A SHORTAGE of skilled labour and poor crisis management have become new threats for the hospitality sector, including in Thailand, tourism experts said last week.
Global demographic change also presents a new challenge as tourism operators are forced to differentiate their strategies to reach old and young travellers.
Meanwhile, the boom in online travel agencies is forcing some operators out of business.
Kaye Chon, professor in international hospitality management at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, said Thailand and many other countries faced some or all these new trends.
“As to the problem of skilled labour, this is not really a crisis for Thailand, but it is an obstacle here,” he said.
The country may, however, need to improve in the other three areas – crisis management, and responding to the challenges of demographic change and online travel agencies – he added.
This year’s regional integration under the Asean Economic Community is expected to help solve labour-shortage issues in some countries, including Thailand, he said.
As the Kingdom is the biggest tourist destination in the region, it has huge demand for skilled personnel in the hospitality sector, the academic said, adding that Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam are major supply countries for labour within Asean.
Speaking at a conference on “Crisis Management and Business Continuity in the Tourism Industry: Perceptions of the Future”, held in Bangkok last week, Kaye also expressed concern about the effects of current crises on the hospitality sector.
He mentioned terrorism, political instability, unrest, natural calamities as well as aviation security as factors that had negatively affected the sector for years, on top of which there were now “human” issues such as generational change and labour shortages.
More than 280 delegates from 30 countries attended the event, most of them educators, researchers, industry leaders, partners and representatives of professional associations and government officials, as well as postgraduates and students.
In order to deal with unexpected problems, Kaye urged tourism authorities and all stakeholders to prepare contingency measures by training staff and managers at all organisations specifically in crisis management.
Moreover, the public and private sectors need to work closely together in this area, he stressed.
Hong Kong, for instance, gave the world one of the best-practice cases when it faced the SARS epidemic in 2003.
Tourism authorities and the public and private sectors established a special unit called Team Strategy Group to stop the problem spiralling out of control, and shortly after launched a “Hong Kong Live it Love it” campaign to restore confidence and rebuild tourism, he said.
Terrorism and crime can also involve schoolchildren, as has occurred in the United States, and such events can destroy a country’s image and tourism business, he said.
Governments and schools in other countries must learn from such events elsewhere around the world in order to prevent their own hospitality sectors being damaged, he suggested.
Dipra Jha, professor of hospitality, restaurant and tourism management at University of Nebraska Lincoln in the US, said economic instability worldwide was the new crisis for tourism.
Travelling is an indicator of people’s well-being, and they will generally only travel if they are not worried about economic problems, he added.