Staff exodus weakens Sri Lanka’s hotel industry recovery potential

A combination of poor local economic performance in Sri Lanka and the lure of better paying jobs elsewhere has forced skilled hospitality staff to abandon the country.

Many have chosen to move to West Asia, Europe and North America in search of greener pastures, while businesses in Ireland, Japan, Australia, the UK and Canada are courting Sri Lankan hospitality talents.

Hospitality in Sri Lanka is facing a shortage of staff due to the pandemic and other crises in the country

Industry leaders say this is “crippling” Sri Lanka’s hotels.

M Shanthikumar, president of the Hotels Association of Sri Lanka, said the hotel industry is losing 20 to 25 per cent of its staff annually.

Rodney Armstrong, president of the Hotels Association of Kandy, said his hotel lost 15 chefs who went to Qatar to work during the FIFA World Cup last year.

“We have lost other skilled workers. Losing skilled workers is the biggest problem for hotels in Sri Lanka,” he remarked.

A chairman of a five-star hotel in Colombo city, who has asked not to be named, said the number of workers leaving the industry has increased during the pandemic and last year’s economic crisis.

The lack of skilled manpower to support operations and business recovery is especially worrying when hotel operators are also burdened by rising electricity rates and loan repayment pressures.

The anonymous hotelier told TTG Asia that electricity is the single highest cost for hotels in Sri Lanka, representing 30 to 35 per cent of total operational costs.

“We need space to recover. We need to rebuild the industry from the ongoing crisis since 2019, but costs are a deterrent,” he said.

Sri Lanka’s travel and tourism industry was given two moratoriums on loan repayments, but it is still challenged by a slow return in international tourists. The country welcomed 2.5 million visitors in 2018. In 2023, only 1.2 million are expected to have visited.

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