Asia’s travel and tourism industry 'to face talent crisis'

SINGAPORE - Asia's travel and tourism sector is booming but will faces a severe shortage of skilled workers in the next 10 years, a top industry executive said Wednesday.

Investments in human capital have lagged behind spending on infrastructure such as airports and hotels, said David Scowsill, president and chief executive of the London-based World Travel and Tourism Council.

"There's going to be a great shortage of the right people to support the growth in this particular industry," he said in Singapore.

"We are indeed facing a talent crisis which could impact the quality of our product in the next 10 years... we've seen a lot of investments in infrastructure but not a similar investment in human capital." Scowsill was speaking at a news conference at the start of ITB Asia 2014, a global trade show for the region's travel market.

In a separate press statement, Scowsill said that "if the situation is not addressed immediately, it could have serious consequences on the forecast social and economic growth in many countries across Asia in the next decade".

He said tourism and travel in Asia grew by close to 6.0 per cent last year, creating one million new jobs and generating $2.0 trillion, or around nine per cent of the region's gross domestic product.

"Currently travel and tourism employs around 65 million people and supports one in 12 jobs in Asia," he said, adding that this exceeds some industries like financial services.

Neeta Lachmandas, assistant chief executive of the Singapore Tourism Board, said while Asia is a "focal point" in global travel, there were also challenges.

"We expect a shortage of some eight million jobs in the next 15-20 years, so there's a tremendous opportunity for us, but there's also a lot of challenges that we need to overcome if we want to take advantage of this opportunity," she said at the news conference.

Spending by business travellers worldwide is expected to reach a record high of US$1.18 trillion (S$1.5 trillion) this year, with nearly 40 per cent of that coming from the Asia-Pacific, the Global Business Travel Association said in a statement at the trade show.

Corporate travellers from China lead the Asian pack, spending US$225 billion last year, coming a close second to the United States which topped the world rankings by spending $274 billion.