Oct 30, 2013 (LBO)
Shortfalls of labour amid fast growth in Sri Lanka's tourism sector may squeeze profits and undermine industry attempts to boost product quality, an official said.
"We will seriously need to see how we can halt the current shortage of staff," Jayantissa Kehelpannala, president of the Tourist Hotels Association of Sri Lanka said.
"As more hotels open, competition among hotel operators, workers seeking jobs overseas and lack of suitably trained employees will put enormous pressure and this could be the biggest challenge the hospitality industry may face."
"Hotels will have to spend more money to on marketing to attract new workers and take on the cost of training them."
Kehelpannala who was re-elected to head THASL for a second term said in addition to Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism and Hospitality Management, there was a need to attract more internationally accredited hotel schools to Sri Lanka.
"Unless this is done soon, having more hotels with a lack of experienced workers is bound to be a big squeeze on profitability for the industry."
Higher domestic wages however may reduce the outflow of workers to countries with more stable exchange rates.
Last year Sri Lanka's rupee fell from 110 to around 130 rupees, slashing real wages and utility costs helping increase the potential rupee profits of tourism firms.
Sri Lanka's tourism is one of the sector to benefit most from the end of a 30-year war where tariffs rose amid a shortfall in rooms, making the country relatively more expensive than countries like Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.
But new properties - especially small ones - have sprung up at more reasonable rates, helping drive total arrivals numbers higher with the help of internet booking engines.
Top hotel chains have complained not enough higher end travellers were coming due to the lack of an East Asian style-country marketing effort by authorities using the tax collected from them.
Kehelpannala said according World Travel and Tourism Council estimates, every 100 direct jobs created in the tourism sector, generated 140 indirect ones in supply sectors.
"We need to continue to remind our people that tourism means jobs not only in the hotels, but taxis, the restaurants, the farmers and fishermen that fill the restaurants with food," he said.
He said the industry could no longer depend on the natural assets and historical monuments or be a low cost destination.
"We need to develop a host of programs that include training and education, culinary development and sustainable tourism for environment management, all geared to help Sri Lankan hotelier increase the quality of their product and competiveness."
The THASL said it was seeking lower power tariffs, and had submitted budget proposals seeking relief in income tax, duty free relief, value added tax relief on capital expenditure and lifting the restriction on tax deductibility on management fees.
The association was also seeking an end to a 1 percent levy from local government bodies.