NS29 Session 9

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Title: Migrant workers in tourism: seeking clarity, accepting complexity

Organisers: Anu Harju-Myllyaho, Mari Vähäkuopus, Gunnar Thór Jóhannesson, Íris Hrund Halldórsdóttir, Andreas Walmsley

Affiliation: Lapland University of Applied Sciences, University of Iceland, Icelandic Tourism Research Centre and Coventry University


Globally, migration is a feature of modern societies, and one that has and continues to affect Nordic countries in particular (Kvist and Greve, 2011, Simkunas and Thomsen, 2018). Tourism, commonly regarded as a low skill, low wage sector with informal recruitment practices, reliant on the secondary labour market, has perhaps unsurprisingly therefore attracted high levels of migrant workers (Baum, 2012). Indeed, one of tourism employment’s characteristics more generally is its reliance on marginalized workers, including migrants. However, the nature of migrant employment in tourism is extremely diverse, a diversity masked by simplistic and stereotypical views of migrant work in the sector (e.g. Underthun and Jordhus-Lier, 2018, Walmsley et al., Forthcoming). We propose that looking at migrant employment in tourism in a Nordic context is unique due to its geographical location but more importantly institutional arrangements (e.g. high welfare, high taxation, tripartism) and societal structures. It is this diversity that will be addressed in this workshop which aims firstly to outline the features of migrant employment in tourism, before developing a range of implications for research and practice. More specifically, themes that will be covered include how migrant employment manifests itself (e.g. what types of migrant workers are there in tourism in Nordic countries, what are their characteristics, what are their motivations and how are they integrated (or not) in and via their employment role. Regarding the implications of the analysis, participants in the workshop will develop a range of themes that would be suitable from a research perspective, as well as issues that could appeal to policy makers and managers in tourism firms. These are, for instance:

  • migrant workers in tourism: managing diverse work force / talent / workers with different cultural backgrounds and training;
  • enabling workers with different cultural backgrounds and training to make full use of their skills;
  • How can policy-makers ‘use’ tourism as a means of economic and social integration of migrants
  • Educational: what specific educational requirements do migrant workers have
  • reforming human resource practices regarding employee experience: attracting and retaining qualified workers

The list above is not exhaustive but serves to illustrate some of the themes we feel might usefully be explored within the context of the workshop.

The session will offer both traditional papers as well as an interactive session to explore collaborative opportunities, discuss theoretical frameworks and a draft outline summary working paper of key insights, which can then be shared with the wider academic community and which may serve as the basis for a special edition (e.g. in Scandinavian Journal of Hospitality and Tourism). 


BAUM, T. 2012. Migrant workers in the international hotel industry International Migration Papers. Geneva: International Labour Office, .

KVIST, J. & GREVE, B. 2011. Has the Nordic Welfare Model Been Transformed? Social Policy & Administration, 45, 146-160.

SIMKUNAS, D. P. & THOMSEN, T. L. 2018. Precarious Work? Migrants’ Narratives of Coping with Working Conditions in the Danish Labour Market. Central and Eastern European Migration Review 7, 35-51.

UNDERTHUN, A. & JORDHUS-LIER, D. C. 2018. Liminality at Work in Norwegian Hotels. Tourism Geographies, 20, 11-28.

WALMSLEY, A., ÅBERG, K., BLINNIKA, P. & JÓHANNESSON, G. T. (eds.) Forthcoming. Tourism Employment in Nordic Countries: Trends, Practices, Opportunities, London: Palgrave Macmillan.


Abstract submission