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  1. 1. This article was downloaded by: [Mr Peter Semone]On: 29 September 2011, At: 19:03Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office:Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rapt20 A Case Study: Enhancing Laos Tourism Sector Performance Through Destination Human Resource Development a Peter Semone a Assumption University, Bangkok, Thailand Available online: 29 Sep 2011To cite this article: Peter Semone (2011): A Case Study: Enhancing Laos Tourism Sector PerformanceThrough Destination Human Resource Development, Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research,DOI:10.1080/10941665.2011.617049To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10941665.2011.617049PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLEFull terms and conditions of use: http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionsThis article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Any substantialor systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, ordistribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden.The publisher does not give any warranty express or implied or make any representation that thecontents will be complete or accurate or up to date. The accuracy of any instructions, formulae,and drug doses should be independently verified with primary sources. The publisher shall notbe liable for any loss, actions, claims, proceedings, demand, or costs or damages whatsoever orhowsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with or arising out of the use of thismaterial.
  2. 2. Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research, iFirst article, 2011 A Case Study: Enhancing Laos’ Tourism Sector Performance Through Destination Human Resource DevelopmentDownloaded by [Mr Peter Semone] at 19:03 29 September 2011 Peter Semone∗ Assumption University, Bangkok, Thailand Tourism in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Laos) is a relatively new phenomenon that commenced in earnest in the late 1990s. A decade later, the country’s tourism port- folio is dominated by regional visitors originating from neighbouring China, Thailand and Vietnam who generally tend to come in large numbers, are relatively low spenders and register short average length of stays. In order to reap the fiscal benefits of tourism and sustain the nation’s fragile cultural and ecological makeup, the Government of Laos is being challenged to establish ways to shift the balance of its tourism demand to more profitable and lower impact market segments. A human resource development strat- egy published by the Lao National Tourism Administration in collaboration with Luxem- bourg Development Cooperation suggests that a sustained investment in people will improve tourism sector service quality, which in turn will result in increased industry prof- itability. This paper explores the existing human resource environment in Laos’ tourism sector and outlines the required actions by various stakeholders to achieve improved sector performance and stewardship of the country’s fragile culture and environment. Key words: hospitality, tourism, Laos, destination human resource development, service quality, increased revenues Introduction tourism industry (Baum, 1994). Despite this, HRD is often relegated behind infrastructure, There is evidence to suggest that national, marketing, transportation and other tourism regional and municipal destination manage- development priorities (Baum, Amoah and ment plans should include human resource Spivack, 1997). While tourism has gained in development (HRD) as an integral part of pro- the social and economic sphere of national ducing a healthy, prosperous and sustainable development agendas, sufficient attention is ∗ Email: semone2010@gmail.com ISSN 1094-1665 print/ISSN 1741-6507 online/11/020001– 13 # 2011 Asia Pacific Tourism Association DOI: 10.1080/10941665.2011.617049
  3. 3. 2 Peter Semone rarely accorded to enhancing local capacity to fourteenth century under King Fangum. For take advantage of the opportunities that 300 years Lan Xang had influence reaching tourism can create (Liu and Wall, 2006). Esi- to present-day Cambodia and Thailand, as chaikul and Baum (1998, p. 369) explain: well as over all of what is now Laos. After “Tackling human resource issues is widely gradual decline, Laos came under the domina- recognized as critical to the success of inter- tion of Siam (Thailand) from the late eight- national tourism but this, in practice, is fre- eenth century until the late nineteenth quently served more by lip-service than action”. century when it became part of French Indo- While micro-level HRD issues faced by china. The Franco-Siamese Treaty of 1907 tourism companies and organizations, such defined the current Lao border with Thailand. as hotels, travel agencies and airlines, are In 1975, the Communist Pathet Lao took fairly well understood and