Tourism industry expects prolonged manpower shortage 

by ANIS HAZIM / Pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

THE tourism and hospitality industry may experience a prolonged manpower shortage despite the country having entered endemicity. 

During the pandemic, thousands of workers left the sector due to the lockdown, leaving the industry critically in a shortage of manpower, especially since it requires labour-intensive services.

Malaysia Tourism Council president Uzaidi Udanis foresees this shortage to remain critical due to the lack of new talents.

“Universities are having challenges enrolling new students into tourism and hospitality courses as parents may not be keen to send their children to pursue a fragile industry,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) recently.

While acknowledging that the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry (Motac) has been encouraging more students and fresh graduates to join the tourism sector in job fairs, Uzaidi said it would be a strenuous task as the tourism industry has just recently opened up.

Uzaidi, who is also the president of the Malaysia Inbound Travel Association, said industry players are currently coming up with several steps to minimise the challenges, which he hopes could be presented to Motac soon.

“One of the steps is to have an exchange student programme with neighbouring countries.

“We also want to encourage interstate internship. For example, students in Kedah to work in other states like Selangor or Kelantan to give them better perspectives,” he noted.

Meanwhile, for hoteliers, Malaysian Association of Hotels president Christina Toh said multi-skilled workers are needed to tackle the labour shortage.

“We are still suffering and for the time being, we have to offer part-time jobs and overtime.

“We even have staff from management to support operations. So, we multi-skill and upskill our people,” Toh told TMR.

According to her, hotels are mostly looking to fill the positions for the 3D (dangerous, dirty and difficult) jobs which are unlikely to attract locals.

“Among 3D jobs high on the list in the hotel industry include housekeeping, room attendants and stewarding,” she said.

She shared Uzaidi’s sentiments that the labour shortage in this sector is likely to continue, especially on the back of tight supply chains and global inflation.

“It will take some time for the industry to have normal staffing and employment, at least for another year or so,” she added.

Recently, Motac minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri said a total of 34,000 foreign workers have been approved to enter the tourism industry between 2022 and 2024.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Aviation Commission executive chairman Datuk Seri Saripuddin Kasim expected that airlines will also take time to fill the vacancies as some are in the process of rehiring their retrenched staff.

“We believe by year-end, our industry players will be back in full capacity,” Saripuddin said in a press conference recently.