Who will serve my guests? Ask Hoteliers

Hoteliers in Sri Lanka short on staff are running to the villages in search of new hands to join the booming tourism industry to meet future demand.

Tourist Hotels Association of Sri Lanka (THASL) President Sanath Ukwatte told the Business Times on Thursday that the industry needs an additional 250,000 workers by 2025 to run its operations.

Currently the hotel industry has an estimated workforce of 350,000 directly employed in the formal sector, he said.

However, with new hotels like the Shangri-La, ITC, Hyatt among others entering the fray with another 6500 rooms under construction the industry is now out on a campaign drive to attract its future leaders to take the industry forward.

Mr. Ukwatte pointed out that this was one of the reasons for starting the Rising Star Awards held for the first time last week at the Sirimavo Bandaranaike Memorial Hall where candidates from some of the leading hotels in the country were seen vying for the coveted award that comes with a cash prize of Rs.250,000.

The campaign started islandwide with the industry going to the villages to attract staff insisting that if they could send their lads and lasses to West Asia for employment then the hotels in Sri Lanka were indeed much safer, it was pointed out.

Next year the industry would be focusing on the women in employment and would have a campaign coinciding with the Women’s Day celebrations in March.

He pointed out that women in the hotel industry that previously stood at about eight per cent of total employees had dwindled down to less than five per cent today.

Free meals, overtime, annual bonuses, service charge payments, free uniforms all add up to making this industry very attractive to anyone joining it, Mr. Ukwatte explained.

He noted that the hotels would provide these staff with soft skills and gear them up to join the future talent in the hospitality sector with intense training that lasts about two to three years, he noted.

In this regard, hoteliers would also be talking to religious leaders in temples and churches and reach out to the schools as well to encourage more to join this booming industry.

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