The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) expects the tourism industry to experience some difficulties in providing enough qualified professionals for the forecast 80 million new jobs created in the next decade. This is especially true in emerging destinations such as our own, where a lack of talent limits growth of the continuously developing industry. Donald Gasper surveys the scene.

Throughout Asia, the lack of enough talent and skilled manpower to meet the demands of the hospitality industry is proving a challenge.

In Macau, for example, the opening up and expansion of the gaming industry in the early 2000s has placed considerable and unprecedented pressure for suitable and skilled manpower, thereby necessitating the substantial import of labour to satisfy such demand.

Many employers are barely able to ‘keep their head above water’ in finding sufficient and suitably qualified staff.

As new hotels, resort and casino properties and attractions continue to open or expand, this places more pressure on trying to retain talent as current employees can and do readily, and easily, switch jobs.

Among local Macau citizens, the level of unemployment is very low (less than 1.9 per cent in 2016, according to the Macao Census & Statistics Service) and, therefore, it is relatively easy to find employment, especially in the casino sector.

“While the casino and gaming sector in Macau pays well with above average salaries, one needs to think beyond financial remuneration, and look at ways to facilitate the sustainability of talent by developing as well as nurturing it,” says Professor John Ap, visiting Professor of the Institute for Tourism Studies and director of the Global Centre for Tourism Education and Training in the SAR.

“The above average wages paid by the gaming sector, in turn, place pressure on other industry sectors in trying to recruit staff as they are not able to match the wages offered by the casinos.

“This, coupled with a labour policy that gives preference to local citizens at times may lead to a distortion of the local labour market where positions are filled simply on the basis of one’s residency status and not necessarily on one’s abilities and skills.

“For some local citizens a sense of entitlement exists and the impact of this mentality potentially hinders talent development and must be guarded against from developing into another challenge for employers.”

The introduction of new and innovative approaches to recruiting, training, and retaining talent is definitely needed, says Ap. How and what depends upon how the hospitality industry responds in ‘thinking outside the box’ to address the
challenges ahead.

DEVELOPING PROFESSIONALS

Meanwhile, in the face of the lack of talent in the industry, Hong Kong’s Hotel Icon is committed to creating an environment to attract and develop passionate hospitality professionals.

As an extension of the School of Hotel & Tourism Management (SHTM) at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, it aspires to provide a place for students and hoteliers “to explore the abundant learning and development opportunities in and outside the hotel.”

The hotel is establishing a new learning curriculum which will develop its
people into hotel professionals through various learning activities and
development programmes.

“On top of training and developing our people, retaining talent is also important for the sustainable development of the industry,” says Richard Hatter, the hotel’s general manager. “We strive to create a caring spirit to engage our employees. We want our employees to enjoy working with us and to enable them to be the best they can at their jobs.”

Creativity is another key element to drive the future of the hospitality industry, Hatter says. “We know it’s important to provide a dynamic environment and the flexibility to help inspire the new generation of hoteliers. While providing them with lots of training, the senior executives also instill a more free-thinking mind-set and a sense of discovery.”

Steps are being taken: Wong Kin-ping, instructor (travel and tourism) at the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong (TIC) points to the establishment of a Tourist Guide Accreditation System in 2004, under which all tourist guides assigned by member agents to receive visitors are required to have a valid Tourist Guide Pass, only after passing a qualifying examination, issued by the Association.

“The pass is valid for three years only and guides are required to renew in order to continue to receive inbound visitors. This encourages them not only to upgrade themselves by constantly absorbing new knowledge, but to systematically maintain their professional skills and ethics
as well.”