manageable at the control of the government ending a six-Downloaded by [Mr Peter Semone] at 19:03 29 September 2011 individual business unit level, macro-level per- century-old monarchy and instituting a strict spectives of HRD and its impact on good socialist regime closely aligned to Vietnam. A overall destination management generally gradual, limited return to private enterprise remain an enigma (Baum and Szivas, 2008). and the liberalisation of foreign investment Macro-level HRD issues affect overall laws began in 1988. Laos became a member service quality of a destination as delivered of ASEAN in 1997 (CIA, 2011). by the myriad of service providers along the With a per capita gross domestic product of tourism supply chain and include: dialogue US$2,400, Laos is ranked among the poorest and partnership between public and private countries in the world with an estimated sectors, the provision of quality education 26% of its 6.4 million population living and training curricula and programmes, below the poverty line. Of the 3.65 million- service quality measures, public awareness strong labour force, 80% are occupied in agri- campaigns, career paths and employment con- culture and 20% engaged in industry and ser- ditions, accreditation and certification, and vices. Ranked globally 147th, Laos earns some tourism sector labour market research (Baum US$1.2 billion from exports (CIA, 2011). and Szivas, 2008). The purpose of this paper is to analyse the current destination-level tourism-sector operat- Lao Tourism Performance Analysis ing environment in Laos and to identify key constraints, which may potentially be remedied In recent years Laos has decidedly embraced through improved HRD at the destination tourism as a priority sector for economic and management level. International best practices social development (LNTA, 2006). As recorded are also explored leading to recommendations in Table 1, in 2010 some 2.5 million overseas of respective actions, roles and responsibilities visitors came to Laos generating export earnings of various tourism sector stakeholders. of just under $400 million, which accounts for approximately one quarter of the country’s About the Lao People’s Democratic export earnings and makes tourism the second Republic (Laos) largest export generator after minerals (LNTA, 2011). Modern-day Laos has its roots in the ancient In servicing these visitors, tourism in Laos Lao kingdom of Lan Xang, established in the employs a core workforce of some 17,000
  4. 4. A Case Study: Enhancing Laos’ Tourism Sector Performance 3 Table 1 International Tourism Arrivals/Receipts (in USD) Year 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2015 (∗ ) 2020 (∗ ) Tourist Arrivals (rounded/ millions) 1.1 1.2 1.6 1.7 2.0 2.5 3.5 4.1 Tourism Receipts (USD Millions) 147 173 233 276 268 382 494 620 (∗ ) Forecasts (LNTA, 2011) people with a further indirect employment effect days and low per diem spending patterns of up to 167,000 people or 5% of the workforce which are on average less than US$30 a dayDownloaded by [Mr Peter Semone] at 19:03 29 September 2011 (ADB, 2005). Tourism is expected to continue (LNTA, 2011). The remaining 15.7% of arri- to play an important role in Laos’ economic vals, which is defined as all markets other and social growth and prosperity, especially in than regional visitors, stay an average of terms of job creation. The growing demand seven days and spend US$75 per day and in for community-based tourism products is 2010 produced 55.4% of Laos’ tourism- helping to create jobs in rural areas that comp- related revenues (LNTA, 2011). In comparing lement employment in the agricultural sector. 2009 and 2010 figures, this trend seems to be In the near future, tourism’s contributions will accelerating as revealed in Table 2. likely increase as efforts are made to reduce The predominance of low yield regional the proportion of the workforce engaged in agri- visitors can potentially tilt Laos’ tourism car- culture, forestry and fisheries and increase rying capacity scale in an unsustainable the%age of the national workforce engaged in angle, which may eventually destroy the deli- service sectors (LNTA, 2006). cate balance between economic, environ- The outlook for Lao tourism is positive and mental and social factors encompassed in the industry is currently working towards tourism (LNTA, 2009). meeting a number of challenging demand-side It would be unfortunate if Laos could not targets that will see overseas visitor numbers enjoy the long term economic and social devel- reach nearly 3.5 million in 2015 and as many opment benefits associated with tourism. as 4.1 million by 2020 (LNTA, 2011). Especially when it is widely recognised that In addition to growing tourism arrival the benefits of tourism can generate scarce numbers, Laos is challenged with increasing foreign exchange, create jobs for semi-skilled tourism revenues by escalating high-end and unskilled labor, develop the arts, encou- tourism demand from short, medium and rage handicraft and export industries, and sub- long haul markets (LNTA, 2009). Regional sidize the development of transportation demand, which is defined as visitors originat- infrastructure (Baum and Szivas, 2008). ing from Cambodia, China, Myanmar, Thai- land and Vietnam, produced 84.3% of Laos’ Stakeholder Roles in Destination Human visitor arrivals in 2010, but only 44.6% of Resource Development tourism-related revenues (LNTA, 2011). This is due in large part to their relatively short The leading public sector institution for length of stay which is typically less than two tourism in Laos is the LNTA, which is
