Wanted: 5 million tourism workers

By Max V. de Leon, BusinessMirror

Posted at Aug 07 2012 08:18 AM | Updated as of Aug 07 2012 04:24 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Philippines needs to develop at least 5 million additional workers for the tourism and hospitality industry between now and 2016 if the country hopes to achieve its goal of attracting 10 million foreign visitors in four years.

Samie Lim, vice president for tourism of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said this need is based on the 1:1 rule of thumb, or one worker per tourist, that the World Tourism Organization is using.

“We are now attracting more than 3 million foreign tourists and between now and 2016, our target is to attract 10 million. So that [need for] 5 million additional workers is very conservative, especially since we are also losing our best people because they get pirated abroad,” Lim told the BusinessMirror on Friday.

To meet the target, he said, the government should intensify its partnership with the private sector and academe in making sure that the Philippines will be able to meet its labor requirement for the tourism and hospitality sector, not just in number but also in terms of skills.

According to Lim, waiters, housekeepers and managers are among the additional workers needed.

He said he has started talking to Director General Joel Villanueva of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) to explore ways on how the agency can use part of its budget in funding vocational and technical courses for the tourism and hospitality industry.

The Canadian Tourism and Hospitality Institute (CTHI), a newly established specialized school that owns the master franchise of the Canadian Tourism College, is willing to work with Tesda in offering these short courses, Lim added.

CTHI is the first project of the Franchise Investment Holding Inc., a company put up by Lim; Jose Pardo, Philippine Stock Exchange chairman; Sergio Ortiz-Luis, Philexport president; and other businessmen.

Tesda, Lim said, can use the same model as the allocation of vouchers that is being used in training near-hires for the business-process outsourcing (BPO) sector.

He added that he and Villanueva share the belief that Filipinos do not need to finish a four-year course to get a good-paying job.

“The way to go is vocational and technical education. With the growth of tourism in the Philippines, the hotels, restaurants, spas and other tourism facilities will be all around the country. This is why the Tesda program is very important,” Lim said.

He added that the CTHI is ready to provide two-month courses for food and beverage, and housekeeping. The hospitality institute also offers courses for managers and on waiter training, front-office operations and sales and marketing.

Waiters, he said, should not only learn how to take orders and fix the table.

“They [waiters] should also know how to welcome the guests and recommend soups and appetizers so the customers will enjoy their experience better. They should also be trained to become sales people,” Lim added.

Villanueva, he said, is already receptive to the idea.

“We will set a meeting in the next two weeks to thresh out how it will be done. Villanueva said he is happy because he found another industry that he can support,” Lim added.

The Department of Tourism (DOT) reported that the country attracted 2.14 million foreign visitors in the first half of the year, which put it on course of hitting the full-year 4.6-million target. The tourism department is eyeing 10 million tourists by 2016.

The government is on track in meeting its target of 4.6-million tourist arrivals this year based on half-year figures cited in the DOT report, Malacañang said on Sunday.

Deputy Palace Spokesman Abigail Valte said in an interview with state-run Radyo ng Bayan that the 2.14 million tourist arrivals in January to June 2012 were an improvement of 11.68 percent over the same period last year.

When asked whether such numbers would help the country achieve its full-year target, Valte replied, “We are hoping that we would achieve our target…. It looks like we’re making good progress on that.”

The biggest sources of tourists to the Philippines are South Korea, the United States, Japan, China, Taiwan and Australia.

Valte said the tourism department is eyeing other markets to expand the country’s tourism market through the “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” campaign slogan, among others.

She added that the campaign slogan is now carried by posters adorning double-decker buses in London, host to the ongoing 30th Summer Olympic Games.

“We’re now maximizing the reach of that [slogan] because as we all know, the Olympics are being held in London now. So the ads are not only being seen by the British but different nationalities. So hopefully our tourism will get a boost because of the particular strategic marketing that is being done by the [DOT],” Valte said.

In his State of the Nation Address last month, President Aquino expressed confidence that the country would achieve its target of 4.6 million tourist arrivals this year, based on the half-year figures.