Despite adverse publicity caused by a recent series of sales scams, tourists and business travellers are continuing to arrive in Hong Kong in ever-increasing numbers. According to the Hong Kong Tourism Board, the number of visitors exceeded 2.2million in May, representing a 12.6 per cent year-on-year increase, and further growth is expected. With the city also set to host the equestrian events for the 2008 Olympics, everything is pointing towards a need for more hotel accommodation and creating sustained demand for professionals in the hospitality sector, who are trained to meet all manner of visitor requirements. Anthony Lui, general manager of the newly opened Royal View Hotel in Tsuen Wan, said that while the games would definitely bring some benefits, the strong regional economy was the main reason for the rise in demand. He said international investors were attracted by the mainland's booming economy, and the opportunities on offer had the knock-on effect of bringing more business travellers to Hong Kong. In addition, he said that individuals from 49 mainland cities could now visit with 'visa free' status, something which was sure to boost tourist arrivals. James Lu, the executive director of the Hong Kong Hotels Association, confirmed that the categories of business and independent travellers were showing the most rapid expansion. But he said this year would also see steady growth in the supply of rooms. Most of the hotels due to open in the coming months were expected to be in the lower price group or to offer serviced apartments in addition to regular rooms. With roughly 7,000 rooms to be added this year and a further 2,500 next year, Mr Lu noted there would obviously be an impact on local recruitment needs. Sourcing human capital, particularly the more experienced employees, remained an ongoing challenge. 'Overall, we have not yet reached the level where we are unable to find good staff, but salaries have certainly been raised to attract the right candidates,' he said. A key factor was the massive new hotel developments in Macau, which had created considerable demand for good staff of all types. 'They are taking staff from all over Asia, with some 20 per cent to 30 per cent coming from Hong Kong,' he said. The mainland was also proving an attraction for industry professionals, with the construction and opening of new hotels and serviced apartments, and the offer of competitive remuneration packages. When hiring for the Royal View Hotel, which has 691 rooms and suites, Mr Lui said the solution had been to take on a multiskilled workforce capable of handling different functions, as a way of maintaining flexibility and keeping headcount within reasonable limits. For example, guest services officers who could alternate between the front office and reservation department were considered ideal recruits. Although The Peninsula Hong Kong is known for having a low rate of staff turnover, it nevertheless works closely with local hotel schools and overseas training institutes, inviting students to apply for trainee positions that could lead to full-time roles. 'For rank-and-file [positions], we work on staff referrals plus those from the training board and labour department,' said Lamey Chang, The Peninsula's director of public relations. 'Over one-third of the staff have been with the hotel for more than 10 years and, as we believe in promotion from within, we have a training system to groom our staff.' Marriott International also believes in promotion from within, and recruitment for the new 245-room Courtyard by Marriott Hong Kong in Sai Ying Pun is following that policy. 'As the Courtyard is not a top, deluxe five-star hotel, we are keeping the operation simple,' said Sandra Ngan Kit-man, Marriott International's area director of human resources, China and Hong Kong. 'We are trying to promote career development opportunities for our very experienced junior management who do not have a lot of opportunities to move up.' Ms Ngan noted that the results had been quite promising so far. For example, the new general manager of the Courtyard stepped up from the role of human resources manager at the JW Marriott, Hong Kong. 'We can make sure we have 50 per cent of our managers from within, but we still need to recruit 50 per cent from outside,' Ms Ngan said, adding that the group's rapid expansion in Asia meant that finding good people was a constant challenge. One solution was to maintain close contacts not only with local educational institutes, but also with those on the mainland and as far afield as Hawaii. It also made sense to have fast-track management programmes to attract top talent and set up partnerships with key vocational schools on the mainland.