Staff recruitment is failing to keep pace with the rate of growth in China, according to industry leaders at last week's WTTC Asia Summit in Seoul.
Jan Smits, International Hotels Group chief executive for Asia, the Middle East and Africa, said: "We're looking for 90,000 people in the next two years, most in China or India, and it's a challenge.
"Our first focus is creating a strong employer brand, because the younger generation want to work for a brand that has values and gives them room to grow." Surveys suggest young people in many parts of the world see the hotel industry as a poor employment option.
Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts chief executive Abid Butt said: "The general perception is the industry is a bit of a grind. It's one of the biggest challenges." But WTTC chairman Michael Frenzel, who chairs the Tui Deutschland supervisory board, argued: "Tui is an attractive employer because we have an attractive brand. A big company with a big brand will be attractive for young people.
"The question is how to build a brand that is attractive if your industry is fragmented and you're not a big brand. It¹s a question of marketing, not sitting back and complaining about the image of the industry."
Hospitality consultant Kevin Murphy, president and chief executive of Asianwide Hospitality Solutions, argued the key issue was investment in training.
Murphy told a panel of chief executives: "The amount of money you spend on training in hotels has not changed in 25 years. There has to be more investment by owners in recruiting people."
He suggested: "If you lose a front-of-house manager it's going to cost you $150,000. If you lose a director of sales and marketing you might lose $350,000 to $500,000 while his or her replacement moves to the same level of competence."
Patrick Andres, Travelport vice-president and marketing director for Asia-Pacific, said: "Retention is key. People are staying in the industry but are moving jobs."
The Travel Corporation president and chief executive Brett Tollman added: "You have to be a good employer and compensate people as best you can."
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