AEC – Is Vietnam ceding control of tourism to foreigners?
VietNamNet Bridge – At a recent workshop in Hanoi it was unveiled that the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) has established a process to certify tourism professionals and as a result – tens of thousands of domestic tourism jobs are at risk.
The process, referred to as a mutual recognition arrangement, aims to standardize tourism services and certify tourism professionals within the ASEAN region with the aim of helping it become a single quality travel destination.
Most importantly, the certification process will facilitate tourism professionals’ mobility to more freely work within other ASEAN member states as there is uniformity in testing and skill requirements in 32 different job titles.
Speaking at the workshop, Duong Duc Lan, director of the General Department of Vocational Training, said this more liberal ability to move within ASEAN will result in new graduates finding it hard to break into the tourism profession and for other more seasoned professionals to keep their jobs.
A recent International Labour Organization (ILO) survey of 200 domestic tourism businesses revealed the skill sets of nation’s vocational school graduates' aren’t on par and they lack competitiveness with their counterparts in ASEAN.
Meanwhile a survey taken by the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Tourism found similar results with tourism professionals seriously deficient in qualifications – with 30-45% of tour guides and 70-80% of receptionists failing basic foreign language skills.
To alleviate the situation, Gyorgy Sziraczki, director of the ILO in Vietnam suggested the government establish a tourism skills council staffed with representatives of businesses, the government, training institutions and other stakeholders.
Vietnam's vocational training for tourism is in disrepair and must be revamped to meet the AEC standards he said, adding that forming such a council would positively impact the calibre of domestic tourism professionals.
However, the problem also spills over to domestic travel agencies and other tourism related businesses as they too lack the ability to go head to head with their peers in ASEAN whose management capabilities are quite a few steps ahead.
It is vitally important for tourism professionals and businesses across the board to sharpen their skills and preparedness to get on an equal footing with other ASEAN countries as well as western developed countries, Sziraczki underscored.
Echoing Sziraczki ‘s sentiments Mr Lan stressed that with almost 3,300 kilometres of coastline and 7.8 million international visitors last year, the tourism industry in Vietnam has become an important driving force for the nation’s economy.
The US$10.7 billion industry is a major source of income and jobs, having created an estimated 1.8 million jobs to date for workers across the nation according to the Vietnam Administration of Tourism (VNAT).
Over the next few years VNAT has projected that the tourism industry will need more than 40,000 workers per annum to fill job vacancies, but currently vocational schools graduate only 15,000 inadequately trained tourism professionals each year.
The certification process is set to start with the official formation of the AEC by the end of 2015. The 10 participating countries in ASEAN are Vietnam, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
These stark statistics leave little doubt that the shortage of tens of thousands of tourism jobs will be filled by workers from other ASEAN nations, which might be tantamount to Vietnam ceding control of tourism to foreigners if the problem isn’t promptly rectified.