By Chandeepa Wettasinghe
The Hotels Association of Sri Lanka (THASL) is urging its members to rethink talent acquisition and management policies in order to make the leisure industry more attractive for millennials, as the tourism industry forges ahead on becoming the country’s leading income earner.
“We’re faced with a challenge in attracting youth, whether it is male or female, to join the industry, to make their lifetime career,” THASL President Sanath Ukwatte said.
He said that for the year 2017-2018, the THASL is making this issue one of their key initiatives.
“Currently we’re short of skilled labour, and with the opportunities that exist in the industry and so many new hotels in the pipeline, we’re of the view that this problem is going to get worse,” he said. Ukwatte admitted that low base salaries, which give measly retirement benefits, the lack of opportunities for exceptionally performing youth to climb the ladder rapidly and past rigidities in recruitment such as the mandatory requirement to be a graduate of the state’s trade school and other set qualifications instead of hiring the best talent, were holding back the industry.
“We are addressing this. We have told them (hotels) to change,” Ukwatte said. Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism and Hospitality Chairman Sunil Dissanayake said that around 110,000 new employment opportunities will arise in the industry by 2020 to cater to 4 million tourist arrivals to the country as well as the brain drain to the Middle East. Independent estimations have placed the arrival forecast much lower, amidst the country’s inability to achieve the government forecasts of the past two years, as well as a high probability of not achieving the forecast for 2017.
Dissanayake said that most of the employment creation will be at skills level. “Around 80 percent of this will be at the skills level. Another 10 percent at supervisory level and 10 percent at managerial level,” he said. However, he noted that since the Middle East is now favouring the recruitment of East Asians, who are entering the global market at increasing levels, Sri Lankans will be looking at returning home, relieving some of the pressure. But Ukwatte noted that the exodus of Sri Lankan hospitality talent from is essential in order to build a more robust local leisure sector, since hospitality is a global industry.
“Our existing staff leaves for the Middle East, of course for better prospects. That also gives them more exposure and knowledge. So we encourage these people to go abroad, we don’t want to hold them back.
They should get to know other cultures and environment to gain better knowledge,” he said.
Dissanayake claimed that most of those who leave Sri Lanka have been returning home to work at local hotels.
However, he said that one of the biggest threats the hospitality industry faces when attempting to retain millennials is the call of the 3-wheeler.
“What most of them do is work in a hotel for a bit to save up some money, and then they go buy a 3-wheeler,” he said. (CW)