Labor paradox confounds Vietnamese tourism industry

By Nguyen Van My   December 6, 2018 | 08:29 pm GMT+7
Labor paradox confounds Vietnamese tourism industry
The shortage of quality personnel is a big challenge for the country's tourism sector. Photo by VnExpress
Vietnam’s tourism sector suffers the paradox of surplus labor and unemployment because training fails to meet actual market needs.

Steve Wolstenholme, chief operating officer for the Hoiana, said his company wanted to find Vietnamese personnel for senior leadership positions when the project comes into operation.

Hoiana, invested by Hoi An South Development Ltd, is a $4 billion dollar integrated resort located 30 kilometers south of Da Nang in central Vietnam. The first stage of the development comprising of three luxury hotels, a casino, dining venues, and a golf course is due to open in 2019.

Hoiana was expected to create jobs for more than 4,000 workers, mostly Vietnamese.

However, the company has struggled with recruiting, because the complex resort model is quite new and Vietnamese employees needed more time to learn about it before committing to it in the long run.

Wolstenholme highlighted the progressive attitude and spirit of learning as a big advantage that the Vietnamese youth have. 

However, he said foreign language proficiency was a constraint that had to be improved through training programs.

Tao Van Nghe, vice chairman of the Vietnam Hotel Association, said the residential accommodation sector suffers from a dearth of senior management resources. CEOs of foreign owned hotels in Vietnam are almost always non-Vietnamese.

The guide ratio

According to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), Vietnam currently has more than 14,800 international guides and more than 8,600 domestic guides. Most of them are concentrated in the tourist centers of the country and spread out unequally in foreign languages groups, with the foreign language most spoken being English.

If the number of foreign visitors to Vietnam, 13 million in 2017, was divided equally, each international guide would have to serve about 870 guests per year, almost double the international average. It is estimated that there should be three times the number of international guides currently available.

Local guides are desperately needed in the summer.

In summer, the shortage of local guides becomes apparent, industry insiders say.

Domestic tourism suffers a big scarcity of tour guides, too. VNAT announced there were 73 million domestic tourists in Vietnam in 2017. If more than 8,600 local guides are equally allocated, each must serve 8,400 visitors per year, working seven days a week, 23 tourists a day.

Irrelevant training

The shortage of tourism personnel is a big challenge for the training sector. According to statistics from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism's training department, the country has 192 entities involved in tourism training.

On average, the education system releases about 20,000 students of tourism studies to the market each year. However, the qualification of graduates does not meet actual demand, leading to surplus labor as well as unemployment.

The quality of training provided can be seen even in how courses are not clearly categorized. Tour guides are being trained under Vietnamese studies and there is no standard training program. Eighty percent of the courses is devoted to theory, and practical training is sparse.

Even after they complete a four-year major in tourism, those who want to be domestic guides still have to undergo several months of professional training after graduation. Less than 10 percent of tourism graduates pursue the profession they were trained for. Businesses still have to provide training after recruitment.

One of the main reasons for this situation is the lack of connection between schools and businesses. Acknowledging this, some schools have collaborated with companies to increase practical training. To supplement their human resource base, many firms have contacted schools to establish a curriculum combining theory and practice.

Hoiana, for instance, has agreed to cooperate with the Quang Nam Intermediate School of Culture, Arts and Tourism to set up a vocational training center.

The vocational training center of Quang Nam - Hoiana provides tuition-exempt education and creates job opportunities for graduates.

The Quang Nam - Hoiana vocational training center provides free training and creates job opportunities for graduates.

"We have opened two of the first certified courses in Asia on maintenance and operation of golf courses, and professionalism training classes in hotel management will be held after the Lunar New Year holiday," said Wolstenholme.

Muong Thanh Group, which owns more than 50 hotels and hotel projects across the country, struggles to recruit people.

"We have 16,000 employees, and at one point we opened up 12 hotels with huge demand for manpower, and it proved extremely difficult to recruit staff," Pham Hong Dung, deputy general director of privately-owned Muong Thanh Group, told the Vietnam Travel & Tourism Summit organized by VnExpress in Hanoi Wednesday.

General manager of Muong Thanh, Le Thi Hoang Yen, said many people have advised her to cooperate with a foreign corporation "to relieve stress."

However, over the years, Muong Thanh has persevered in pursuit of building a hotel chain with 100 percent Vietnamese staff. It has invited European experts to join it in developing a Standard Operation Process (SOP) with strict requirements in each profession. Personnel are trained in the SOP before working at the hotel.

At present, Muong Thanh Hotels staff is highly regarded for their professionalism which is seen as strength of this corporation.

Muong Thanh Group has pursued building a hotel chain with 100 percent Vietnamese staff.

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