  5. 5. 4 Peter Semone Table 2 Regional vs. Other Market Earnings Comparison (in USD) 2009 2010 Arrivals % Revenue % Arrivals % Revenue % Total 2,008,363 100.0 267,700,224 100.0 2,513,028 100.0 381,669,031 100.0 International 299,986 14.9 138,570,880 51.8 394,539 15.7 211,626,975 55.4 Regional 1,708,377 85.1 129,129,344 48.2 2,118,489 84.3 170,042,056 44.6 Source: Statistics Report (LNTA, 2011).Downloaded by [Mr Peter Semone] at 19:03 29 September 2011 charged with developing, marketing and regu- Unfortunately, the human element of lating the sector on behalf of the central gov- tourism development is often neglected, par- ernment. Each of Laos’ 17 provinces has a ticularly at the destination level. Liu and Provincial Tourism Department (PTD), Wall (2006, p. 162) are rightly critical of this which support the LNTA in executing neglect when they state that “tourism’s tourism development, marketing and policy human resource issues are poorly conceptual- at the provincial and district levels. The ized and the many studies of tourism develop- LNTA also has a training department, which ment approaches, both theoretical and offers occasional short courses in tour practical, provide no consolidation of useful guiding and basic hospitality skills in Vien- recommendations to situate the human dimen- tiane and the Provinces. sion as an integral part of a comprehensive The literature suggests that government planning framework for tourism”. plays a critical role in ensuring tourism is The private sector is an important stake- developed in an appropriate manner. Richter holder and an immediate beneficiary of good (1985, p. 203) notes the centrality of public destination HRD practices. When government sector involvement in tourism: “The crucial formulates policies and national tourism question is not whether government’s play a plans, it is important to ensure that the role in tourism development, but what kind various perspectives of tourism industry stake- of role is played”. According to Hall (2000), holders are considered, as individual organiz- government should help to shape the econ- ational needs and business objectives of omic framework for the tourism industry, private sector companies cannot be over- provide the infrastructure and educational looked and may differ from the macro destina- requirements for tourism, establish the regu- tion level plans and objectives (Baum and latory environment in which business oper- Szivas, 2008). Baum and Szivas (2008, ates, and take an active role in promotion p. 787) point out the fragmented nature of and marketing. Baum and Szivas (2008) tourism: “Multiproduct characteristics create suggest that responsibility for tourism rests diversity within tourism but they are also with all stakeholders, but in particular the founded on substantial sectoral interdepen- state and its agencies, which control the dencies built around the notion of a tourism nation’s policies. destination, which for most visitors, often sub-
  6. 6. A Case Study: Enhancing Laos’ Tourism Sector Performance 5 sumes the individual business components tourism and hospitality education is that it is within it”. However, owners of tourism expected to dance to a tune of a fragmented businesses are driven by different objectives. and heterogeneous sector where there are Many tourism businesses are established or few commonly defined needs at a technical purchased with the needs and preference of or knowledge level”. Leiper, Hobson and the owners and their families being paramount Lewis (2007) also use dance as a metaphor (Getz, Carlsen, & Morrison, 2004). There- for this relationship by suggesting that edu- fore, the culture of tourism is not necessarily cation providers and industry should openly collectivist and each sub-sector tends to think “tango” together, and not expect everyone to and operate in an autonomous manner so necessarily march to the same drummer. The that the “big picture” management of case made by Failte Ireland (2005, p. 81) is, tourism whether in terms of marketing or “In the absence of an active dialogueDownloaded by [Mr Peter Semone] at 19:03 29 September 2011 quality is challenging and tends to be fraught between both parties, education providers with contradiction (Baum and Szivas, 