janta, H., Ladkin, A., Brown, L., & Lugosi, P. (2011). Employment experiences of Polish migrant workers in the UK hospitality industry. Tourism Management, 32(5), 1006-1019

Janta, H. Lugosi, P., Brown, L., & Ladkin, A. (2012). Migrant networks, language learning and tourism employment. Tourism Management, 33(2), 431-439.

Ladkin, A. (1999). Life and work history analysis: The value of this research method for hospitality and tourism. Tourism Management, 20(1), 37-45.

Ladkin, A. (2002). Career Analysis: A case study of hotel general managers in Australia. Tourism Management, 23(4),379-388.

Ladkin, A. (2004). The life and work history methodology: A discussion of its potential use for tourism and hospitality research, p236-254. In J. Phillimore and L. Goodson (eds). Qualitative Research in Tourism. London: Routledge

Ladkin, A. Exploring Tourism Labor. (2011). Annals of Tourism Research, 38(3), 1135-1155.

Ladkin, A., & Juwaheer, R. (2000). The careers of hotel managers in Mauritius. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 12(2), 119-125.

Ladkin, A., & Riley, M. (1996). Mobility and structure in the career patterns of UK hotel managers: A labour market hybrid of the bureaucratic model.  Tourism Management. 17(6), 443-452.

Ladkin, A., Willis, C., Jain, J., Clayton, W., & Marouda, M. (2016). Business traveller’s connections to home: ICTs supporting work-life balance. New Technology, Work and Employment, 31(3), 255-270.

Schien, E.H. (1977). Career anchors and career paths: A study of management school Graduates, p49-64. In J.Van Maanen. Organisational Careers: Some new perspectives. London: John Wiley and Son. London.

Szivas, E. & Riley, M. (1999).  Tourism employment during economic transition. Annals of Tourism Research, 26, 747-771.

Szivas, E., M Riley & Airey, D. (2003). Labour mobility into tourism. Attraction and satisfaction. Annals of Tourism Research, 30, 64-76.

Reiser, B.J., Black, J.B., & Abelson, R.P. (1985). Knowledge structures in the organization and retrieval of autobiographical memories. Cognitive Psychology, 17(10), 89-137.

Riley, M., & Ladkin, A. (1994). Career theory and tourism: The development of a basic analytical framework.  Progress In Tourism, Recreation and Hospitality Management, 6, 225-237.

Riley, M., Ladkin, A., & Szivas, E. (2002) Tourism Employment: Analysis and Planning. Clevedon: Channel View Publications.

Robinson, J.A., & Swanson, K.L. (1990). Autobiographical memory: The next phase. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 4(4), 321-335.

Rubin, D.C. (1986). Autobiographical Memory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Willis, C., Ladkin, A., Jain, J., & Clayton, W. (2017). Present while absent: Home and the business tourist gaze. Annals of Tourism Research, 63, 48-59.


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Women’s voices in tourism research by Antonia Correia and Sara Dolnicar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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