Hotel operators fret over labour shortage as tourism surge looms

Though there are some good signs of recovery in the Thai tourism industry, hotel operators are afraid that they might not be ready to serve their guests due to a shortage in the workforce.

Speaking at the monthly conference, Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, president of the Thai Hotel Association, said that many of their members are desperately looking for workers.

“Domestic and international tourists are gradually increase in numbers but not hotel employees. Many of the workers are reluctant to return to work as there are concerned about some issues, such as wages, rent and healthcare,” said Marisa.

Weerasak Kowsurat, former Thai minister of tourism and sports, suggested during the conference that apart from launching more measures to stimulate the industry, the government should closely discuss with all parties in order to sort out the most suitable measure for each party.

He added that big-sized hotels and small-sized guesthouses have different demands and needs. Therefore, it would be better to find out what those entrepreneurs really needed so that the government budget is not wasted.

In his opinion, a problem that needs an urgent solution is workforce shortage in both quantity and quality.

“The government should help the entrepreneurs quickly create a well-trained labour force and support the owners to make the employees multi-skilled and having digital expertise,” said Weerasak.

The concerns were expressed as the government has scrapped the Test & Go scheme from May 1, and many experts and analysts are expecting a surge in the number of tourists arriving in the country.

Somprawin Manprasert, first executive vice president and chief economist of the Economic Intelligence Center (EIC), Siam Commercial Bank (SCB), said that it was a positive sign for the recovery of the tourism industry. With more Covid regulations relaxed, making it more convenient for tourists to visit the county, it is expected that around 5.7 million tourists will visit the country this year.

“Although the number is less than the 5.9-million estimate preceding the Russia-Ukraine war, and far from the pre-Covid 40 million, the projected number is still 10 times higher than last year,” said Somprawin.

Assoc Prof Somchai Pakkapartwiwat, an economics expert, is also positive about the Thai tourism industry. However, Thai tourism still facing some uncertainties and is fragile, and the government will have to offer some support to prop up the industry, he said.

Marisa pointed out that the private sector could not put all their hopes on the government alone while they do nothing. She said all the members of the association have agreed to help each other find a solution to the worker shortage.

Some of the solutions are, for example, holding a short training course for employed workers and discussing with local vocational universities to seek young workers or trainees.

Marisa also suggested that hotel operators improve themselves to become more attractive to new workers. Apart from offering enough incentives, the entrepreneurs should give more chances to their employees to upskill and reskill.

Tourism and Sports Minister Pipat Ratchakitprakarn recently revealed that the country plans to fully unlock and reopen no later than June. This movement will help Thailand welcome at least 1.3 million foreign tourists during the rest of the year and generate over THB700 million revenue.

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