China's continued Hotel Boom and the Shortage of Qualified Staff.
By René J.M. Schillings
Thursday, 24th June 2010
While the rest of the world is still licking its wounds from the International Financial Crisis, China seems to be the least effected and the development of new hotels as part of urban redevelopment plans, tourism development in various regions and as plain investment by real estate companies mostly, but many others is going full steam again.

For the financial analysts we may leave the worries about a possible bubble to burst sooner or later. As hoteliers we are more concerned that the current growth of hotel properties is not sustained by the availability of managers for all these hotels. The mere building of a hotel in China, finding location, investment and determination to build a hotel is not the bottleneck to further growth.

But for the operational excellent operation of hotels, to safeguard guest satisfaction, brand standards as well as the owner's investment, there is a serious bottleneck in China, and all hotel managers in China are talking about this as one of the most severe issues keeping them busy.

Asia Pacific is leading the recovery in global hotel performance, achieving the strongest revenue per available room (revPAR) growth during the first four months of 2010, up 24.1% to US$83. The region is also leading growth in international tourist arrivals and passenger traffic, so if this trend continues, revPAR may push past the US$100 level at some point this year.

If this happens, the region will be achieving the best performances it has ever achieved. At 1,049 projects/292,619 rooms, China continues to represent the lion's share of the Asia Pacific Pipeline, with 59% of all projects and 68% of rooms. China's sustained economic growth makes it a top priority for global hotel companies for both new construction and reflagging opportunities.

The increasing spending power and mobility of the domestic population has also caught the attention of local, domestic  Chinese hotel companies being formed almost weekly, or if already existing, expanding with development programs for more properties in new locations. he World Tourism Organisation recently predicted that China will overtake France to become the world's largest tourist destination by 2015."

Yet the industry as a whole is facing challenges to retain its talents and is fighting a war to attract the best hoteliers for their own hotels. According to a new CareerBuilder survey, thirty percent of hospitality employers are concerned about losing their high-performing workers in the second quarter, while nearly half (46 percent) of hospitality workers, the highest among industries surveyed, said it is likely they will start looking for a new job when the economy picks up.

The China Daily reported recently that 30 – 50% of the expatriates in China do not complete their contracts. The problem however is not the lack of expatriates wanting to work in China. It is often a matter of ill-prepared hoteliers that are placed in work situations unfamiliar to them, for lack of careful selection and not taking the qualifications required for working in the current Chinese environment into account when hiring managers focus too much on functional previous experience of a candidate but are themselves perhaps unaware of the challenges such experienced managers may face in the day-to-day work situation in China.

But expatriates represent perhaps less than 2% of the hoteliers in China. The real shortage is for local Chinese hoteliers. We have often reported that qualified Chinese hoteliers are available, but simply too few for each and every hotel in China and for each and every department to be its head.

About the Author:
René J.M. Schillings, a Dutch National, is the owner, founder and Managing Director of TOP Hoteliers, the first specialized hospitality recruitment agency to open offices in the People's Republic of China (in 2004). Based in Hong Kong he devotes most of his time managing the 2 offices in Shenzhen and Beijing, where his team of consultants recruit hotel managers for all major international and some local hotel companies in China. His company was very early to recognize the need for local talent, Mandarin speaking expatriates and China experienced expatriates. His knowledge of the China Hotel Industry stems from his career as Hotelier in China that began in 1997. He has a BA in Hotel Management from Stenden University, a.k.a Hotel Management School Leeuwarden, The Netherlands and an MA in International Tourism & Leisure Studies from Metropolitan University in London, England. He is a keen observer of industry trends and has published numerous articles on HR issues in hospitality in China.

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