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Skilled staff shortage cramp Vietnam’s upscale hotels

By Dat Nguyen   September 7, 2018 | 12:13 am PT
Skilled staff shortage cramp Vietnam’s upscale hotels
There is a 40 percent staff shortage in the hospitality industry, Vietnam Tourism Association estimates. Photo by Ping Nguyen
Upscale Vietnam hotels are struggling to hire and retain skilled staff, as even those with hospitality training switch careers.

Nguyen Huu Tho, chairman of Vietnam Tourism Association, estimated a 40 percent staff shortage in the hospitality industry.

The hospitality industry is booming as tourist arrivals increase year after year and hotels spring up all over the country to meet rising demand.

This also means a high demand for more staff, but hotels are struggling to find them, says Kenneth Atkinson, executive chairman of Grant Thornton Vietnam, market research firm., one of the leading hospitality search services, is currently inviting applications for over 9,500 jobs, from janitors to managers.

In tourism hotspots like Phu Quoc Island and Sapa, hotels are unable to get the staff they need, he told VnExpress International.

In fact, many hotels all over the country are experiencing challenges in sourcing skilled Vietnamese persons to fill vacant positions, he said, adding that the shortage often results from people not continuing to pursue a career in hospitality despite being trained in the industry.

The shortage has resulted in strong competition between upscale hotels in travel hot spots that are having trouble retaining staff. The high labor turnover in the industry is making things very difficult for hotel managers.

In Nha Trang, the famous beach city in central Vietnam, the CEO of 4-star Rosaka Hotel, Nguyen Anh Vu, said he had to recruit new staff every month as they switch easily to whichever hotel is offering better wages and benefits.

“Even lowering the standard doesn’t help me to recruit enough people,” Vo told local press.

Nguyen Thi Hoa Le, chairwoman of the Peace Tour Company, said that even if staff at Phu Quoc are paid salaries 1.5 times higher than the average in other areas, it is very difficult to keep them.

Low esteem

One of the reasons for the skilled staff shortage is that the hospitality industry in Vietnam is not an attractive career path to many.

“Many Vietnamese people commence in hospitality and then leave for other industries,” said Craig Douglas, chairman of the HR working group under the Advisory Board for the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism.

“In many countries around the world, young people are excited and proud to work in hotels, but this is not generally the case in Vietnam, where service industries are somehow not regarded in the same way,” he said. 

Douglas also said that there is a shortage of qualified training schools relative to the growth in staff requirement at existing and new hotels.

The average staff per room required for upscale hotels is between 1.3 and 1.5, he said.

That means almost 25,000 employees are needed to service all 4-star and 5-star hotels that are operating or being built in Phu Quoc alone, he added.

But, Le said, there is only one training school for tourism on the island.

Le said that to have enough employees in Phu Quoc, she has to recruit staff from all over the country and invite experts to come and train them.

ASEAN employees

When there are no Vietnamese candidates available, employers will look to other employees from ASEAN countries like the Philippines and Malaysia, who have better language skills and are more price competitive, Atkinson said.

The Mutual Recognition Arrangements for Tourism Professionals under the ASEAN Economic Community, which was established in 2015, has made it easier for hotels to employ staff from those countries, he added.

He said hotels have to hire good staff in all circumstances, because a lack of skilled staff will make it difficult to provide quality service to the guests, Atkinson said.

“If guests do not get the standard of service that they require then the industry will get a bad name internationally, which will negatively impact on the flow of foreign visitors and returning visitors to Vietnam,” he added.

Last year, there were over 68,200 upscale hotel rooms, accounting for 13.4 percent of the total, according to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT).

VNAT statistics also show a significant upsurge in the number of foreign visitors to Vietnam over the last few years.

By the end of August this year, 10.4 million foreign visitors came to the country, up 22.8 percent year-on-year.

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