2008). will design programmes that they believe are Another critical stakeholder in destination appropriate, and tourism enterprises will HRD is education and training providers. either ignore some programmes or complain Ranked 164th globally in 2008, Laos’ edu- that they do not meet their needs”. cation system remains comparatively weak by It can be surmised from the literature review international standards. School life expectancy that the education-government-industry at the primary to tertiary levels is 9 years with relationship is important and that the education expenditure at 2.3% of GDP. Of absence of this tripartite partnership can jeo- those aged 15 and over, 73% can read and pardise the development of an emerging write (CIA, 2011). In 1990, Laos signed the tourism destination such as Laos. Jomtian Declaration on Education for All which eventuated in a Ministry of Education (MOE) authored plan of action that empha- Research Methodology sizes as one of its priorities the expansion of vocational, technical and higher education to In 2008, the Government of the Grand Duchy meet the needs of the new labor market and of Luxembourg agreed to fund Project LAO/ improve the economic rates of return (MoE, 020, an official development assistance 2002). The National Socio-Economic Develop- (ODA) project implemented through the ment Plan 2006–2010 recognised that in com- Agency for Luxembourg Development parison with other countries in the region, the Cooperation with the stated objective of investment in HRD is low in Laos and that pro- strengthening human resources in the hospital- moting economic development with human ity and tourism industry. The LNTA and development is a critical success factor for the MOE were assigned as the official Lao country (Government of Laos, 2006). counterparts. In fact, the literature suggests that a critical In late 2008, the LNTA with technical success factor for destination HRD is a strong support from Project LAO/020 commissioned linkage between the private sector and edu- a study to assess and appraise the human cation providers, but this does not always resource practices in the hospitality and occur. As Baum, Amoah, and Spivack (1997, tourism sector. The scope of the fieldwork p. 227) argue, “One of the difficulties for included nine distinct strands. Table 3 sum-
  7. 7. 6 Table 3 Lao Hospitality and Tourism HRD Research Strands Peter Semone Strand # Target Audience Objective Methodology and Sample Size 1 HR Managers in the Industry Gain an understanding of HR practices in Laos’ Personal interviews, two small focus group hospitality and tourism sector. meetings and select questions in survey. 2 All Tourism Enterprises Gain insight into the nature and scope of HR Questionnaire administered by native Lao-speakingDownloaded by [Mr Peter Semone] at 19:03 29 September 2011 issues and practices among hospitality and interviewer to owners and/or managers of 317 tourism enterprises in Laos. companies in five provinces of Laos. 3 Small and Medium Sized Gain an understanding of HR issues and 17 focus group seminars were held with Enterprises challenges unique to small and medium sized representation from 150 small and medium sized enterprises, which are predominant in Laos. enterprises (SME) in five major tourism provinces. 4 Representative and Gain an understanding of professional industry Personal interviews with representatives of LHRA Professional Bodies group issues and challenges as they pertain to and LATA. sector HRD. 5 Hospitality and Tourism Gather insight into perception of the value of Questionnaire administered by native Lao- Programme Graduates education received from hospitality and tourism speaking to 224 graduates of hotel and tourism programmes in the country and its applicability education programmes, some of which are to a career in the sector. currently employed in the sector and others who are not. 6 Students Currently Enrolled Gain insight into the current training and Eighteen focus groups were held with a total of 292 in Hospitality and Tourism education provision and possible gaps in students attending private and government Programmes delivery which may exist. tourism schools and colleges across the country sharing their insight. 7 Tourism Education Providers Gain an understanding of the type of education and 14 Vientiane-based public and private schools were training programmes that are on offer in Laos. interviewed by telephone. 8 Women and Ethnic Identify optimum training topics and delivery Twelve focus groups were staged with a total of Minorities in Tourism modes for women and ethnic minorities, 125 persons participating. especially in rural communities. 9 Regional Tourism HRD Identify best practice in hospitality and tourism Desk/Internet research was conducted covering Initiatives HRD in Laos and throughout ASEAN. regional school programmes and curricula, other HRD focused donor projects and ASEAN HRD initiatives.
