Sri Lanka Tourism resurgence hit by skilled worker shortage
By: Staff Writer
Colombo (LNW): At a time where Sri Lanka Tourism is making every effort to attract 1.55 million tourists and generate $ 2.7 billion in revenue by the end of the year, the island nation faces a shortage of skilled workers in the hospitality industry.
Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) Chairman Priantha Fernando claims that Sri Lanka will be attracting another 450,000 tourists by the end of this year, with over 1.1 million tourists have already visited the country.
In the wake of high optimism on tourism resurgence, Sri Lanka Tourism capacity building arm, Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management (SLITHM) yesterday said the hospitality industry is grappling with a massive shortage of skilled workers amid the talent exodus post-economic crisis.
Many skilled workers from the tourism industry migrate overseas in search of better opportunities.
Correspondingly, Sri Lanka’s tourism industry has been beset by labour shortages even as it has been singled out as a key growth sector and contributor to the national economy.
According to Foreign Employment Ministry statistics, a total of 242,865 workers have migrated as of 24 October and 69,797 are skilled, 3,310 are semi-skilled, 73,908 are low-skilled and 12,409 are professionals.
“The hospitality industry today has below 40% of its workforce deemed adequately qualified,” SLITHM Chairman Shirantha Peiris disclosed.
Describing the delicate, yet complex implications of the situation he equalized it to a double-edged sword.
“The workforce in the industry acts as a source of skilled talent contributing to the workers’ remittances as well as a crucial contributor of foreign exchange earnings via tourism. This is a delicate equilibrium that we are trying to achieve by working together with collective policy and stakeholder participation,” he said.
He emphasised the need of a collective effort to implement measures to supplement the skilled labour pool.
”The training course budget was beyond our means and ADB’s assistance helped us to offer free-of-charge. A certificate will be conferred after a compulsory one-year of service in the industry, “ he disclosed.
This requirement is put in place to ensure a reciprocal commitment from beneficiaries to contribute to the country by dedicating a full year to the industry,” he added.
The industry’s predicament stems from the necessity to employ untrained personnel and provide on-the-job training due to the substantial number of workers seeking opportunities abroad for higher remuneration.
However, the SLITHM Chairman said as the statutory body, they will team up with the Vocational Training Authority (VTA) to invest in workforce development and skill-building initiatives in 43 VTA centres and four hotels for capacity building in the hotel industry for sustained growth.
Currently, 4,996 students are studying in SLITHM branches countrywide.