The number of international visitors to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) has been on the rise but tourism businesses are struggling in the face of a severe shortage of high-skilled workforce.
In the first quarter of this year, Vietnam’s southern metropolis received 1.8 million foreign visitors, up 36 times year-on-year, according to statistics from the municipal Department of Tourism.
However, recruitment has been very difficult for the entire industry since Vietnam reopened to tourism after Covid, and hospitality and travel businesses are complaining that they are in dire need of high-skilled labor to meet the demand from rising tourist arrivals.
Doan Tran Phuong Thao, human resources director of IHG Hotel Group, said at a conference on tourism recruitment last week that the tourism industry in HCMC is in need of 40,000 qualified workers. But professional training schools are only capable of providing around 15,000 workers.
Thao said poor language skills are one of the biggest challenges for the sector.
A tour guide (R, 3rd) talks to a group of tourists in Can Gio District, HCMC, October 24, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Huynh Nhi
Tran Thi Viet Huong, HR director of leading tour operator Vietravel, said that 90% of its newly graduated personnel are retrained.
Experts say that new graduates are weak in their communication skills and handling of actual situations. Furthermore, their limited foreign language skills and poor work attitudes are also a problem, Huong added.
“Tourism businesses still have to invest money and time to provide training for candidates after recruitment but many fail to commit to working long-term at the companies,” Huong added.
Nguyen Van Man, CEO of Silver Land Hotel, said that in the past, 80% of its employees were highly-skilled. But the figure now accounts for just 20% while the remainder are fresh graduates, he said.
“We are in need of recruiting 500 more employees,” Man added. “It will take us at least six months to make up for the shortage of personnel,” he added.
To solve the staff shortage, industry insiders have adopted a series of solutions.
Bui Thi Ngoc Hieu, deputy head of the municipal tourism department, said it would organize Korean, Japanese and Spanish language training courses for tour guides and those working in the tourism industry to improve their language capability.
Thao said the lack of connection between tourism businesses and vocational training schools has resulted in labor shortages because training courses fail to meet actual market needs.
Thao suggested businesses should have a close connection with training schools to ensure an output of human resources for the tourism industry.
HCMC welcomed 3.4 million international arrivals last year, around 30% of pre-pandemic levels in 2019. This year the southern metropolis is targeting 5 million arrivals.
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