Industries - July 12, 2022 | 05:24 pm PT

Staff shortage a spoke in Vietnam’s tourism wheel

In Hoi An Town, a tourism hotspot, resort owner Trang has had her receptionists waiting tables over the last few weeks.

"We are experiencing a severe staff shortage, especially in the reception and room cleaning departments. I need at least housekeeping staff, but I only have two."

Tourists try to get on boats to visit Nha Trang Bay in Khanh Hoa Province. Photo by VnExpress/Bui Toan

The resort has seen a surge in bookings with tourism booming in nearby Da Nang City. There have been times when 30 customers showed up at a time and front desk staff have struggled to help them check in quickly.

"I have tried many recruitment platforms, but still have not found suitable candidates. I don’t know why recruiting has become so difficult."

Many hotels, restaurants and tourism companies in Vietnam have reported similar struggles for several months now, as travel demand booms after two years of Covid-19 restrictions.

Last year, the Covid-19 pandemic had forced around 40,000 tourism and hospitality workers in Da Nang City, a tourism hub, to find other jobs.

But industry insiders say that that the resumption of free travel this year has not been accompanied by people returning to work in the industry. Those who had left during the pandemic are reluctant to return, they add.

Nguyen Thi My Thanh, a representative of the Da Nang Tourism Association, said many companies were struggling to find workers and training a new generation of workers was key to the recovery of tourism businesses.

Furthermore, "the prolonged hiatus in the tourism industry has lowered the skills of many employees and they themselves need re-training."

Multiple jobs, overtime

Thanh Duy, receptionist at Vinpearl Luxury Da Nang, said that he’d been working overtime serving customers because of a staff shortage.

These days, he works as receptionist as well as bellman, and has to shoulder the responsibility of training new employees.

"Many customers complain of delays in service, and there have been times when we have missed some of the room bills while speeding up the check-out process."

Tourists take pictures at Hoi An Town in Quang Nam Province in March 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Van Dong

Hong Minh, manager of a restaurant at the Tan Son Nhat International Airport in HCMC, has been doubling as waiter in the afternoon for several weeks.

"I leave my house when it is still dark and return at 10 p.m., go to sleep and repeat the same schedule the next day."

Many new staff are unable to handle the stress of a high-demanding job, and so they leave early, she added.

The restaurant has asked temporary workers to help out while trying to recruit long-term employees, Minh said.

Van Thanh, former employee of a French restaurant in HCMC, quit recently because of work stress caused by staff shortage.

"There were days when I alone had to operate the whole kitchen, which includes preparing ingredients, cooking and cleaning dishes."

His work day started at 7 a.m. and lasted until late evening.

The company hired two temporary employees, but they could only help with simple tasks like cleaning, and Thanh was still responsible for making all the food.

Tourism firms have also been struggling to find workers even as summer travel demand surges.

In the first six months, the number of domestic tourists rose 190 percent from the same period last year to 60.8 million, surpassing the 60 million set for the whole year.

Do Van Thuc, deputy director of Dat Viet Tours, said staff shortage was the biggest roadblock to rapid recovery.

Having up to 5,000 customers a week, the company was struggling to find enough tour guides to handle all the work, he said.

All the salespeople at his company are therefore required to work as tour guides whenever needed, and the company allows college seniors to work after just one or two weeks of training, he said.

In fact, the company has had to turn down some customers, Thuc said.

Some popular tourism sites have not fully reopened as they also lack workers, he added.

Nguyen Van Dinh, a lecturer of tourism at Hue University, said tourism and hospitality companies need to strengthen cooperation with colleges to find suitable candidates quickly.

Tourism companies should consider recruiting students in language majors and train them as tour guides to partly resolve the current shortage, he added.

Xanh Le