Staff shortage is a spoke in the wheel of tourism in Vietnam

In the city of Hoi An, a tourist hotspot, the owner of the Trang resort has kept her receptionists waiting for the past few weeks.

“We are experiencing a severe shortage of staff, especially in reception and room cleaning services. I need at least housekeeping staff, but I only have two.”

The resort has seen an increase in bookings with booming tourism in nearby Da Nang. There were times when 30 customers showed up at once and the front desk staff struggled to help them check in quickly.

“I have tried many recruitment platforms, but still haven’t found suitable candidates. I don’t know why recruitment has become so difficult.”

Many hotels, restaurants and tourism businesses in Vietnam have been reporting similar difficulties for several months now, as travel demand soars after two years of Covid-19 restrictions.

Last year, the Covid-19 pandemic forced around 40,000 tourism and hospitality workers in the city of Da Nang, a tourism hub, to find other jobs.

But industry insiders say the resumption of free travel this year has not been accompanied by people returning to work in the industry. Those who had left during the pandemic are reluctant to return, they add.

Nguyen Thi My Thanh, a representative of the Da Nang Tourism Association, said many businesses were struggling to find workers and training a new generation of workers was key to the recovery of tourism businesses.

In addition, “the prolonged disruption of the tourism industry has reduced the skills of many employees and they themselves need refresher training”.

Multiple jobs, overtime

Thanh Duy, receptionist at Vinpearl Luxury Da Nang, said he had worked overtime serving customers due to a lack of staff.

Today, he works as both a receptionist and a bellhop and must take on the responsibility of training new employees.

“Many guests complain about service delays, and there have been times when we’ve missed some room bills while speeding up the check-out process.”

Hong Minh, manager of a restaurant at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in HCMC, has been serving as an afternoon waiter for several weeks.

“I leave my house when it’s still dark and come back at 10 p.m., go to bed and repeat the same schedule the next day.”

Many new hires are unable to handle the stress of a very demanding job and therefore leave early, she added.

The restaurant has brought in temporary workers to help while trying to recruit long-term employees, Minh said.

Van Thanh, a former employee of a French restaurant in HCMC, recently quit due to work stress caused by understaffing.

“There were days when I had to operate the entire kitchen alone, which includes preparing ingredients, cooking and cleaning dishes.”

His working day started at 7 a.m. and lasted until late in the evening.

The company hired two temporary employees, but they could only help with simple tasks like cleaning, and Thanh was still responsible for preparing all the food.

Tourism businesses are also struggling to find workers even as demand for summer travel increases.

In the first six months, the number of domestic tourists rose 190 percent from the same period last year to 60.8 million, surpassing the 60 million set for the whole year.

Do Van Thuc, deputy manager of Dat Viet Tours, said staff shortages were the biggest obstacle to a quick recovery.

With up to 5,000 clients a week, the company was struggling to find enough tour guides to handle all the work, he said.

All of his company’s salespeople are therefore required to work as tour guides whenever necessary, and the company allows college seniors to work after only one or two weeks of training, he said.

In fact, the company had to turn away some customers, Thuc said.

Some popular tourist spots have not fully reopened because they are also short of workers, he added.

Nguyen Van Dinh, a lecturer in tourism at Hue University, said tourism and hospitality companies need to strengthen cooperation with universities to quickly find suitable candidates.

Tourism companies should consider recruiting students in language courses and training them as tour guides to partly solve the current shortage, he added.

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