The ASEAN Community, which is scheduled to establish in 2015, is expected to greatly benefit tourism sector as the Mutual Recognition Arrangement on Tourism Professionals (MRA-TP) among ASEAN members when it takes effect in all member countries. The MRA-TP will serve as the foundation to lift tourism cooperation among ASEAN countries.
ASEAN has built common standards for six tourism areas, including reception, restaurant service and tour operation, with a total of 32 work titles, except for tour guide.
According to the experts, tourism companies in Vietnam can use the standards to improve their service quality and competitiveness. Furthermore, they can recruit qualified workers from other ASEAN countries. With the free movement of tourism professionals among ASEAN countries, Vietnamese tourism workers will face fierce competition from their regional rivals who are predicted to flock to Vietnam. Meanwhile, the sector also faces a high risk of brain drain when qualified staff goes elsewhere for better working conditions and payment.
In that context, improvement of human resources quality is becoming urgent for Viet Nam’s tourism, which is considered key for the growth of the sector as well as a perquisite condition for its international integration.
According to the Viet Nam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), around 1.8 million employees are working in Viet Nam’s tourism sector, a surge from only 12,000 in 1990. Each year, the sector needs nearly 40,000 new workers, but domestic training establishments graduate only 15,000, resulting in a serious shortage of qualified staff.
In Ho Chi Minh City, as many as 45 percent of local tour guides and operators, and 80 percent of receptionists lack adequate foreign language skills, according to the municipal Department of Tourism.
So far, a number of response efforts have been carried out, including the issuance of a revised set of tourism occupational standards (VTOS) to suit international standards. The new VTOS was built by the EU-funded environmentally and socially responsible tourism capacity enhancement programme.
According to statistics from VNAT, ASEAN countries welcomed 97.2 million foreign visitors in 2014, up 3 percent over the previous year, including 28.5 million who travelled inside the bloc.