Abstract: The Covid-19 pandemic has shown the world its complex development since 2020, and it has taken its toll on the current socio – economic situation.The NinhBinh tourism sector is one of the industries that have been hit hard by the pandemic. Tourism services were severely afflicted across the province,the number of visitors and tourism turnover plummeted in comparison with those of earlier years, and many tourism enterprises had to downsize their businesses, which afflicted their turnover and their development; many tourism labors lost their jobs or were forced to decrease their working hours.
At the point of writing, the pandemic has been controlled, and the whole society, as well as the tourism industry, has shifted to a new phase known as the new normal, the question being raised now is how to revive and develop high quality tourism workforce during the period of tourism recovery. This article summarizes the real state of affairs with the development of theNinhBinh tourism sector, the Covid-19 pandemic impacts on human resources, andsolutions for developing and enhancing the quality of the tourism workforce.
Keywords:Covid-19 pandemic, develop high-quality workforce, NinhBinh, tourism recovery.
Lyingon the south of the Red River Delta and being located 90km away from Ha Noi give NinhBinh an advantageous geographic position to become an important intersection bridge for exchanging economy – trade – tourism and culture between the South and the North. NinhBinh has complex topography with mountains, lakes, deltas and seas representing all typographical features of Vietnam. NinhBinh is blessed by nature with several unique attractive natural landscapes such asTrang An, Tam Coc – Bich Dong Scenic Area, Cuc Phuong National Park, Van Long Swamp Nature Reserve and so on, it also boasts numerous significant historic – cultural relics marking important historical events of Vietnam, for instance: Cultural historic relic Hoa Lu Ancient Capital, Vu Lam Royal Step Over Palace, Thai Vi Temple, Bai Dinh Pagoda, Phat Diem Stone Church....Moreover, NinhBinh also owns many intangible cultural heritages featuring folk festivals, traditional handicrafts, traditional arts, and diverse cuisine.
With 1821 relics including 298 provincial level - ranking relics and 81 national level – ranked relics (among them are 3 special national level – ranking relics). These are great potential and advantages for NinhBinh to develop the tourism industry and create its own peculiar tourism products that can compete and create a brand name for the NinhBinh tourism sector.
Over these years, under the aggressive leadership and attention of the Provincial Party Committee, the Provincial People’s Council, and the Provincial People’s Committee, the NinhBinh tourism sector has made great strides. Targets including the number of visits, tourism turnover and the number of tourism labors have ascended; tourism companies and the local community have always proactively upgraded and enhanced their service quality, diversified services, and established civilized tourism environment to sate the more and more demanding domestic and international tourists. The tourism industry has created thousands of jobs for labors and increased local people’s income.
Nevertheless, the Covid-19 pandemic has shown the world its complex developments since 2020, it has taken its toll on the current socio – economic situation.The NinhBinh tourism sector is one of the industries that have been hit hard by the pandemic. Tourism services were severely afflicted across the province, the number of visitors and tourism turnover plummeted in comparison with those of earlier years, many tourism enterprises had to downsize their businesses, which afflicted their turnover and their development; many tourism labors lost their jobs or were forced to decrease their working hours.
At the point of writing, the pandemic has been controlled, the whole society, as well as the tourism industry, has shifted to a new phase known as the new normal. In order to develop the Vietnam tourism industry in general or the NinhBinh tourism sector in particular, besides developing new products, investing more in human resources is also very important. The imperative issue is how to revive and develop high-quality tourism human resources, which will add more elements of attraction to the tourism industry, especially during the period of tourism recovery in post-Covid-19 phase.
2. Targets of developing high-quality tourism workforce in this phase.
The Politburo issued Resolution 08-NQ/TW on developing tourism into a spearhead economic sector, the Resolution set targets for developing human resources as follows:
The Government must issue policies on attracting investments in training tourism human resources; enhance thecapability of tourism training institutions with regard to technical facilities, education programs, and trainers.Boost socialization and international cooperation to attract more resources for developing the tourism workforce.
Diversify forms of tourism training. Enhance applying advancedscience and technology in training, retraining and developing tourism human resources.
