The War for Talent in Asia Travel & Tourism Industry

Asia is preparing for a tourism boom with opportunities and challenges abound. Over the next decade, Asia’s travel and tourism industry is set to grow by more than six per cent each year – the fastest expansion rate of any region in the world. By 2020, Asian travellers will account for nearly half of all global tourism expenditures. Out of the 70 million new jobs the industry will create globally in the next 10 years, about two-thirds (47 million) will be in Asia.

In anticipation of TravelRave 2014, Asia's premier travel and tourism week, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) kicked off the multi-city roundtable series and talked to tourism leaders to share their insights on "Developing Human Capital & Talent Management" in Asia.


Ms. Neeta Lachmandas

Assistant Chief Executive, Singapore Tourism Board

It doesn't come as a surprise that Singapore contributes to this Asian tourism boom. Singapore's travel and tourism industry is quickly becoming one of the country's most influential economic drivers and experienced unprecedented growth in the past decade. It now accounts for more than four per cent of Singapore's nominal gross domestic product. In 2013, Tourism Receipts came in at S$23.5 billion, a 2 per cent year-on-year increase, while International Visitor Arrivals grew 7 per cent to 15.6 million.

As promising as these developments sound, the significant growth has led to a manpower crunch. 60% of tourism employers in Singapore said they face difficulty finding suitable manpower. While job opportunities within the tourism industry are phenomenal, we are competing with other sectors for talent.

The key solution to fully leverage the growth of the tourism industry in Asia while solving the problem of manpower shortage lies within the millennial.

There are 1 billion millennial who account for almost 35 per cent of the $600 billion that Asians spend on international travel. As we look at consumption patterns, the reality is that the millennial traveller is going to consume their travel experience differently from most. They are educated consumers that conduct extensive research before making purchases and are looking for a travel experience that is unique and shareable across social media platforms.

In order to cater to this group of travellers and to remain relevant to them, it is crucial that the industry attracts and supports fresh millennial talent that fully understands the needs of these rising millennial travellers.


Janet Tan-Collis

President, SACEOS (Singapore Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers) and Chief Executive Officer, East West Planners

To attract talent, the industry needs to offer professional training courses that are internationally-recognised.

The hotel industry has paved the way in attracting young talent, but the MICE industry has some catching up to do. SACEOS has from the onset tried and succeeded in meeting the needs of fresh talent that has expressed interest to join the industry. The industry will only be successful in attracting new talent if it provides professional development opportunities and makes the MICE management programmes more accessible to those who are about to join the industry. Eight million jobs await the young people in the industry. With the right training, this can be the opportunity of a lifetime for many young talents looking for jobs.

SACEOS offers professional courses such as The Certified Exhibition Management (CEM), Professional Conference Management (PCM) and Professional Exhibition Management (PEM) that meet the global standards of professionalism in the tourism industry. From there, it is in the hands of the next generation as they decide where they can make the change.


Marc Dardenne

Chief Executive Officer, Patina Hotels and Resorts

Veteran industry leaders need to change their current mindsets by rethinking the way they operate to attract younger employees. They need to place themselves in the younger generation's shoes and "break" the old system that has been in place for many years.

Employers should focus on the positives, rather than the negatives, of the industry to attract talent. We should start afresh so that there are no legacy issues that may lead to potential pitfalls.

Middle managers play a significant role in achieving this change as they have the power to improve the approach to new talent. They can shape a more supportive and engaging working environment but in order to do this, they have to get out of their comfort zone and be exposed to experiences outside their home countries. This will help them gain international experience and understand different customers. Only by going through challenging situations can they cultivate an open mind.


Margaret Heng

Executive Director, SHA (Singapore Hotel Association) and Chief Executive Officer, SHATEC (Singapore Hotel and Tourism Education Centre)

Middle managers play an important role in creating an environment that encourages retention. In addition to overseeing the operations of the hotel, increasingly middle managers will have to listen and engage an inter-generational workforce to understand their different needs. To do this, middle managers must have the necessary knowledge, skills and experience to manage the dynamics and diversity of the workplace in order to keep employees happy and motivated. In this sense, the strongest link within the organisation to retain talent is the middle management.

Given the tight labour market, the role of middle managers in talent retention has become even more critical than ever before. Therefore, it will be prudent for hotels to ensure that the capabilities of their middle managers are further enhanced through training and development workshops.

Overall, the industry as a whole needs to step out. As part of these efforts, successful stories of students who have graduated from SHATEC and other hospitality institutions should be shared. Hence, for a couple of years running, the Singapore Hotel Association has been profiling SHATEC graduates in a Spotlight series in its SHA Update newsletter, to showcase an exciting and vibrant industry.

Furthermore, focusing on positive aspects of the industry such as opportunities to travel to sister properties will bode well in attracting and retaining young talent. So if you are fun loving and enjoy interacting with people, the hospitality industry is for you.