The challenge to replace skilled tourism workers
By Charles Hakwa.
As Vanuatu loses more and more of its skilled workers from the tourism industry to seasonal work in Australia and New Zealand, the Government has kickstarted a few initiatives to attract more people to the industry, to help fill in the gap before the border reopening in July.
According to the Vanuatu Tourism Office (VTO) staff, these include job placements in the tourism industry, based on their educational backgrounds and an opportunity to support training for a job, particularly for those who are unqualified but interested. Registration for this initiative is currently taking place at the former El Gecko restaurant behind Island Time Café in Port Vila town.
Warwick Le Lagon’s General Manager (GM), Ali Serhan, said it is always good to have initiative and support from the government.
However, Serhan believes focus should also be on explaining to the young generation how important tourism is for the country.
GM Serhan also said it is important for the young people to know the income it generates, and the contribution towards the economy, from employment to trade.
Serhan who has been a GM for other Warwick resorts in Lebanon, Jordan and Fiji also believes that Vanuatu needs to raise a generation that loves tourism and understand that improving the tourism sector contributes to the country’s development.
Similarly, to other resorts, Le Lagon also lost a lot of their skilled workers to seasonal work. He said the majority of staff they tried to call to return to work are all overseas.
The GM admitted bringing in new workers and training them will not be an easy process, given the short timeframe prior to border reopening, however he remains optimistic that they will manage.
He believes the country will not be very busy in the first couple of months, and this will give them more time to be 100% ready.
Everyone who left the tourism sector for seasonal work overseas probably have one common reason for doing so — better pay.
Tourism has contributed a lot to the national economy, before COVID-19 triggered border closures.
However, a question one should ask is, “who benefits from this economic income, the hotel and resort owners, the leaders, the country as a whole or just the people who work in the industry?”
A former employee from the tourism industry who asked to remain anonymous agreed that tourism generates revenue for the country, but he also believes it is mostly government leaders and the business owners who benefit from this.
The former employee from a well-established tourism business said everyday they would always be well groomed and work hard, but at the end of the day, they received very low wages.
One of his colleagues who has a family found the salary inadequate, so he decided to travel to Australia to earn more money because working for a minimum wage of VT220/hour was just not good enough, compared to the $25 /hour he was getting in Australia.
The former tourism employee is therefore encouraging young people to sign up for seasonal work.