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Sri Lankan hotels lure back migrant staff, mull foreign workers

Mar 07, 2016 10:04 AM GMT+0530 | 0 Comment(s)

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lankan hotels are luring back staff who went to work abroad after local training and are considering hiring foreign workers to fill wait staff vacancies as worries grow that a labour shortage could stymie growth.

About 4,000 new hotel rooms are expected to come on line in the next few months as new hotels under construction open their doors while more are planned with the sector growing strongly since the ethnic war ended in 2009.

Hotel trade officials said they are offering higher salaries to lure back staff who migrated after being trained locally and that they may have to consider recruiting foreign workers.

Dilip Puri, Managing Director - India and Regional VP - South Asia of Starwood Hotels and Resorts, is looking at luring back Sri Lankans employed in hotels in the Middle East where they make up about one-fifth of the hotel trade workforce.

“Thousands of Sri Lankan nationals working in the Middle East are wanting to come back home but could not because there were not enough hotels,” he said. “Today when we want to open hotels in Sri Lanka we go to that group.”
Starwood, one of the top hotel and leisure companies in the world, is to open the Sheraton Kosgoda Turtle Beach Resort in October this year, and is also eyeing resorts on the east coast.

Puri said Sri Lankans working for hotels overseas operated by Starwood, which has brands like Sheraton, St. Regis, Westin, Le Méridien and Four Points, want to come back home.

Staff costs today are the largest component in a hotel’s in profit and loss accounts, Puri told a tourism forum in Colombo.

“Also staff turnover is one of the largest costs. Every time someone leaves, it is going to cost you in training,” he said.

Manesh Fernando, General Manager, Hilton Colombo, said they were luring staff from other hotels in the chain.

“We’re attracting talent from other Hiltons. There are 3-4 million Sri Lankans in the Middle East. There no shortage but the price has to be right for them to come back,” he told the Tourism, Hotel Investment & Networking Conference (THINC) organised by HVS, a hospitality consulting firm.

“Efficiency is key and how you build efficiency is you pay more money. That way you can motivate people. Also, a big part of the salary is service charge. There’s an incentive - if you work harder you get pad more as the service charge goes up.”
Malik Fernando, Director Operations of MJF Holdings, a tea exporter which operates the Ceylon Tea Trials boutique hotels, said the seriousness of the staff shortage has prompted hoteliers to considering foreign workers.

“We have a serious shortage of staff. All hoteliers know that and are talking of allowing foreign wait level staff to come in.”

Fernando other options were also being considered, like attracting back migrant Sri Lankan hotel staff and retraining ex-servicemen, who would make a disciplined workforce.


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