  8. 8. A Case Study: Enhancing Laos’ Tourism Sector Performance 7 marises the content of each strand, respective and the resultant work readiness of students research methodology and sample sizes. graduating from these programmes. The Vientiane-based Unity School of Manage- findings of the nine strands of research ment (USM) was engaged to assemble a Lao- provide a snapshot of Laos’ tourism landscape speaking survey team to administer the and evoke a number of topical HR issues and surveys, telephone interviews, personal inter- challenges prevalent in the sector, which are views and focus groups. The team consisted summarised below. of three international consultants and two teams of eight experienced Lao social science researchers. Each team had its own leader Tourism Sector Characteristics and work plan. In order to capture primary data to support the overall research, two ques- The LNTA (Lao National Tourism Adminis-Downloaded by [Mr Peter Semone] at 19:03 29 September 2011 tionnaires were developed and administered tration) estimates that there are some 3,124 by the survey teams to 317 tourism-related registered private sector establishments in the companies (Strand 2) and 224 past hospitality Lao tourism sector, many of which are and tourism graduates (Strand 5) in five of members of either the Lao Association of Laos’ key tourism provinces, including: Vien- Travel Agents (LATA) and the Lao Hotel tiane Capital, Vientiane Province, Luang and Restaurant Association (LHRA) (LNTA, Prabang, Champassak, and Khammouane. 2011). The questionnaires were developed based on During two separate interviews for Strand 4 similar surveys conducted in other parts of research, common needs emerged from the the world and were pre-tested for validity leaders of LATA and LHRA in respect to the and understanding. They were administered macro-level needs of their members. These through a face-to-face interview process include: a greater variety of industry training resulting in a response rate of 100%. programmes, improvements in the quality of Primary data was also collected through tele- the existing sector-education provision, and phone and one-to-one meetings with a increased awareness by the government and number of professionals from the tourism the community of the importance of tourism and education sectors. Secondary data was as a generator of national income and a collected from focus groups. For direct inter- creator of jobs. The organisations responded views and focus groups, a list of questions positively to any initiatives to improve and guidelines was prepared and pre-tested human resources in the tourism and hospital- prior to the research teams conducting field- ity sector, such as Project LAO/020. work. Strands 2 and 3 provide evidence that the majority of businesses are small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) with 73.2% of the Findings 317 companies surveyed reporting to be family-run businesses with fewer than ten The research provides an insight into the hos- employees. 16.4% of surveyed firms reported pitality and tourism industry’s structure, being foreign-owned, but locally managed current and future human capital needs, and and 8.5% reported being joint ventures. The existing HR practices. It also appraises the gender ratio is nearly 50/50 with women pre- current sector-specific education provision dominant in the following positions: recep-
  9. 9. 8 Peter Semone tionist (52%), reservations (75%), cashier repeated continually and that workers are (66%) and housekeeping (100%). Meanwhile highly sensitive to criticism. representation at senior management level is The research also provides insight into the male dominated. Males also reportedly have characteristics that companies are looking for higher levels of education. Young people in employees and provides a baseline for edu- under the age of 24 occupy three out of the cation providers in developing their desired five dominant tourism-sector positions, graduate profile according to industry needs. namely: receptionist, reservationist and These include: foreign language skills, practi- cashier. cal experience, computer literacy, interperso- In terms of women and ethnic minorities, nal skills, basic knowledge, a good work the focus groups organised under Strand 8 ethic and a positive attitude towards work. indicate that in rural areas they tend to haveDownloaded by [Mr Peter Semone] at 19:03 29 September 2011 greater tourism-related opportunities than men. This is due to the fact that women Employment Practices engage in a variety of activities along the tourism supply chain such handicraft Strand 1, 2 and 3 research indicates that pro- production that provide women with greater fessional HR managers are not the norm in possibilities for self-employed. For jobs that Laos’ hospitality and tourism businesses. are directly related to tourism, such as hotels Dedicated HR personnel were found in only and restaurants, it the focus groups indicated 21 out of the 317 hospitality and tourism that gender stereotypes and prejudices limit firms surveyed (7%). women’s access to higher and more diversified Recruitment procedures appear to be fairly positions in the tourism sector. standard considering the high ratio of SMEs. 77% of owners/managers report simply waiting for employees to “walk in” to seek Assessment of Current Workforce and employment. 