HCMC struggles with labor shortage in hotel and restaurant sector

By VNA   July 20, 2023 | 03:31 am PT
HCMC struggles with labor shortage in hotel and restaurant sector
The façade of Riverside Hotel in HCMC's District 1. Photo courtesy of the hotel
Despite a gradual recovery in the tourist sector after the Covid-19 pandemic, Ho Chi Minh City is grappling with a serious shortage of personnel in various sectors, particularly in hotels and restaurants.

According to a report from the Department of Tourism of HCMC, the tourism industry has shown positive signs in the first half of 2023, with an estimated revenue of VND80.8 billion (US$3.4 million) and the welcoming of 18.3 million visitors.

However, amid these achievements, the industry faces significant limitations and challenges, particularly concerning human resources.

Vo Minh Trung, director of Riverside Saigon Hotel, expressed his concern about the shortage of qualified staff. With 100 rooms, the hotel has only two personnel responsible for managing 14-18 rooms each during an eight-hour shift. Currently, they have fewer than a dozen people working in this capacity, making it difficult to manage the workload efficiently.

"The job demands well-trained individuals and a considerable amount of effort," Trung explained. "We are especially lacking housekeeping staff, and to cope with this shortage, we have to hire seasonal workers from other hotels and motels and rely on hourly service companies for cleaning staff."

The Royal Hotel Saigon also echoed similar concerns, stating that only a limited number of room staff have returned to work following the Covid-19 outbreak. Unattractive compensation and remuneration packages have contributed to the difficulty in recruiting and retaining qualified personnel in the sector.

"We have been actively reaching out to universities and colleges to recruit students majoring in hospitality and accommodation. Simultaneously, we are establishing connections with labor supply units, recruitment channels, former workers, and others to ensure smooth hotel operations," Trung said.

Presently, the average monthly compensation for new cleaning personnel in 3-4 star hotels is approximately VND5 million, with a 10% allowance. Experienced staff members receive a monthly pay ranging from VND6-8 million, and five-star hotels typically offer higher wages.

However, Vo Minh Trung said that these figures do not include incentives, allowances, and overtime pay, which are significant contributors, especially due to tips received from guests.

A notable factor contributing to the scarcity of trained room staff is the perception that spending two to four years studying at colleges or universities is excessive for working in what is perceived as an ordinary job. Additionally, the physically demanding nature of the profession, requiring continuous movement and lifting of heavy items, is seen as monotonous and tedious.

Nguyen Thi Thu Hoa, vice dean of the Faculty of Tourism - Restaurant - Hospitality Management at HCMC University of Technology, expressed concerns about the sharp decline in students registering for the tourism industry, particularly in the accommodation sector, which has been reduced to only one-third of the pre-pandemic numbers due to the impact of Covid.

To address the issue of staff shortages, Nguyen Thi Anh Hoa, director of the HCMC Department of Tourism, revealed that the department is conducting an urgent assessment of key divisions to develop a creative solution for human resource training.

Future conferences will focus on executing agreements between HCMC and other provinces and cities, with an emphasis on human resources. The department will collaborate with colleges to announce funding programs and incentives for professionals pursuing long-term and short-term courses in tourism and lodging.

Saigon Tourism College has taken the initiative to address market demands by enrolling affected workers from various industries and businesses into short-term professional courses, granting occupational credentials to meet the industry's needs, according to Ngo Thi Quynh Xuan, the college's principal.

"However, the college faced a predicament in the past when the demand for housekeeping staff in the hotel sector primarily favored middle-aged women. Presently, the priority has shifted towards young and physically fit individuals. This change poses a challenge for the college in terms of training," Xuan said.

The HCMC Department of Tourism is currently placing significant emphasis on staff training, especially for tour guides and hotel employees, as a strategic measure to enhance service quality and solidify HCMC's position as a desirable destination.

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