The growing hospitality industry has been hit hard by a manpower shortage. Industry estimates indicate a shortfall of 30 to 40 per cent in the supply of quality workforce. While hotels are trying to cope with internal means, with many more expected to come up, the manpower concern will only multiply.
"Hotels are expanding at the rate of 20-25 per cent every year. The shortage is being felt not just at senior the levels, but even in the lower rungs," said Manav Thadani, managing director, HVS India.
According to a recent Deloitte report, there are at least 400 projects involving 70,000 branded rooms under various stages of development in the next couple of years. These are spread across the country. With more projects in the process of being announced and room inventory expected to almost double in the next five years, the demand for trained manpower will rise dramatically. Currently, there are about 150,000 branded rooms in the country. Add to that another 300,000 rooms in the unorganised sector.
Industry experts say the training provided by various institutes is outdated and requires an upgrade of curriculum. Most hotels resort to an extensive internal training programme to meet their requirements. "Many of the institutes do not have classes which teach and inculcate the science of external as well as internal grooming. At Leela, we have a finely-tuned management training programme in which 600 hours of classroom training is imparted to the selected candidates," said Mohan Rao, vice-president, Human Resources, Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts.
Dearth of quality manpower has also hit the hotel kitchens. Specialised chefs are certainly in short supply, confirmed industry representatives. Head hunters get specific demands, say for an English- speaking Japanese sushi chef. "Typically, Chinese, Thai and Sushi chefs are sourced internationally. We largely rely on Oberoi Centre of Learning and Development for developing specialist chefs by focusing on a specific cuisine training," said Amrita Bhalla, executive vice-president, human resources, The Oberoi Group. The Group provides three two-year management training programmes for guest services, housekeeping and kitchen management.
Rajan Khurana, regional director of sales (India and West Asia), Lebua Hotels & Resorts, said the industry growth and demand for quality manpower has far exceeded the supply. "The sector has grown rapidly in the recent past, but trained manpower is scarce. It is very difficult to get quality people now. Chefs are also in short supply," he said. Khurana pegged the short supply of quality people in the hospitality industry at 30 to 40 per cent.
Mid-term salary revisions and extraordinary raises are among ways the industry is attempting to retain efficient employees. The Oberoi group is learnt to be among the luxury chains to have given handsome raises recently to address the concern.
"The availability of skilled and trained manpower is a challenge in long-term development and sustainability due to high level of competition and increasing pay scales," Bhalla pointed out. On whether expats are increasingly being recruited by hospitality chains, Khurana said the trend was visible at the level of GM or above. "Expats will have a different level of salary expectations," he said.
Another representative of a luxury chain pointed out that although the country has institutes specifically for the hospitality industry, big hotels prefer to rely on their in-house courses and training. Groups like Oberoi, Taj and ITC offer multiple training programmes, both short and long-term. Giving an example, she said, of a class of 30 at a hotel's training programme, 10 may get absorbed in the chain itself.
Hospitality research company HVS India is now planning to enter the hospitality education space due to the huge demand for trained manpower.
According to HVS India reports, India's rank in world tourism arrivals is 41, with a potential to be in the top 20. India today hosts about five million tourists annually, which is expected to be 18 million by 2016. India's domestic market is also growing, with 540 million domestic travellers a year.
There is a rapid increase and growth of luxury and international brands of hotels in India, creating great demand for highly skilled and experienced staff.