61.2% count on their relatives Desired Graduate Profile to fill vacancies and 42.3% find their employ- ees through friends’ recommendations. Larger Many owners/managers of companies sur- companies or foreign managed companies veyed for Strands 2 and 3 raise concerns tend to use additional means such as advertise- about the inadequacies of their current staff ments and recruitment agencies, particularly and note that employees have insufficient for management positions. skills (69.1%) in a general sense and insuffi- The research highlights that three main cri- cient language skills (71.9%) in particular. A teria are critical for employers when recruiting quarter of those surveyed report employees staff. Those with the highest response fre- are not sufficiently committed to their work. quency include: language skills (57.7%), per- This is combined with a generally low under- sonality traits (15.4%) and professional standing of the world both in Lao terms and experience in the tourism sector (6.6%). Aca- with reference to the world from which their demic qualifications relating to the tourism visitors arrive. Further concerns relate to train- sector are identified by just 5.3% of employees ability and a willingness of staff to take aboard as a main criterion. This, as will become what they are told to do and how to do it. evident, has serious ramifications for the There is a perception that advice has to be relationship between industry and education
  10. 10. A Case Study: Enhancing Laos’ Tourism Sector Performance 9 providers and is a real indictment of the exist- businesses, report a preference for training ing education provision in the country. staff themselves in-house. Yet when compa- In terms of contracts, more than half of the nies need to train management staff on surveyed companies (52.4%) do not have all general subjects such as HR and tourism man- of their staff under contract. Meanwhile agement, there is a preference to send them 82.6% of companies report having job descrip- abroad. This is due to the lack of quality train- tions for all positions in their establishments. ing options available in Laos for both basic In regards to salaries, the research points to and specialised topics. Large businesses a tourism sector that is relatively well devel- prefer on-site training with foreign consultants oped in terms of its systems, and is competitive and exchange training programs with other in terms of payments made to employees at all businesses, either in-country or abroad, while levels. The research shows that 65.6% of the SMEs show a clear preference for public train-Downloaded by [Mr Peter Semone] at 19:03 29 September 2011 companies do have a salary and grading scale ing providers and public tourism schools due for all employees. The average salary in the to cost factors. tourism industry is between 500,000 and As for future training, 72.8% of the compa- 1,000,000 Lao Kip per month (approximately nies surveyed indicated a readiness to pay for US$60 – 120). Additionally, many tourism all employees while 26.1% will pay only for sector employees earn extra money from tips, management staff. Preferred training topics service charges, incentives and commissions. include: HRD/HRM (77.6%), receptionist On the topic of career paths and appraisal (62.4%), hotel management (56.7%) and systems 84.9% of surveyed companies feel tourism management (53.6%). In general, that they offer good career paths to their tourism businesses show a readiness to pay staff. However, given the SME dominance of for training with a preference for short-term tourism businesses, the extent to which mean- training, participatory workshops, evening ingful career development is possible is ques- training, training on weekends or during low tionable. Complementary to claims about season with qualified teachers and high train- career paths, 73.2% of companies report ing standards. Many employers are hesitant having a formal appraisal system, but it is dif- to invest too much in training due to the high ficult to see how this can work effectively given employee turnover rate. the scale and scope of the businesses involved. Existing Hospitality and Tourism Education Current Training Practices and Needs Provision According to the outcomes of Strand 2 and 3 The research in support of Strand 7 indicates research, 52.4% of firms surveyed conducted that the Ministry of Education is the primary some sort of training activities, of which provider of post secondary education. The 53.9% reported moderate change in their MOE operates a national network of 21 tech- employees’ subsequent performance. The nical and vocational education and training most common forms of training include: on- (TVET) schools, eight teacher-training col- the-job training, use of in-house trainers, in- leges, and three universities. There are also a house training with foreign consultants and number of private schools scattered through- external training. Employers, especially small out the country offering certificate, diploma,
