Hong Kong's tourist trade hits troubled times as hiring gets harder

Perceptions of poor career path, lack of foreign workers mean local attractions struggle for staff

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 June, 2013, 7:14am

The tourism industry in Hong Kong has a problem - young people are just not drawn to it. Now, some of the biggest names in the city, which can pull in customers by the millions, are behind a recruitment drive.

"We constantly hear from our folks in the business that the No 1 difficulty is finding staff," said Paul Pei Po-wah, president of the Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions.

"Almost everyone is operating with fewer staff than they would like to have," he said.

He says they are short on manpower by 15 to 20 per cent - about 37,500 to 50,000 workers. Pei, also executive director of sales and marketing at Ocean Park, said there were now about 250,000 people directly in the tourism industry, in such businesses as hotels, retail stores, attractions and food outlets.

"We're competing with other industries to attract the same pool of people," said Pei. "And young people often have a misconception about our industry that there isn't a career path."

The association was founded late last year by nine local tourist attractions, including Hong Kong Disneyland, Noah's Ark and Ocean Park. It is planning to offer talks by senior managers from those businesses to show what young people can gain from a career in the industry.

Each year, the Chinese University, Polytechnic University and Vocational Training Council produce just 500 or so tourism graduates. Pei said the local industry would welcome more overseas workers. "It's common in other industries to import foreign workers," he said.