- Industry stakeholders address over 200 state school principals
- Stress youth unaware of employment benefits in tourism sector
- Says “national services” if principals can inspire students to join the industry
By Shabiya Ali Ahlam
Sri Lanka’s tourism sector that is gathering steam to become the top revenue earner for the country saw its potential and opportunity showcased to state school principals yesterday, which was an effort taken by the key stakeholders to fuel the sector with the much-needed human resources.
The tourism sector being one of the key pillars of the economy, a ‘Hospitality Conclave’, a discussion forum for state school principals, was held yesterday in Colombo that would help promote the tourism and hospitality sectors as promising avenues for employment and career prospects.
The half-day forum was organised by The Hotels’ Association of Sri Lanka (THASL) in partnership with the Education Ministry and Shangri-La Hotel, Colombo and brought over 200 school principals from around the country to one platform.
With the new investments into the hotel sector amounting to US $ 2.8 billion, requiring thousands of newly trained workers in the next couple years, as Tourism Minister John Amaratunga stated just last week, the forum proved to be timely and relevant. The potential and opportunities offered by the hospitality sector are obvious. However, the industry has acknowledged time and again that the contemporary youth are unaware of the benefits to be reaped, thus leading to a formidable challenge in attracting local youth into the sector.
In that context, the conclave served as an opportunity to address the challenges prevailing in the industry so that it can become a top employment creator for the county.
In 2017, the total contribution from travel and tourism for employment, both direct and indirect, was 11 percent, with total employment at 875,000 jobs.
In terms of supply growth, the industry has forecast that with another 6500 rooms expected to come into operation by 2020, over 100,000 direct job opportunities would be created.
According to the THASL, the spurt will result in a substantial number of indirect jobs in the near future.
“With this growing trend in tourism and the hotel industry, there is a great career offering to the youth of our country. The principals and vice principals of schools are able to influence the youth in a way no one else can.
You can pass on the necessary information and you can inspire and motivate them regarding the fascinating opportunities that lie ahead in this industry,” THASL President Sanath Ukwatte told the full house gathered at Shangri-La Hotel.
Pointing out that there is a substantial number of school dropouts from Grade Eight onwards, Ukwatte opined it would be a “national service” for the school principals to inspire the youth to consider the hospitality industry as a career path.
Going on to promote the “attractive pay” offered, the THASL head stressed that it is only the hospitality industry that distributes 10 percent of its revenue (service charge) among the employees, which amounts to approximately Rs.25,000 – Rs.30,000 per month.
Furthermore, it was also stressed that one of the key benefits the youth would gain is access to training.
“This is of a planned and systematic nature and the management of our hotels has made significant investments in training, so that young people with a flair for tourism can develop and refine skills in all aspects of the hotel industry.
There is great opportunity for acquiring and sharpening language skills. All this training to enhance the quality of an employee is offered free of charge,” opined Ukwatte.
The local hospitality industry has been growing significantly since 2009, from a mere 500,000 tourists to 2.2 million arrivals by 2017. Since 2009, earnings from tourism grew by over 900 percent— from US $ 350 million, to a US $ 3.5 billion.
Currently, standing tall as the second highest net foreign exchange earner to the country, the tourism industry aims to become the number one foreign exchange earner by 2020.
THASL calls on govt. to introduce travel & tourism from Grade 6
The Hotels’ Association of Sri Lanka (THASL), the apex body of the local hospitality industry, yesterday called on the government to introduce tourism-related subjects from junior school level.
With the industry having picked up pace and limited human resources posing to be a major challenge, THASL President Sanath Ukwatte urged the relevant authorities to take active initiative in making tourism part of the local curriculum.
“Most of all, our call goes to the government and Education Ministry to pay urgent heed to our request of looking at introducing travel and tourism as a subject from Grade Six onward,” he said.
At present, under the local syllabus, students have the option of pursuing travel and tourism as a subject for Advanced Level.
The THASL head also appealed to the hoteliers to offer internship programmes to young students during their school holidays so that it would instil an interest in the field from an early stage.