  11. 11. 10 Peter Semone bachelor and master degrees. Tourism edu- appears to be low awareness among owners cation is widely offered through this public and managers of available sector education and private school system in Laos, but is gen- programmes and a general consensus that the erally considered ineffective in producing the current education provision does not meet quality of graduates desired by the country’s the private sector’s demand for skilled labour. hospitality and tourism industry. None of the hospitality and tourism education providers report having accreditation with any recog- Donor Aided Project with a Tourism HRD nised international college or university. All Component hospitality and tourism schools suffer from inadequate practical facilities and a lack of Under Strand 9, a number of notable projects Lao language instructional material. There were identified through desk research including the review of project documents and workDownloaded by [Mr Peter Semone] at 19:03 29 September 2011 are estimated to be fewer than 100 hospitality and tourism teachers in the country and they plans. On a national level, organisations such generally possess a low level of practical as the Asian Development Bank (ADB), New skills and theoretical knowledge. Zealand Aid (NZAid), the German Develop- Strands 5 and 6 research show that students ment Cooperation (DED), Netherlands Devel- perceive TVET schools as preparing them opment Organisation (SNV) and the World better for jobs in tourism as compared with Bank’s International Finance Corporation private school students, at least for jobs that (IFC) have or have had projects with a tourism require few qualifications. The number of sector-related HRD component. The ADB sup- public tourism school graduates attaining a ported Mekong Tourism Development Project job in the tourism sector is higher than that and Sustainable Tourism Development Project, for students in private tourism schools. Stu- with its train-the-trainer and regular industry dents from public and private schools training initiatives in the Lao provinces, compete for the same jobs, yet students from seemed to be the most embedded and widely private schools have more difficulties finding accepted of these projects in terms of HRD. work in the hospitality sector. As students On a regional level, Southeast Asian from vocational public schools have more countries have agreed to develop common com- practical training, they find jobs more easily petency standards for tourism professionals than private school students. Out of 292 stu- and a common tourism curriculum with the dents surveyed, only 18% found a job in the goal of mutual recognition of tourism pro- tourism sector. fessionals within the region. The programme In fact, very few sector workers appear to is being implemented under the auspices of have any formal education or training. Based the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on responses of SME owners and managers, (ASEAN) with Australian Aid (AusAID) pro- only 42 (.72%) of the estimated 5,831 employ- viding initial financial and technical support. ees working at 317 companies surveyed have any sort of degree from a hospitality and Conclusions tourism education programme, indicating that tourism schools may be providing more A number of HR-related issues and challenges employees to other economic sectors than to endemic to Laos’ tourism industry emerge hospitality and tourism industry. There through the research findings. If not remedied,
  12. 12. A Case Study: Enhancing Laos’ Tourism Sector Performance 11 Laos’ tourism sector runs the risk of not LNTA, to promulgate policy initiatives achieving its anticipated role in contributing aimed at improving sector service quality, sus- to the country’s economic and social develop- tainability and profitability. The Strategy calls ment. They can be summarised as follows: for developing a skilled pool of sector human resources among the existing and future work- . The quality and scope of the country’s exist- force. It is also recognised that broad national ing education and industry training pro- awareness of tourism’s positive and negative vision is insufficient to meet the hospitality impacts by the greater community is impera- and tourism industry’s current and future tive. In short, if tourism is to become a labour needs: means of economic and social development . Improvements in service quality are required in Laos, then greater attention must be given to improve Laos’ destination competitive- in tourism plans to the needs of industry andDownloaded by [Mr Peter Semone] at 19:03 29 September 2011 ness and sector profitability; residents alike. In a country like Laos this . There appears to be demand by tourism can only effectively be done through strong enterprises for a variety of short term flexible public sector involvement, which should be training options; spearheaded by the LNTA and involve all . The existing workforce is deficient in on-the- levels of the Lao Government (LNTA, 2009). job skills, motivation, problem solving abil- ities, and general communication; . Existing hospitality and tourism education Pillar Two: Stakeholder Collaboration programmes at the diploma and bachelor and Coordination level face a myriad of challenges ranging from a lack of qualified