Enhance the quality of human resources with regard to governmental management, enterprise administration and tourism labor. Concentrate on improving thespeciality, foreign language skills, and work ethic of the tourism workforce.
Complete theVietnam Tourism Occupational Skills Standards compatible with ASEAN’s standards. Establish a National Tourism Industry Council and a Council of Tourism Certification.
After determining that developing tourism into a spearhead economic sector of the province is an important strategy, the Executive Committee of the Provincial Party issued Resolution 07-NQ/TU dated 29/10/2021 on developing NinhBinh tourism sector period 2021 – 2030, orientation to 2045. The Resolution provides that the missions and solutions for developing tourismmust focus on developing and improving the quality of human resources.
The Resolution proposes the mission of restructuring human resources in a professional and modern manner. Annually, build and implement plans for training and retraining the tourism workforce in accordance with development requirements; especially, concentrate on training and attracting labors who have capability and management skills and can be qualified for requirements ofspeciality, disciplinary skills, foreign language skills, information and technology skills, political awareness, work ethic, and communication culture. Periodically inspect, survey, and rankthe speciality of the tourism workforce in order to build plans and training programs suitable for individual capability and work requirements.
Focus on training and enhancing knowledge, governmental management skills, product development, digitalization, tourism brand promotion and development.Encourage and support employees to study and improve their speciality inside or outside the country in order to catch up with tourism development requirements and the fourth technology revolution.
Intensify applying advanced science and technology in training and developing tourism human resources. Concentrate on training the tourism workforce in accordance with Vietnam Tourism Occupational Skills Standards (VTOS) and ASEAN Tourism Occupational Skill Standards within the province. Focus on training travel managers, accommodation managers and tour guides. Organize training sessions on retraining tourism skills for the local communities participating in the tourism industry. Encourage and support enterprises to train and retrain and collaborate with international and domestic tourism training centers to improve thespeciality of managers, staff and labors working in the tourism sector.
Improve the capability of tourism training centers in the province with regard to facilities, training contents, programs, managers and trainers. Intensify cooperation with prestigious training centers specialized in tourism and tourism culture to organize high-quality vocational training programs. Implement policies on attracting and providing goodcompensation for specialists and capable experiencedmanagers to encourage them to work for tourism companies or departments within the province. Annually, organize orientation sessions on tourism and tourism culture for high school students.
3. The real state of affairs with tourism workforce in NinhBinh
The number of visitors coming to NinhBinh is more and more ascending, which is bolsteringthe development of tourism businesses, thus, demands for the tourism workforceare also increasing. Nevertheless, the provincial current tourism workforce lacks both quantity and quality. The rate of labors specialized in tourism is still low. Theirs vocational skills including foreign language skills, communication skills and their experience are restrictive. Especially, NinhBinh truly lacks high-quality workforce, intermediate and senior managers working for 3-5 star-rating hotels. Meanwhile, tourism specialists have affirmed that a good manager accounts for 50% of the success of a hotel
Responsible for this reality is the fact that NinhBinh doesn’t have its own training system or any vocational training facilities for tourism. Hoa Lu University only teaches few disciplines concerning tourism, the Tourism Department has been cooperating with partners to organize training classes on the spot, nevertheless these forms of training restrict the vocational skills and realistic experience of the trainees.
On the other hand, making experienced skilled labors gravitate towards NinhBinh is difficult due to their demanding requirements for salary, work environment as well as other conditions to develop their owncalibre.
Since 2020, due to Covid – 19 impacts, across NinhBinh there have been 14.500 labors (of which is 4.000 direct labors) working in tourism businesses, the majority of them are small and medium enterprises, and household businesses. The workforce mainly works for accommodations and restaurants (reception, housekeeping, bar and kitchen)at tourist destinations, recreational centers and other supplementary service facilities.
The total number of labors in tourism businesses tends to ascend. In 2010 the total number of labors is 8550 including direct and indirect labors, as of 2019 it soared to 21200, in 2020 due to the pandemic the number of labors plummeted, many of them had to change their jobs. Nevertheless, once the pandemic is controlled, the number of labors will spike again, the annual average growth rate is 6.67% in the last ten years.
