Phuket hotels see labour shortages as tourism swells

PHOTO: Phuket is experiencing a shortage of hotel workers. (via Nation Thailand)

Maybe hoteliers didn’t believe in the government’s rosy tourism predictions. Hotels in Phuket are reporting a labour shortage as Russian tourists pour into the holiday island. Now they are rallying the government to market hospitality jobs in Phuket to attract foreign workers. They say Thai people just don’t want maintenance, kitchen, and food and beverage jobs.

The president of the southern chapter of the Thai Hotels Association suggested the Thai government should sign a memorandum of understanding with countries like Indonesia and the Philippines to draw workers. He also called for a similar memorandum with universities, as hotels have taken to recruiting student interns to fill empty positions.

Occupancy rates in hotels have been steadily rising. In October they hit 57% and then jumped 10% in November. Officials expect the occupancy numbers to hit about 80% this month. Room rates in Phuket, however, are about 20% lower than they were before the Covid-19 pandemic.

These occupancy figures are somewhat artificially inflated though since as many as half of the hotels in Phuket remain closed as a result of the pandemic, according to Bangkok Post.

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As with many aspects of Covid, the pandemic has served to widen the disparity between economic classes. Five-star luxury hotels and resorts are earning closer to their 2019 rates, and employees qualified for top-tier accommodation can negotiate between properties to secure increased pay.

Three-star and four-star hotels are struggling to find workers meanwhile. Daily salaries of 400 to 500 baht a day have in some cases been increased to 700 or even 1,000 baht a day to attract employees for positions that desperately need to be filled.

Many hotels couldn’t afford to overstaff when there weren’t enough guests to pay the bills. Now they are caught unprepared when tourists – led by a swell of Russians – began swarming Phuket this month. About 25% of all tourists to Phuket this month are Russian after several Russian airlines restarted the number of direct flights and charter flights increased as well.

Indians make up another 12% of the foreign travellers to Phuket, while Australians and Singaporeans each makeup about 6%. The remaining 51% is comprised of various European nations and countries from around the world. Hotels are also seeing longer stays up to two weeks for people who travel from across the world, an increase from weekender trips from neighbouring countries.

Hotels are struggling now – delighted to see tourism return but unable to open all their rooms until they can fully staff their properties.

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Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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