Thailand: Tourism workers face uncertainty

Roughly 23% of tourism operators are willing to increase their workforce, but some remain hesitant because of insufficient tourist demand, according to a study by the National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA).

“The tourism sector remains bright to some extent as it started gaining momentum after Covid-19 regulations were lifted in the second half,” said Piriya Pholphirul, executive director of the Center of Development Economics Studies at NIDA.

Many analysts see tourism as the main driver of the country’s economy.

He said the study showed employers that can afford it want to hire 9.3% more employees during the second half.

More than 60% of them have yet to recover to the same employment level as before Covid-19.

However, 6.8% of operators are planning to reduce their workforce by 1.9%, mostly because of poor performance and high wage costs.

In terms of employment outlook, more than half (54%) of operators didn’t plan any new recruitment, and 35% looked for an opportunity to hire multi-skilled workers instead.

Mr Piriya said secondary provinces also reported more hiring demand than key destinations, except for Bangkok, which still had the highest demand for tourism workers.

Even though technology has been seen as a tool to reshape the industry, he said only 6% of tourism operators are willing to substitute skilled labour with the use of technology.

More than half of operators didn’t have a plan to adjust their employment, while the great resignation — where people resigned to pursue passion in life — has not appeared in the tourism industry.

Speaking at the monthly meeting of the Association of Thai Travel Agents (Atta) on Thursday, Mr Piriya said most employees want job security, which is in contrast to manpower management today in which employers often opt for outsourcing.

Roughly 22% of tourism workers plan to quit their jobs in two years, mostly because of the low income and lack of job security, he said.

Adith Chairattananon, honorary secretary-general of Atta, said employment in the inbound tour industry has yet to recover.

Many tour operators lost experienced workers that quit, while the number of younger workers still lags behind tourist demand.

In particular, he said there is a dearth of tour guides who can understand languages such as Russian and French, as the labour market is already overwhelmed with Chinese and English speakers.

The study proposed the government set up a skills development fund for the tourism industry, with investment co-funding from the private sector. For example, the government could subsidise training fees for employees who want to improve their language skills or other skills needed for their jobs.