According to the sex structure of labors, female labors accounts for the better part due to the peculiar characteristics of tourism which require meticulousness, communication skills, and tact from women for jobs such as housekeeping, bar, and so on.
Table 1. Tourism workforce inNinhBình province period 2010 - 2020
Source:NinhBình Tourism Department
In order to continue enhancing the quality of the tourism workforce, the NinhBinhTourism Departmenthas cooperated with big training facilities,related organizations and enterprises to organize training classes on tourism for the tourism workforce. During the period 2010 – 2020, 61 vocational training classes ontour guiding, tourism accommodation management, homestay management, housekeeping, restaurant service, bar, and reception were arranged for 7200 trainees who are tourism managers and labors working in tourism businesses or tourist destinations.
The governmental organs including:thePublicity and Education Commission and the Mass Mobilization Commission under the Provincial Party Committee, the Provincial Women’s Union, the Department of Justice, the Department of Labor – War Invalids and Social Affairs, the People’s Committees from districts, cities, and so on, they have organized workshops, contests, training classes and reporter conferences for the local communities to promulgate the potential, status and the Vietnam Communist Party’s policies as well as the Central Government’s policieson developing tourism, the values and responsibilities for protecting the Trang An Landscape Complex and implementing civilized conducts in tourism among 18000 people
4. Forecast international and domestic situations; tourism trends and prognosticate on targets of developing tourism workforce in the next years
a. International and domestic situations
The Covid-19 pandemic is still showing its complex developments worldwide in general, and in Viet Nam in particular. This causes difficulty for tourism development in Vietnam and also in NinhBinh, especially it prevents us from attracting international tourists in the context of deep international integration. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) the world tourism industry would start reviving in post-Covid-19 phase. From Quarter IV, 2021 to mid-2022 the recovery started, and as of 2024, it will regain its 2019 statistics. The domestic market will revive promptly, it is the core market featuring different forms of tourism including leisure, entertainment, short visit, and MICE. Moreover, theInternational Air Transport Association (IATA) states that air travel won’t regain its 2019 growth rate until 2023.
Domestically, after 35 years of renovation,the position, the national collective strength, and the international image of the country have been raised, which creates important springboards for developing the national tourism industry as well as the NinhBinh tourism sector.According to the Ministry of Planning and Investment, during the period from 2021 to 2025, the world will still see some uncertainties, and world economic growth is prone to be slower than in earlier periods. The Technology Revolution 4.0 will still have a deep strong influence on every aspect of our life; nontraditional challenges, especially climate change will be aggravated with regard to its impacts and intensity; natural disasters and diseases are unpredictable…The aforementioned factors will cause considerable impacts on the development of the Vietnam tourism industry as well as the NinhBinh tourism sector.
In the next few years, the world will see advantages, opportunities, disadvantages, and challenges entwined; there will be new complex problems that the NinhBinh tourism industry needs to solve in order to thrive. The whole province has to change its mindset, raise its political determination, forecast developments of every situation, proactively handle every contingency, put more effort into boosting fast sustainable tourism; concentrate on enhancing the quality of the workforce, resolve to achieve the targets, opinions, orientations and the main missions mentioned in the Resolution of the 8th National Congress and the Resolution of the 22ndNinhBinh Provincial Congress on tourism.
b. Tourism trend in the new context
Similar to the world tourism trend, Vietnam’s tourism industry has experienced changes, according to the tourism forecast, in the coming timetourism forms such as sightseeing, leisure, entertainment and recreation will become the main trends of the majority of tourism markets, nevertheless, new demands will arise, especially demands for experiencing new values based on traditional cultural values, (itsidentity and originality), natural values (untouched, unique characteristics), inventiveness and high technology (modernity, amenities). Health tourism is more and more popular. Developing responsible tourism, eco-tourism, and community tourism is not onlythe new trend but also an inevitable requirement to implement the principles and targets of sustainable development in terms of both nature and society aspects.
Moreover, the tourism industry has to applyadvanced technology, artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of things (IOT), smart tourism development and virtual reality tourism to help visitors find information and experience before, during, and after their trips.
