Is India’s Hospitality Sector In Trouble, Again? Hit By Post Pandemic Shortage Of Skilled Staff, It Needs Rethink On HR Strategy
The hospitality labour market has been a sector with an excessive supply of personnel and relatively low demand. But as supply tapers off while demand for skilled personnel rises, the hospitality industry must rethink its human resources strategy.
India’s hospitality sector has been through tough times over the last two years as the pandemic brought travel to a standstill. The sector has attempted to survive by offering new services and business models. Now, as the pandemic subsides and demand picks up quickly, the sector could possibly face another issue – a shortage of skilled staff.
India’s hotel management colleges have a smaller number of students applying for the course each progressing year.
According to the National Testing Agency, 45,000 aspirants appeared for the NCHM JEE in 2018. The NCHM JEE is the entrance exam that grants students entry into the central government-run IHMs (Institutes of Hotel Management) and other colleges. The number swiftly 30 per cent fell to 30,722 in 2019. In the following year, the number increased slightly to 32,603 but has fallen off a cliff since then.
IHMs, which offer around 12,000 seats in total, have seen just around 40 per cent of the seats occupied by students, according to a report by The Economic Times. In previous years, the number of aspirants appearing for the exam exceeded the number of seats on offer by a significant margin. Clearly, there has been a drastic decline in the number of students who wish to take up hospitality as a career.
The most obvious reason for the decline is the pandemic, which caused massive job losses in the hospitality sector globally.
Several establishments, including premium hotels like Hyatt Regency Mumbai, closed down during the pandemic due to financial issues. The uncertainty of building a career in a sector that was undergoing turbulent times probably did not appeal to parents or students. In addition, the completion of a hotel management course in India requires one to complete a hands-on four-month internship in a hotel, which is risky from a health perspective.
From a second-order effect perspective, hospitality courses depend more on practical education than theory. With education shifting online and hotels running bare-bone operations, opportunities to learn hands-on disappeared.
But, it isn’t just the uncertainty of the pandemic that has driven away new talent from the hospitality industry. The sector is struggling to even retain its existing talent as many look for greener pastures elsewhere.
Jobs in hospitality establishments are often perceived as glamorous and sophisticated. But in reality, it is a high-pressure job with little pay and long working hours. Often, fresh graduates from hotel management colleges are hired as contract employees who are not provided with any of the employee benefits. The salaries range from anywhere between Rs 12,000 and Rs15,000 for new associates, even at established five-star hotels.
While promises of significant hikes, permanent employee status, and promotions are often thrown in, they often do not materialise. Further, the actual work times usually last much longer than the promised 8 to 9 hours, often extending to 12 or 13 hours of work each day. Usually, employees are not paid any overtime dues for the same. Professionals often move abroad in search of better pay, work hours, and lifestyles. Others who choose to continue working in Indian hotels often look to work in functions like F&B Controls, finance, human resources, or revenue management which are not as strenuous as operational roles.
As information about various jobs becomes more freely available through social media, youngsters probably do not find hospitality to be an attractive career. Other educational courses with similar investments in terms of time and money yield much better results both in terms of salaries and a decent work-life balance.
Today, new avenues are opening up for hospitality employees in co-working spaces, real estate, retail, and customer services, among others. These jobs attract disillusioned hospitality professionals in droves since these offer better pay and a better work-life balance.
So far, the hospitality labour market has been a sector with an excessive supply of personnel and relatively low demand. But as supply tapers off while demand for skilled personnel rises, the hospitality industry must rethink its human resources strategy.
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