Photo Courtesy: BISHT

Hoteliers in Bhutan face difficulties in getting employees

With the re-opening of tourism in the country on 23 September 2022, the hoteliers are excited and doing all the needful works. On the other hand, they are having an issue of not getting the required number of employees.

Hotels started getting bookings and instead of being happy they are more worried as they are not able to get employees. Hotels are done with all the renovation works and they are ready to open their hotels anytime soon, but the issue at the moment is shortage of employees, without which the re-opening would be impossible.

The Hotel and Restaurant Association of Bhutan (HRAB) is looking for other alternatives to help the hoteliers with the recruitment. They are exploring on seeking help from the Labour Ministry that keeps a list of registered job seekers.

At the moment, there are 628 budget hotels, 16 5-Star hotels, 10 4-Star hotels and 135 3-Star hotels in the country.

An official from HRAB said that this is the issue hoteliers are facing at the moment, and although hotels are gearing up for the re-opening of tourism from 23 September, they are facing challenges with recruitment.

“Luxury hotels mostly have made an announcement on various posts but not many applicants were there, and those applicants who have applied do not have the required work experience in the particular field,” she added.

In the pasts, before the pandemic, it would be just the opposite wherein there would be more number of applicants than the slots, she said, adding that keep aside the hoteliers, the association, itself, is facing challenges with the recruitment.

It was learnt that though the hotels have requested the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) to assess their hotels as they gear up to welcome tourists, there are not much of assessors due to shortage of human resources in TCB. This is another challenge that the hoteliers are facing.

At this juncture, she said that they are worried if they will really be able to open up the tourism sector by 23 September. Everyone is excited, but at a same time, they have to make sure that they deliver the best services.

“With the revised SDF of USD 200, the guests would definitely have high expectations in terms of services from every aspect and country as a whole. And hiring of inexperienced employees may lead to compromising the quality on the services they provide. So, we have to ensure quality services,” she said.

One contributing factor to shortage of employees could be a huge rush of Bhutanese people to Australia and also to the Middle-East. They are constantly in touch with the Labour Ministry to resolve the issue to some point, she further added.  

They feel that TCB can play role in this to help smoothen the flow in the tourism sector.

The proprietor of Thimphu Residency, Ugyen Tenzin, said, “Things have changed. Before we would get enough applicants from which we get to choose the best and skilled ones, but today, we get limited applicants and that also inexperienced candidates.”

For his hotel to be fully operational, he needs around 50 staff, which at this juncture is difficult to get. For now, he only has 13 staff.

The only option they see is to train the new recruit by a few experienced employees. TCB notified that their services have to be improved, however, they find it difficult to do so and to some extent they might have to compromise their services as well.

“We feel that people are so relaxed because of the Kidu. Some employees have worked for few days and left. I promised good salary but still it’s difficult to hold them back as they are too dependent on the Kidu,” he added.

Proprietor of Tashi Namgay Grand, Passang Dorji, said that at this cost, the sustainability would be at stake because at first, they have the fear of not getting enough tourists, and secondly, they are having difficulty in getting employees.

He said, “Youths are now opting for Australia and the Middle-East for better employment. This ultimately has an impact on us. Before we used to have 45 employees, and now, we have come to 8 employees, including an Indian chef.”

The current employees are also trying for outside, he said. Everyone is diverted and they do not get many applicants for the posts.

He said that Phuentsholing hoteliers have appealed to the government with requests to allow importation of foreign workers from across the border to work in the hotels as they do not see many Bhutanese coming forward to take up the jobs.

“We are worried about how to operate our hotel. We are partially operating and getting bookings, but if this issue cannot be addressed then we would have tough times managing things,” he added.

Proprietor of YT hotel in Lobesa said that it has become difficult to get experienced employees. Everything is happening just the opposite from the past, and most of the experienced people have traveled outside.

“There is no other option than to hire inexperienced employees and train them through our existing staff, and this way there will definitely be an impact on the quality of the services,” he added.

Likewise, many others have shared the same grievances.  

Meanwhile, it was learnt that those employees who got laid off due to the pandemic are not ready to come back when they are being called back by the companies. They have either left for Australia or the Middle-East or they got employed somewhere else. There are a few who are still unemployed, but unwilling to take up the old jobs. 

Talking to a few of the laid off people, they said, “When we were in dire need of help, they laid us off, as if we meant nothing for them. And now, when they are in need, they are calling us back. This is not fair. We managed to sustain until now doing blue collar jobs, and we would continue to do so as that is what saved us.”

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