The COVID-19 pandemic is under control, while the tourism market in Vietnam is bouncing back and seeing a rising number of travelers. However, it is facing a severe staffing shortage that gets worse in sea-based tourist areas.
According to data from the Kien Giang Department of Tourism, since the beginning of the year, the Mekong Delta province, which also has beaches, has welcomed over 4.5 million tourists.
Following the joy in the new results are worries about staffing.
Serious dearth of tour guides, service employees
Nha Trang, Da Nang, and Phu Quoc are the top coastal destinations for tourists, mainly domestic visitors, on weekends and holidays, when a shortage of workers active in tourism is clearly seen.
Truong Cong Tam, chairman of the Phu Quoc Professional Association of Tour Guides, said that during the peak travel season, tour guides on Phu Quoc Island work day and night, but there is still a staffing shortage.
"We are truly happy to see many tourists visit the island, but the deficit of tour guides is a big headache. Gathering all 500 members of the association and several tour guides from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City was not able to solve the problem," said Tam.
Like tour guides, room attendants, maintenance workers, receptionists, and kitchen employees are also scarce.
This severe shortage has forced available employees to overwork.
Le Trung Thuc, duty manager at Sunset Sanato Resort and Villas on Phu Quoc Island, said that in the jam-packed travel season, when all resort rooms were full, employees were told to work more hours than normal days.
"We have employed part-time workers and shifted gears on intern sources, and will recruit more employees in the coming months," said Thuc.
Echoing the view, Nguyen Duc Quynh, general director of Furama Resort and chairman of the Da Nang Hotel Association, also pinpointed a severe dearth of room attendants and maintenance workers. They have changed their jobs during the COVID-19 outbreak.
"The fierce competition among tourist sites is one of the reasons for a lack of workers. Many skilled tourism employees have left Da Nang for Phu Quoc and other emerging tourist destinations due to more attractive wages," Quynh noticed.
Elsewhere, Nha Trang City in the south-central province of Khanh Hoa, also found it hard to address the ongoing shortage of workers for tourism.
A manager at a resort near Bai Dai Beach in Cam Lam District in the province said that the resort added over 50 percent of its labor force to get it ready for the peak summer travel season as many of its employees had earlier quit their jobs.
Meanwhile, the majority of domestic visitors often travel on weekends, so workers who are recruited in droves will face redundancy on normal days, said Vo Quang Hoang, CEO at Ariyana Hotel and the Khanh Hoa Hotel Association.
"Hotels will face a labor shortage during the peak travel season if they recruit enough workers for normal days. However, if they hire day workers or part-time laborers, stability and quality of services will not be ensured," Hoang said.
|A photo shows room attendants at a resort in Da Nang City, central Vietnam. Photo : Tan Luc / Tuoi Tre|
The pandemic forced many workers of the tourism sector to return to their hometowns and refuse to come back, making the labor shortage worse. As a result, Phu Quoc is short of 40 percent of the skilled tourism workforce.
Chairman of the Kien Giang Tourism Association Tran Quoc Khanh said the health crisis scared many people, so they just want to stay at home with their family members.
Multiple chefs remain in their hometowns and are running a small eatery to make ends meet, instead of going back to their work at restaurants in major cities.
CEO Hoang suggests enterprises should sign a long-term labor contract with employees and give them better salaries, benefits, and conditions to attract and retain workers.
Furthermore, employers should use partial day labor as many employees are not keen on long-term labor agreements. Hotels are advised to cooperate with interns to ease the shortage during busy travel days.
According to the Kien Giang Tourism Association, it has worked with local universities and junior colleges to train tourism workers, while a university on Phu Quoc Island off the province will be opened to expand a skilled workforce for tourism.
Tran Minh Duc, chairman of the Nha Trang Tourism Association, said that tourism agencies should expand their connectivity to bring international travelers to the city.
"The large number of visitors will create more jobs," Duc explained.
In addition, companies active in tourism should switch to smart tourism, speed up digitalization, and improve the working climate to fix a labor shortage, he said.
The race for highly-skilled employees
A representative of a foreign-invested hotel group in Da Nang said that the group is struggling to find workers for two five-star hotel projects that are set to start operations in the coastal city and the ancient town of Hoi An in neighboring Quang Nam Province in late 2022.
It seems tougher to find skilled and experienced employees, especially those who are leaders and managers.
Joining hands to ease labor shortage
Dang Hong Son, director of the Kien Giang Department of Labor, War Invalids, and Social Affairs, underscored that since the start of the year, the province has held several dialogues with enterprises to act as a bridge with universities to bring interns to travel businesses on Phu Quoc.
After an internship program, the companies can weigh on employment to replenish their workforce in the long run.
In Da Nang, to help tourism fully recover, the city will need 55,000 more workers, the Da Nang Tourism Department said, adding that the department is surveying the trend and need of labor transition to make forecasts and orientations for human resources in the coming time to boost the tourism growth.
The Khanh Hoa Department of Tourism will launch five training courses on information technology application to tourism activities, hotel governance, foreign languages, and room attendant skills in the third quarter of this year, said Nguyen Thi Le Thanh, director of the provincial department.
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