Brain drain in Lanka affecting hoteliers
Hoteliers are complaining about the staff turnover ratio in Sri Lankan hotels being unbelievably high mainly on account of the unprecedented expansion of the tourist business, especially in the Middle East and in other parts of the world.
“Sri Lankan Hotels continue to be a very buoyant training ground for overseas employers. The entire industry is training more and more personnel whose ambition is to initially migrate to other countries to find employment and this situation has made Sri Lanka lose its best staff very rapidly,” M. T. A. Furkhan, Chairman Confifi Hotels told The Sunday Times FT.
He said that most of local skilled personnel venture into the overseas markets, resulting in local employers having to make do with lesser skilled people at increasingly high cost of salaries.
“Unless some attempt is made to reverse this “brain drain” trend, Sri Lanka’s hotel sector will sooner or later have to face the problems of low productivity and severe shortage of human resources skills to match the demands,” he reiterated.
Srilal Mittapala, CEO Serendib Leisure said that this is a serious problem the industry is facing at present. “The main issue is that the Middle East and Maldives are drawing out our staff. They seek better fortunes outside the country,” he said. He said in order to prevent this the hotel rates must go up, strengthening the hotel staff service charges. “But it is a chicken and egg story, because unless you get the country situation improved, this will not improve.”
Ranjan Britto, Deputy Chairman Aitken Spence Hotel Group agreed with Furkhan, saying that the local hotels, especially in the resorts do all the training and this experience is used by foreign employees. “We even lose people to Vietnam and Cambodia and it is a dilemma,” he said.
He saw the earnings potential the living potential and the overall country climate in other countries as the main reason for staff migration in hotels.
Furkhan said that arising from the country situation and the consequent inability of the youth to find suitable employment locally, there is tremendous frustration among the young people in the country. “It is therefore not surprising that the young are desperately clamoring for opportunities overseas as is evident form the early morning queues for Visas at foreign Consulate offices in Colombo. The politicians and policy makers on the other hand appear to have been lulled into a sense of security and sometimes misplaces joy by the nearly Rs. 300 billion foreign exchange input (from Sri Lankans living overseas) each year – the largest single item of foreign exchange earnings in Sri Lanka’s Budget – a Trojan Horse,” he said.
Furkhan said that the real remedy is to be able to provide employment in Sri Lanka. “The social cost of staff migration are very high. The only remedy for this would be to provide employment in our own country,” he stressed. “I wonder how many of us realise what horrendous social cost we pay for this bonanza earned in the form of pittance by thousand of Sri Lankans sweating for it overseas, and at the same time gives us a false sense of security plus a dubious reputation as the largest supplier of unskilled female labour to the world! In this scenario the private sector in Sri Lanka is reduced to an excellent training and recruitment centre for cheap labour, especially young poorly educated females perhaps only suitable for the Middle Eastern palates. I hope some day soon this tragedy will be seriously addressed so that if we are to remain condemned to be a nation that continuous to fail, and significantly fails to provide employment in our own country to our young people , then at least we have the good sense to train our young people in both working and linguistic skills so that they will command employment overseas which will yield justifiably higher results in foreign exchange whilst at the same time we carry our heads high to retain what is left of our pride.”