Supply of skilled tourism workers falls short

April 11, 2017 - 10:32

The severe shortage of qualified workers is a huge challenge to the rapidly growing tourism sector, experts warn.

The sector is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 7 per cent in 2016-20, and as a result the total demand for direct human resources is expected to be a whopping 870,000 by 2020. — Photo

By Sơn Hà

HCM CITY— The severe shortage of qualified workers is a huge challenge to the rapidly growing tourism sector, experts warn.

The sector is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 7 per cent in 2016-20, and as a result the total demand for direct human resources is expected to be a whopping 870,000 by 2020, according to the Institute for Tourism Development Research.

The sector’s demand for human resources will be two or three times the number needed by other major sectors such as education, health and finance.

In HCM City alone, around 21,600 workers are needed every year until 2020, or 8 per cent of the total workforce, according to the city Department of Tourism.

However, demand for training far outstrips the supply from training institutions.

Nationally, the sector requires 40,000 workers, but the number of graduates from tourism schools is estimated at just around 15,000, of whom graduates from universities and colleges account for only 12 per cent.

In short, the tourism industry faces a severe shortage of qualified workers, and this is not just in managerial positions but also tour guides, front office workers, housekeepers and bartenders.

Meanwhile, travel firms complain that they have to offer further training to their workers since they are not competent enough in their job skills or foreign languages after graduating from tourism schools.

HCM City’s more than 50 tourism schools can meet only 60 per cent of the demand, resulting in a shortage of skilled workers, Trần Anh Tuấn, deputy director of the Centre of Forecasting Manpower Needs and Labour Market Information in HCM City, said.

Trần Việt Trung, director of the Khánh Hòa Province tourism department, said the local tourism sector is in dire need of senior managers.

Last year the central coastal province welcomed more than one million international visitors, most of them from China and Russia, he said.

Travel firms in the province are in need of 300 Chinese-speaking and 100 Russian-speaking tour guides, but only 65 and 92 respectively have been licensed. 

From now through 2020 the tourism industry needs 9,300 workers every year, including 8,000 at accommodation services and 1,300 for travel services.

But local training institutes can only supply 2,600 a year.

The short supply is expected to lead to a shortage of workers in positions such as managers, cooks, waiters and waitresses, and tour guides.

With the country’s integration into the ASEAN Economic Community, key positions in the tourism sector are more likely to be filled by foreign labourers due to the free movement of skilled and certified tourism workers across national borders, Vũ Thế Bình, deputy director of the Việt Nam Tourism Association, said.

The ASEAN Mutual Recognition Arrangement for Tourism Professionals (MRA-TP) has increased the international mobility of tourism workers across the ASEAN region.

The benefits of MRA-TP include improving the quality of tourism human resources and enhancing the quality of tourism products and services.

“Over the next five years the country’s tourism workforce needs to grow by 20 per cent annually to meet the rising demand,” Bình said.

The hotel industry demand is expanding by 9 per cent a year, including 16 per cent in five star hotels and 14 per cent in four-star hotels, according to the Việt Nam National Administration of Tourism.

As of last May the country had a total of 101 five star hotels, 229 four star hotels and 463 three star hotels.

Hundreds of hotels are set to open, but find it hard to hire workers due to the scanty supply of skilled human resources.

The local shortage could be mitigated by the increase in the international mobility of tourism workers from ASEAN, Bình said.

Training reform

Tourism training has to be improved in terms of both quality and quantity to provide the market with a sufficient number of qualified workers, Đào Mạnh Hùng, chairman of the Việt Nam Association for Tourism Training, said.

Only 43 per cent of the industry’s workers are trained in tourism while nearly 40 per cent are unskilled, he said.

Only 9.7 per cent of workers in the sector have bachelor’s or higher degrees.

Most fresh graduates are incompetent at communication skills and lack practical experience or foreign language skills.

Tourism recruitment firms in Khánh Hòa Province said 92.3 per cent of new employees fail to meet foreign language requirements.

Nearly 85 per cent of new hires need further training failing which they cannot accomplish their work.

The quality of training for important positions such as senior managers, sales and marketing personnel, receptionists and housekeeping staff fail to meet the requirements of employers.  


The Government has identified human resources development as a central component in the development of the tourism industry in the Tourism Master Plan 2011-20.

As of 2015 a total of 2.25 million people worked in the tourism sector, 750,000 of them directly, according to the Việt Nam National Administration of Tourism.

A skilled workforce plays a decisive role in the sustainable development of the sector, Hùng said.

The dearth of co-operation between training institutes and enterprises in practical training is one of the major reasons for the poor quality of training, he said.

Co-operation between State agencies, tourism schools and enterprises is vital to the development of qualified tourism human resources, he said.

Ties between enterprises and tourism schools should be fostered for development of curriculums and placement of interns, he said.

Training curriculums should be reformed based on the Vietnam Tourism Occupational Standards to ensure training quality meets the requirements of ASEAN.

Experts said Việt Nam needs to set up a national tourism professional board which will co-ordinate with the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs to establish national tourism occupational standards, assess and manage the quality of workforce and issue certificates. —VNS