Tuesday , December 12 2023

Concern mounts over continued staff shortage at luxury hotels

High-end hotels in the country have not been able to deal adequately with the loss of well-trained staff during the Covid-19 pandemic and remain mired in a human resource crisis.

According to the Vietnam Hotels Association, there are over 550 luxury hotels that accounts for about 18% of the total number of rooms in the country. Hence the shortage of trained staff in this segment is concerning, industry insiders say.

Dao Manh Hung, Chairman of the Vietnam Tourism Education Association, said that in the first seven months of the year, the number of domestic tourists reached 71.8 million arrivals, exceeding the target of 60 million. But this has not proved very advantageous for luxury hotels.

“The rise of domestic tourism post Covid-19 has had a great impact on middle-level hotels and the hiring of staff in this segment has increased rapidly. But, due to the slow return of international visitors, luxury hotels haven’t been able to do the same. Well-trained staff in these hotels might have changed their careers and may not return after Covid-19,” Hung said at a conference held Tuesday.

The dire need for staff has seen high-end hotels lower their qualification requirements. Nguyen Thi Thanh Thuy, Sales Director of Silk Path Hotels & Resorts, said that major hotels are so short of people that they are accepting even inexperienced staff. In fact, hiring of staff has become a competition between luxury hotels, she said.

“About 7-8 years ago, [luxury] hotels only had full-time staff. If someone could find work part-time, they would consider themselves lucky. But after Covid-19, part-time became a trend. In the past, it was considered lucky to get a chance to gain some valuable experience. Now they not only get to work and learn but also get paid for it. During this staff crisis, we don’t really require experienced candidates.

And it has become common for big hotels to steal staff from competitors,” Thuy said.

Thuy also said there were cases where candidates made “unbelievable” demands, like a monthly salary of VND18 million for the concierge position, VND15-20 million for the position of duty manager. Then there were some applying F&B service positions but not wanting to work in shifts.

Not well paid

Nguyen Quang, Chairman of Vietnam Executive Housekeeper Association, cited a survey by Hoteljob in June that found 48% of hotel workers were dissatisfied with their income.

Quang said that in most domestic and international hotels, the average salary is only about VND5-6 million ($213-256), plus about VND2-3 million in tips and bonuses, which takes the total income to nearly VND8 million ($342). Compared to industries that do not require foreign language skills and knowledge, like leather, footwear and apparel, the average salary is also around VND6-7 million.

“In the banking industry, the average salary is also VND7-8 million and if you do well, you can go up to VND10-15 million in a few years. Meanwhile, in the hotel industry, if you don’t get promoted, the salary won’t change much,” he said.

High-quality human resource comprises people with the ability to do an assigned job in the best way, Quang said, adding that Covid-19 created an opportunity for such staff to change their jobs, and when they find a better place, they wouldn’t want to return.

Additionally, even if the high-end hotels recruit students, it will be difficult to keep them because of low remuneration, especially for those who are studying or have graduated from top universities, he noted.

Hung said that human resources in Vietnam’s hotel industry lacked adequate foreign language and communication skills. These skills need to be sharpened as the tourism industry faces challenges posed by the technology era, requiring staff to have certain qualifications and professionalism.

Reduced interest

From a training perspective, Nguyen Quyet Thang, Head of the Faculty of Tourism, Restaurant and Hospitality Management at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology, said that the university tries hard to connect with enterprises and create a favorable environment for students to train, but the number of students in the tourism field was reducing as they were taking the cue from those who quit the industry during Covid-19 times.

“This is troubling because the tourism industry really needs trained employees in the coming years,” Thang said.

Hung said that in order to develop human resources of international quality, it was necessary to have an international organization granting and recognizing degrees awarded by local universities. He suggested adoption of the hotel school model, where in a training facility is set up within the hotel, giving students, who are prospective employees, the opportunity to gain direct, practical experience.

Thang said Vietnam can learn from Thailand.

“In the 1980s, Thailand had a project to improve their domestic tourism staff, promoting Thais from staff positions to middle and senior managers. After 20 years, they were able to export quality staff in the hotel and restaurant industry to the world.”

Vietnam had more than 2.5 million employees working in the tourism sector in 2019. In 2020, many enterprises were forced to cut their staff strength by 70 to 80%. In 2021, the number of full-time employees accounted for just 25% of the total. At present, the industry’s human resource strength meets just 50-60% of the demand.

The Vietnam Tourism Association has said that the industry will create about 8.5 million jobs by 2030. Given the current human resource problems, this should be seen as an opportunity for Vietnam to create a new generation of tourism workers, Thang said

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