Two months ago, Ha Nhan, the owner of two hotels in Sapa, decided to expand into the beverage business and develop a local tour agent. Although he has the financial capacity to operate both projects, he said the biggest difficulty is the lack of personnel available in the northern mountainous province of Lao Cai.
|Employee shortages hinder tourism revival. Source: tule.yenbai.gov.vn
“The beverage shop has been set up since September, but it has not been able to operate because we have not yet recruited a bartender. I have not yet found enough staff with foreign language or general tourism skills for the positions of receptionist or tour operator, yet many foreign delegations staying at the hotels ask about this service,” said Nhan.
He finally decided to recruit additional personnel who had not been properly trained in the profession but at least had foreign language skills, just to ensure enough employees. “At least they can understand what the tourists want and communicate back, and the skills can be learned slowly,” he said.
According to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, by the end of September, the country had welcomed about 1.6 million visitors since reopening in March. This is far short of the five million target set at the beginning of the year, and so the country is looking for a final tourism attraction push faster to catch the last opportunities of 2022 in the peak tourist season of markets in Europe and America.
“Some hotels in big cities are booming with many foreign business travellers visiting Vietnam to attend seminars and similar events. The rest are located in tourist hotspots such as Phu Quoc, Nha Trang, and Danang, which have almost full occupancy on weekends,” said Thao Doan, HR director of InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) in Vietnam and Laos.
IHG currently operates 15 luxury hotels and resorts in Vietnam. With 18 new hotels under development, it is expected that by 2027, IHG will open more than 6,000 hotel rooms, so the need for training and development of human resources (HR) going forward is significant.
Although tourism businesses need to increase recruitment, some people with lower skills than required are trying to take advantage. Nguyen Thi Thanh Thuy, sales director of Silk Path Group said, “All job candidates who have come to our hotel ask for an over-the-top salary. For example, one candidate for a duty manager position wanted a salary of up to $860 but had no experience.”
Thuy said that the current staff only meet 50-60 per cent of the corporation’s needs and are mainly interns, part-timers, and seasonal students, especially in the housekeeping department.
One of the keys to helping tourism businesses quickly solve staff shortages is to apply technology to replace labour-intensive positions such as receptionists, cleaning staff, and security guards. Opening its first hotel in Ho Chi Minh City in 2020, coinciding with difficulties from the pandemic, the Wink Hotels chain’s technology not only helped the brand minimise operating costs but also indirectly solved HR issues.
Wink Hotels directs visitors through technological experiences, including online check-in and payment, as well as vending machine purchases, so it is one of the hotels with the least employees nationwide.
“The number of staff at Wink is 70 per cent less than a typical hotel. Our Saigon Centre has 237 rooms but just over 60 employees,” said CEO Michael Piro.
Wink Hotels is a 3-5 star brand developed by Indochina Kajima. It plans to expand with 20 more hotels in the next 5-7 years in major cities in Vietnam. Although technology may solve the shortage of HR in tourism, some industry insiders believe that technology cannot replace people altogether and that searching for sustainable solutions could solve this problem, rather than merely focusing on temporary solutions.
Le Quoc Viet, who runs Hoteljob.vn, suggested that the tourism sector offers attractive remuneration, chances for promotion, and gains trust to retain employees. “There are now resorts that have raised the service charge bonus to 10 per cent, instead of 5 per cent as before, to attract workers to apply,” said Viet.
However, he said the main solution was to promote training links between businesses and schools to develop and expand sustainable resources. “For developing HR for the hospitality profession in 2023, we will promote the positive aspects of the profession to increase attractiveness, bring in more workers from manufacturing, and encourage fresh graduates,” he added.
Viet also suggested that the tourism sector should consider importing labour from neighbouring countries if the crisis continues.
According to the Vietnam Tourism Association, the tourism industry needs about 485,000 workers in accommodation establishments, of which the number of management personnel is about 45,000 people. It is forecasted that by 2025, the demand for workers in the sector will be more than 800,000 and in 2030 will be more than one million.
|Tackling the severe labour shortages in tourism
Staffing the tourism industry in Vietnam remains an acute challenge as the players involved continue to get to grips with the reopening of the world this year.