Sri Lanka tourism industry in drive to fill 100,000 worker shortfall

ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka’s leisure industry says it will carry out a five year program to boost the output of skilled trainees and make the sector attractive to school leavers and females as a worker shortfall worsens amid a tourism boom.

Sri Lanka Tourism and Hospitality Workforce Competitiveness Roadmap 2018-2023, devised by a skills development committee made up of key leisure sector companies said there is an annual shortfall of up to 20,000 workers.

“[W]e need more and better trained people entering the industry,” Malik Fernando, from Sri Lanka’s Dilmah group, who chairs the Private Sector Tourism Skills Committee, which devised the 5-year plan.

“We need 100,000. The Tourist Board thinks it’s closer to 90,000, but that doesn’t include the informal sector.”

According to the roadmap, only 10,000 trainees come out of hotel schools in the country annually.

But about 25,000 to 30,000 are needed each year to staff new hotels and related businesses and also to fill positions falling vacant as older workers retire and others migrate to greener pastures.

Sri Lanka has a falling rupee, making foreign jobs in countries with sounder central banks which provide stronger currencies such as the Maldives and the Middle East, more attractive.

“We cannot standby and watch anymore. Our complacency will kill the industry,” Fernando said.

“We hope others will join us, but we don’t intend to wait.”

The skills committee which includes tourism player like Jetwing, John Keells, Dilmah, and Shangri-La is backed by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA), the Ceylon Hotel School, the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, the Technical and Vocational Education Commission and the US Agency for International Development.





Sri Lanka’s tourism sector is growing rapidly, with the tourism authority estimating that 20,720 rooms will be added to Sri Lanka’s inventory by 2020.

By end 2017, 35,986 rooms were officially registered with the tourism authority in graded hotels and supplementary units such as guest houses. There are also hundreds of unregistered hotels and guest houses

A quarter of the tourists visiting the country stayed at unregistered properties, the SLTDA said.

The 5-year plan developed by the skills committee, will revamp curricula in hotel schools and start more three and six month courses to churn out workers faster.

Additional modules can then be taken while working creating an environment of flexible carreer development and training.

A train-the-trainers programme on the new curricula will train 200 instructors in vocational training institutes.

A 4-6 week internship program will be introduced.

Fernando said that the plan will also increase training on niche areas such as naturalists and wellness professionals, who are increasingly in demand.

Secondary school teachers will also be trained to provide tourism and hospitality training in such schools under the roadmap.

Fernando says some young people are not joining the industry due to negative perceptions and some parents oppose female children in particular from joining the industry, which will be adressed by increasing awareness.

“We want to reach out to the youth, parents and the community,” he said.

There is also a potential pool of workers in the military who may want to leave and join the hospitality industry, officials said.

A research unit will also be set up to get up to date information on local and international trends to help better decision-making.

“A lot of our statistics are guesstimates and many of them are plain wrong,” Fernando said. “The data is simply not available and speculative.” (Colombo/July02/2018)

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