Tourism spending trends have also transformed from paying in cash into credit cards or payment apps on smartphones. Individual tourism has set a new trend for the young generation around the world recently. Besides, during the new normal period, after explosive outbreaks of the Covid-19 pandemic, international tourists tend to demand more with regard to the safety and the quality of destinations as well as the quality of tourism products; tourists are spending more economically, short-haul destinations and short visitsare their priority.
c. Forecast on targets of developing tourism workforce in NinhBinh in the next years.
The current average number of direct labors per room is low in NinhBinh because tourism services are still poor, undiversified, and low quality, there are many small-sized accommodations, of which the majority are in homestay forms. In 2019, this target only hit 0.66 direct labor per room (5600 direct labors out of 8508 accommodation rooms)
In the next years, the tourism industry is orientated towards diversifying supplementary tourism services and enhancing the quality of tourism products and services, thus the average number of direct labors per room will ascend. The demand for the nationwide average number of labors per room is from 1.5 to 1.6 direct labors per room, and each direct labor is equivalent to 1.5 – 1.6 indirect labors.So based on the aforementioned targets, the labor demand for the whole NinhBinh tourism sector during the period from 2021 to 2030, orientation to 2045, is revealed in the table below
Table 2. Forecast on demands for labors of NinhBinh tourism sector
period 2021 - 2030, orientation to 2045
Source:NinhBình Tourism Department
5. Solutions for developing and enhancing the quality of the tourism workforce in NinhBinh
a. Tourism workforce in governmental organs
- Utilize the involvement of specialists, scientists, and senior managers in governmental tourism management activities through consultancy on tourism development policies and organizing workshops.
- Facilitate improvement of foreign language skills, and computer skills to help public tourism managers access the National Project on enhancing foreign language skills and computer skills; training on tourism speciality, event planning skills for conferences andworkshops; reception skills, handling skills for social media crisis in tourism and other skills related to the tourism industry.
b. Tourism workforce in tourism enterprises and local communities
- Every two years, periodically inspect, survey and rank the professional capacity of labors working in the tourism sector in order to build appropriate training plans on each level.
- Organize training and retraining sessions on tourismspeciality and soft skills, prepare solutions/scenarios to handle impacts from climate change, and mitigate risks from natural disasters and diseases. The aforementioned training sessions are for direct labors in tourism, managers, staff of travel companies, tourist transport companies, tourist ships, tour guides, and so on; periodically organize training classes on enhancing knowledge and skills for local communities whowork in the tourism sector and contribute to promoting the tourism image of NinhBinh, especially for community tourism development.
- Support enterprises and education organizations (including tourism-oriented education in high schools, vocationalschools, and universities) in establishing and using international standards of foreign languages and computer skills; support training organizations in their cooperation with enterprises to establish training programs and training output standards, prolong practice time, facilitate internship for students, master candidates, doctoral candidates, listening lecturers and teacher in tourism businesses through joint programs. Encourage and honor enterprises and individuals to sponsor lecturing and scholarships for students, and to admit graduated students to their tourism businesses.
c. Continue to disseminate and raise awareness about tourism development among authorities, communities, and society.
- Establish and implement programs on raising awareness about tourism development, especially community tourism, utilize training classes and annual workshops for public employees and the local people to pitch the position and the role of the tourism industry as a composite economic sector making the main contribution to the economic integration process, tourismis also a multi-disciplinary, multi-regional and highly socialized industry which bolsters socio-economic development. Organize talk shows among governmental tourism management organs, tourism enterprises and local communities about tourism development.
- The People’s Committees of all levels are assigned to encourage, disseminate and raise awareness about tourism development among local people; establish a plan of “each person is a tourism ambassador”.
- Continue to disseminate legal documents on tourism and the Code of Conduct in tourism through different forms (tourism promotion channels, regulation boards at tourist destinations and accommodations, flies, brochures, clips, documentaries, and so on); Commend and emulate the exemplars of localtourism development (through experience exchange to establish plans...).
- Encourage voluntary local tour guides to support visitors.
Director of the NinhBinh Tourism Department