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Personnel problems await tourism businesses post Covid-19

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HCMC – While businesses have had to resort to massive layoffs in the past five months due to the pandemic, the post-Covid-19 period awaits them with a new kind of crisis—the potential high costs they will have to incur to recruit and train new staff once the tourism industry gets back on track.

Moreover, as most of the laid-off experienced staff have taken up new jobs to tide over the crisis, the recovery and competitiveness of enterprises as well as the attractiveness of destinations is also expected to suffer.

Large-scale layoffs

A manager at a top hotel in the coastal city of Nha Trang quit his job last May, three months after the hotel was deserted as a result of Covid-19. Though the manager was not asked to leave, he took the decision so the hotel could employ a local manager at a lower cost.

Stating that there is currently not much work to do anyway, he said the hotel did not need an experienced manager.

According to the manager, similar to the situation at other hotels, his hotel too had to lay off staff, starting with lower-level employees early this year and then the upper level.

This is also the case with other businesses in Nha Trang and other localities, with a large number of travel, hotel and restaurant staff being laid off.

Ngo Minh Duc, chairman of HG Group, said that given the attempts to retain or depute staff to work in more profitable areas, his firm was unable to retain staff any longer amid the Covid-19 crisis.

“With the hit taken by the international travel business alone, up to 60% of our staff have quit,” Duc noted.

HG Group is active in many areas such as air service, travel, hotels and boating. A few months ago, the firm expected to welcome international tourists at the end of the year and worked on personnel plans to prepare for business. However, things changed for the worse.

“The international travel segment may not recover until late next year. The market will continue to witness further layoffs as it is impossible for businesses to retain employees until then,” Duc admitted.

Last April when the market was not undergoing such serious difficulties, the Tourism Advisory Board (TAB) and organizations such as the Private Economic Development Research Board and Grant Thornton Vietnam surveyed the impact of Covid-19 on tourism businesses.

Results revealed worrisome information about the workforce. Some 18% of the surveyed firms said they had laid off all staff and 48% admitted they had no choice but to make half of their staff redundant.

Fear of personnel crisis

The TAB cited data of the World Travel and Tourism Council as saying that up to 4.9 million workers in Vietnam’s tourism sector and tourism-related areas are facing challenges. Businesses, too, are undergoing hardships as they are likely to experience a post-Covid-19 personnel crisis.

High staff recruitment and training costs will make it even harder for firms to resume operations, according to Duc of HG Group.

Phan Dinh Hue, director of Viet Circle Travel Service Company, noted that a large number of workers from the tourism industry are earning a living by taking up other jobs. The longer the crisis lasts, the harder it is for them to take up their old jobs again. It is likely that the tourism sector will have to operate with untrained or little-trained staff.

According to a quick survey he conducted among colleagues and tourism workers, a lot of the respondents expressed uncertainty over returning to their old jobs. Some said they are doubtful about hotels receiving guests, while others pointed out that they are getting used to their new jobs or are afraid of the vulnerability of the industry.

“We have spent so much time training staff and if they don’t come back, it is not known when the sector will operate with quality personnel again,” Hue stated.

Duc of HG Group was of a similar view. He said that staff employed in the tourism sector needs to work and be retrained regularly to ensure the quality of services. Therefore, massive layoffs in the sector have affected both businesses and service quality.

The competition to attract tourists after Covid-19 will be tough. Vietnam’s destinations will find it hard to woo tourists if they do not have experienced staff to offer quality services, Duc said, adding that amid the current difficulties, businesses will be unable to resolve the personnel problem. They are in need of government support and it is hard to secure low-interest loans or access allowances for workers.

By Dao Loan

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