The essential survival guide for Vietnam’s hospitality sector

The essential survival guide for Vietnam’s hospitality sector

Education, training and development are crucial to meeting the talent demand of the quickly recovering tourism and hospitality sector.

As the dramatic recovery of the tourism sector continues its momentum, Vietnam is expecting 110 million tourists this year, including eight million visitors from abroad. By 2025, foreign tourist arrivals to Vietnam is anticipated to reach 18 million, and by 2030 this figure would be 35 million.

A McKinsey report from 2021 further suggests that once tourism has recovered from COVID-19, the growth momentum will resume as domestic and inbound tourism expenditures could reach nearly US$40 billion by 2030, almost doubling the pre-pandemic size.

Dr Jackie Ong, Senior Program Manager of the Tourism and Hospitality Management program at RMIT University Vietnam, emphasised that “globally, the tourism industry is picking up strongly, and people are confident and excited to travel. Vietnam has many advantages to attract tourists with its abundance of tourism products and resources.”

She added that Vietnam has clinched 16 top award categories of the 2022 World Travel Awards, evidencing fascinating cultures of ethnic minorities and unique experiences for travellers at affordable prices.

Tourists on boats in Trang An, Vietnam Vietnam’s tourism is recovering strongly with 110 million tourists expected this year, including eight million foreign visitors. (Photo: Alexey Pelikh –

However, Vietnam would only be able to achieve the projected numbers if the service capacity also grows. Estimates by the Vietnam Tourism Association show that by 2025, Vietnam will need over 800,000 people working in accommodation establishments alone. Yet the current training capacity can only meet one-third of the labour demand, according to Dr Nuno F. Ribeiro, Deputy Senior Program Manager and Research Cluster Lead of the Tourism and Hospitality Management program at RMIT Vietnam.

Dr Ribeiro believes there are two sets of talent that are currently seriously lacking in Vietnam’s tourism sector.

“First, we need managers at the entry and middle level with solid financial expertise, particularly in the realm of hospitality management, and who are familiar with the specific financial tools of hospitality.

“Second, and most importantly, we need tourism and hospitality professionals with solid expertise in service quality, meeting the expectations of travellers in/coming to Vietnam,” he said.

To make the matter worse, the current pandemic (or endemic by now) diverted the hospitality workforce into different sectors, such as real estate, which aggravated the skill shortage in the industry.

Dr Ribeiro explained: “The hospitality sector has tried to reduce the talent gap by recruiting expats and ‘stealing’ people from other service sectors. The latter is far from ideal as the vast majority of them are not qualified, nor do they have any training in tourism and hospitality. This has resulted in poor standards of service, employee turnover, and client dissatisfaction.”

Moreover, COVID-19 has caused a major decline in the number of students enrolled in tourism and hospitality academic programs in Vietnam. Studies conducted during the pandemic time have also shown that restrictions on travelling and physical distancing requirements caused guest interactions to be kept at a minimum level and created significant challenges for students to acquire practical learning experience through internship programs.

Dr Luong Thanh Thao, Human Resource Management Lecturer at RMIT Vietnam pointed out that “even before the outbreak of COVID-19, there had been significant quality issues in the local tourism and hospitality training institutions. This is one of the reasons students hesitate to choose this profession since the training programs often show inconsistent standards in curriculum design and program development, as well as weak education-industry linkages.”

Research has revealed that the current shortage of educators with adequate academic backgrounds and practical industry experience has also impacted the training programs.

“The infrastructure needed for education and training purposes in this service sector requires institutions to place a strong focus on designing classrooms and training spaces that promote experiential and interactive learning,” Dr Thao suggested.

“There is a need to create a contemporary simulated hotel environment and experience within the premises so that teaching and learning in this industry can be enhanced.”

RMIT student practices pouring wine for hotel guests with a lecturer Students of the RMIT Tourism and Hospitality Management program can learn in a simulated hotel environment. (Photo: RMIT)

Mr Thai Phuoc Vu, General Manager of Novotel Saigon Centre, shared some tips for effective training that can foster existing talent in the hospitality sector. He especially emphasised the human touch in training, which gives learners more inspiration to construct their knowledge.

“Hotel staff might have been excited about online learning when this training mode was first introduced. However, as they get used to this approach, their engagement in the virtual online learning space tends to decline. A more effective approach is to deliver check-in sessions where a line manager would sit down and discuss with each subordinate on a one-to-one basis,” Mr Vu suggested.

He also added: “When conducting training for hotel staff, it is necessary to focus on providing opportunities for staff, especially those at the supervisory and management levels, to share their practical experience, insights, and knowledge.

“Co-creation of knowledge is a very effective learning mode for hotel practitioners. Too formal and theoretical approaches in training might not work well in engaging these groups of professionals.”

Vietnam is one of the most collectivist countries in the world, according to Hofstede’s cultural dimensions. This gives an opportunity for developing informal mentoring programs, which have proven to be effective and add more value to the formal mentoring programs.

Dr Thao added that there is an essential need to have “a collective response” from three crucial stakeholders – government agencies, educational institutions, and industry – in addressing the quality issues of the hospitality and tourism education system in Vietnam.

“We need more systematic guidelines and support from the government and industry. Specifically, the government should build mechanisms that help establish and structure collaboration and communication between educational institutions and industry practitioners,” she said.

Meanwhile, Dr Ribeiro is confident that the industry is bouncing back quickly from COVID-19. He asked readers: “We will need more workers to meet the increasing demand, so the question that remains is, will we be able to train the right individuals for the job? This mission is probably feasible if we train people smartly and collaborate among the key stakeholders.”

Story: Dr Jung Woo Han and Ngoc Hoang

  • Tourism & Hospitality
  • Industry
  • Human Resource

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