As many as 1.62 million fewer tourism jobs will be created in Thailand over the next 10 years unless the government and the private sector address the problem of talent shortages, a study suggests.
The travel and tourism industry contributed Bt2.35 trillion to the Thai economy last year, accounting for 19.3 percent of gross domestic product.
Almost 5.38 million jobs were created, ranking Thailand seventh in the world for total employment generated by the travel industry, according to a global study by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).
It appears that the political chaos and the subsequent military coup last year has not really made a dent in the country’s travel industry, and the council predicts that the contribution to GDP this year will grow to 20 percent, while 5.44 million jobs will be created.
WTTC president and chief executive officer David Scowsill said tourism in Thailand bounced back sooner than expected after stability was restored following the coup.
“The general feeling in Thailand is that the impact from political factors on tourism is normally small. Most tourists are very resilient – they realise that they are more likely to be hit by a car than to be hurt while traveling,” Scowsill said in an interview.
In the research conducted for WTTC by Oxford economists, it is highlighted that tourism has the potential to contribute 8 million jobs and 26 percent to Thailand’s GDP by 2025.
However, Scowsill warned, “the growth will not happen by itself. Rather, it needs progressive government policies in the areas of human-resource development and visa liberation to realise that potential.
“Failure to plan properly for talent requirements leads to lower growth, reduced investment, less innovation and declining competitiveness – both for the country and the companies.”
Jobs in travel and tourism encompass a wide range, from the low level at housekeeping to the higher managerial levels.
Moreover, employment by tourism does not only encompass the hospitality and service sectors but also such related sectors as transport companies and laundries that clean the bed linens used at the hotels.
Globally, tourism employs one in 11 people, according to WTTC estimates. Scowsill said countries should look to China when it comes to human-resource development in tourism.
“Around 15 years ago, domestic and international tourism in China was moving at a very fast [pace]. The biggest issue involving airlines and the hotel industry then was whether enough people could be recruited and how to train them to communicate in English,” he said.
He added that employers had to invest in staff training, as well as providing incentives for them to stay long-term at their jobs to reap the benefits.
“Talent shortage in tourism is not unique in Thailand. WTTC has been actively engaging in studies to show governments and industry owners why they need to invest in developing human resources.
“If we sit back and look at the future in the next 10 years, there are certain areas in the country that [are] going to be a problem, which is why we are saying that the government must wake up.”
For an industry that prizes skills, Scowsill said it was best for employees to start at the bottom in order to learn the ropes.
“Tourism jobs offer very good entry point to jobs at the higher level with competitive salaries,” he said.
An industry player in a high-end food and beverage business in Bangkok shared his strategy for recruiting young people from lower economic backgrounds around the country to join his kitchen and service staff.
He said the company often organised corporate-social-responsibility activities in the poorer communities to engage youth.
“During these events, young people are invited to join in the preparation of meals, and we can see how much they enjoy the food served.
“Those who are interested are recruited to our training school and they are provided with scholarships to complete the diploma programmes and later serve in our businesses,” he said
Speaking to Asia News Network, Thai Hotel Association president Surapong Techaruvichit said that job openings in hotels increased by 17 to 18 per cent last year. “The number of jobs in hotels very much depends on tourist arrivals each year.
Tourist numbers have been increasing steadily over the past five years with only a slight decrease last year,” he said in a telephone interview. He added that hotel operators in Thailand view talent development seriously and they have been collaborating with varsities to provide internship opportunities for hospitality students in recent years.
“Most of the new staff who join our hotels are graduates. They usually come from good universities and have good English proficiency, so we don’t have to worry about giving them extra training in English |communication skills,” said Surapong.
As jobs in the hospitality sectors offer competitive salaries, often 15 to 20 percent higher than the minimum wage, Surapong said this could be the incentive for employees to stay on the job after companies invest in training them.