Vietnam ill-prepared for shared tourism labor market

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Vietnam's tourism workers are not nearly as skilled as their competitors from other Southeast Asian countries, a major problem as the region plans to launch a shared tourism labor market in 2015, an official has said. 

Le Tuan Anh, head of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT)'s International Cooperation Department, gave the warning at a recent meeting in Ho Chi Minh City about applying the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) agreement on mutual recognition of tourism professionals, set to take effect in 2015, the Thoi bao Kinh te Saigon (Saigon Times) Online reported.

A nationwide survey released at the event showed that most   hospitality businesses interviewed thought Vietnamese workers need to be trained more in foreign language skill and soft skills like communication, teamwork and problem solving.

The survey, which was undertaken via a European Union-sponsored program of responsible tourism development, was conducted among 183 accommodations, 92 travel companies, and hundreds of destinations, restaurants and health care centers.

In the meantime, when the ASEAN agreement comes into effect, any person who has a certificate granted by the Tourism Professional Certification Board in a member state will be eligible to work in any other country.

So far, ASEAN members have set up common competency standards for six out of 32 job titles, namely receptionists, room services, kitchen, food and beverage services, travel agencies and tour operators, the news report said.

If Vietnamese laborers fail to improve their job skills, many will possibly lose their jobs due to competition from their peers in ASEAN countries, Anh said.

He said member countries like Laos, Cambodia and Indonesia are "strongly" starting preparations for the upcoming agreement.

Vu The Binh, vice chairman of the Vietnam Tourism Association, also voiced the same concern, saying that the hotel sector will possibly see greater competition, as the income of many positions like manager and marketers in Vietnam is almost equal, and sometimes higher than those in some other member countries.

On the other hand, businesses, especially small ones, will face difficulties in keeping their employees, although the mutual recognition will be a big chance for Vietnamese businesses to increase their personnel quality, Binh said.

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"What matters is that just a few businesses and laborers in Vietnam are making preparations for the new competition," he said.

In a previous interview with the Saigon Times, Hoang Thi Diep, deputy head of VNAT, said that under the agreement that was expected to be effective in May 2015, member states will also establish websites to provide updates on job vacancies at each country so certified people can apply for jobs.

According to VNAT's official figures, around 1.5 million people are working in the tourism sector in Vietnam.

The number of laborers needs to almost double in 2015 to meet the demand of tourists, expected to be 7-7.5 million foreign ones and more than 36 million local ones, the news report quoted the administration as saying.

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