Delivering tourism sector skills: some options
The tourism industry in Sri Lanka will need around 130,000 newly
trained personnel by 2020 to serve the four million tourists Sri Lanka
hopes to attract by 2020. (2016 - 2.5 million).
According to a study conducted by the National Human Resources
Development Council (NHRDC) of Sri Lanka, the tourism industry, based on
arrival forecasts, will add around 350,000 direct and indirect jobs by
2020. By 2018, 11,645 rooms would be added to the rooms inventory. The
sector according to the report would need 23,360 trained employees
before the end of 2017 since these hotels will be in operation by 2018.
The need for managerial employees will be 2,035, Supervisory - 3,135
and other categories around 18,190.
The Hotel School that produces most of our graduates and trainees
does not have the capacity to deliver the numbers and the talent needed
for the industry. The School's capacity has been increased to 13,000
from 8,000 this year. The industry, however, needs 130,000 trained
people by 2020.
The large hotel groups would largely manage their manpower needs
through internally generated training programs and therefore, the
government should support them with the infrastructure. The other
problem is that the tourism industry is still not an attractive
proposition for school-leavers and affordability and easy access to
acquire a hospitality qualification is an issue for most students.
In addition to the Hotel School, the State-managed Vocational
Training Authority and other training institutions conduct various NVQ
and non-NVQ courses and programs in the fields of travel, tourism, and
hotel and hospitality management.
Tourists riding ponies in Nuwara Eliya. Pic: Thilak Perera
Of the 141 courses offered, 118 are not NVQ certified. Most of these
schools and organisations are in the Western Province and therefore, are
an issue for rural students to access.
What are our options?
Therefore, it is a must that we develop a strategy, a) to increase
the intake in training schools by marketing the industry to young
people, b) set up new hotel schools in selected regions to attract young
students into the industry and c) upgrade the quality of training and
learning with the help of the private sector.
The talent need for the industry is acute at entry and mid levels.
Therefore, there is very little time to experiment. The Hotel School
programs are subsidised and therefore, cater to the average Sri Lankan
because the programs are affordable.
However, the programs needs to be scaled up in line with what the
market demands. Rebranding of SLITHM through Accreditation with Hauge,
Cornell, Salzburg, Luzane, and the Hong Kong Polytechnic is in progress.
The School is constrained due to its internal regulations which
prevents it from attracting the best talent to run the school. The Hotel
School Board has industry representatives and therefore, needs to be
empowered to deliver talent at all levels by hiring better quality
The School after years of neglect and poor in-house talent is
currently upgrading the curriculum in consultation with the private
sector and also looking for partners to raise the profile of the school.
The option of involving the private sector fully or handing over the
school to private management needs to evolve. A Private-Public
Partnership (PPP) is a must for a high-end school with an institution
such as Glion Institute of Higher Education or Les Roches International
School of Hotel Management Marbella and for advanced learning Erasmus
But these colleges cater to only a limited group who can afford to
pay top end fees. However, many top-end schools do not wish to set up
branches in Sri Lanka because the market is small and those who can
afford still prefer to do it oversees.
The CIMA and CIM model of franchising programs in partnership with
the private sector is a quick way to build Sri Lanka's industry bench
strength. However, two additional issues that need to be addressed
immediately are; a) upgrade and use the full capacity of the existing
training institutions (Annual training capacity 8,599, student present
2,162). b) Set up two or three Hotel Schools with the help of top
private operators in two selected regions, c) Conduct district-wise
awareness programs in selected towns concurrently among the youth to
attract them into the industry. The industry needs a 2020 talent
strategy developed in consultation with industry and HR specialists to
implement the strategy.
The writer is Chairman, National Human Resource Development Council
of Sri Lanka