instructors to substan- Pillar Two recognises that a consultative dard instructional materials and facilities; and process should exist that is inclusive of . The hospitality and tourism industry is per- various government departments at the ceived as low paying and there is a general national and provincial level, public and lack of awareness among young people of private development cooperation partners, available career opportunities in the sector. the private sector at the enterprise and associ- ation level, and the education community. It To remedy these issues and challenges, sys- proposes the formation of a HRD Implemen- temic changes are required in how tourism is tation Commission with broad stakeholder coordinated, marketed, planned and regulated engagement. Only through this sort of an inte- in Laos. The HRD Strategy 2010 –2020, grated approach to HRD will Laos be able to which was co-authored by the author of this enhance service quality and thereby enhance paper, outlines three strategic pillars that can its visitor profile and achieve higher tourism augment improvements in tourism sector revenues (LNTA, 2009). service quality (LNTA, 2009). Canada and the Republic of Ireland provide good examples of best practice in this sort of destination level HRD collaboration. Pillar One: Public Sector Leadership Through a co-ordinating body known as the Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council Pillar One of the Strategy reasserts the impor- (CTHRC), the planning and execution of tance of public sector institutions, such as the training and development of human resources,
  13. 13. 12 Peter Semone as well as the setting of standards and certifica- tained investment in both hardware and soft- tion, and the advocacy of tourism human ware supportive of destination HRD. resource development issues are affected har- Education and training currently being pro- moniously at Canada’s national level. In vided in Laos’ public and private education Ireland, CERT was established in 1963 and institutions needs dramatic improvement in functions as the state agency formally respon- terms of teacher quality, curriculum design, sible for the recruitment, education and train- delivery methods and adaptation to industry ing of personnel for all levels of the hospitality needs. Industry sees the current education pro- and tourism industry (Amoah and Baum, vision as being not practical enough and deliv- 1997). ered by teachers who have neither the Implementation of this type of consultative necessary industry work experience nor the body in Laos requires clear recognition of the skill base. At the same time, many employers,Downloaded by [Mr Peter Semone] at 19:03 29 September 2011 roles of each of the stakeholder partners in and the industry associations express a strong relation to workforce development; identifi- interest in becoming involved in curriculum cation of potential synergies that may exist development, and in initiatives to strengthen between various partners and stakeholders; the links between companies and educational sharing of resources and responsibilities; and institutions. However, the current feeling is ultimately to the development of inclusive that instead of a partnership, there is a lack action and work plans. To ensure continued of willingness from the public sector, giving transparency and momentum, it is suggested the impression that the education system is that this consultative body should meet on a focusing on the quantity rather than quality. quarterly basis in an open public session to In short, the quality of hospitality and report on progress in implementation of tourism training and education initiatives in common HRD initiatives. There should be a Laos require significant improvements in designated moderator and part of the session quality if industry HR demand is to be sated. devoted to direct dialog with the stakeholder Accomplishing this entails developing a com- community, where questions can be answered, petency based industry-training programme ideas gathered, objections noted and that is nationally recognised by all tourism sta- addressed, and a sense of co-operation fos- keholders; enlarging hospitality and tourism tered. curricula at the diploma, bachelor and post- graduate levels to be better aligned with indus- try employment demands; increasing the Pillar Three: Development of Sector capacity of Lao teachers and trainers; and Education and Training Provision developing national and provincial centres of excellence dedicated to sector education and Pillar Three calls for responding to industry training. HRD needs through various education and If all Lao tourism stakeholders were to training initiatives aimed at improving skills follow this approach to destination HRD and and competencies among the existing work- engage in earnest in their respective roles, force, while preparing the future workforce then there is a distinct possibility that by with the requisite knowledge, skills and atti- 2020 the sector can produce a billion dollars tude required by the service sector in the in export revenue with a wide scope of benefi- future. This necessitates significant and sus- ciaries.
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