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Talent crunch gets severe as hotel chains bet big on expansion


India’s hospitality industry is facing a severe talent shortage fuelled by the post-pandemic boom in demand. This may result in fewer staff members tending to guests this year.

Some blame this on inadequate compensation and unfavourable work environment, resulting in high talent churn in the industry.

At Sarovar Hotels & Resorts, while the company is slated to continue opening new properties this year, including five overseas, besides setting up a team in Africa, the biggest challenge for the chain and its fear of brand dilution is the dearth of people.

The chain opened a dozen new hotels in 2023, expanding its portfolio to 111 hotels. It is clocking an annual revenue growth of 16-17%.


“I think we will have to get used to lesser people but better paid people in our hotels in the absence of adequate and quality staff. To overcome the shortage of talent, we are launching our own management training programme from August 1 this year for young assistant managers, housekeepers and chefs,” said Ajay K. Bakaya, the chain’s managing director. “The challenge for every hotel company is not growth or numbers now. It’s about growing without diluting your brand. I want to develop people who understand why we are doing what we are doing,” he added.Rajan Bahadur, chief executive officer of Tourism and Hospitality Skill Council (THSC), promoted by Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) said in 2023, only 4,415 of the 12,205 available seats for degree programmes across all institutes of hotel management (IHMs) got filled. This year will require a workforce of 11.8 million people in the tourism and hospitality space as per broad industry estimates.“I don’t think it will be wild to say most branded hotels in India today are severely underpowered. The current shortfall in the branded hotels space is 80-100,000 people. Branded hotels require 1.2-1.5 million people every year and this requirement is growing at a CAGR of 5.5-.5.6%,” said Divya Krishan, senior vice president at The Job Plus. The company was founded by Natwar Nagar, specifically for the hospitality industry, and works on mobilising unskilled, raw candidates for the sector by putting them through intensive skilling programmes and making them industry ready in six to eight weeks.“The gap between the sector’s requirements and its growth is humungous. It’s very alarming. There is about 50% attrition and there is a paucity of students entering the sector. Poor compensation, lack of support and horrible working conditions are other issues,” said Nagar, who is also the founder of The People Network. “If the industry is doing so well in terms of profitability and still doesn’t want to pay well to show value to shareholders, it won’t work. They will have to change that mindset,” he added.

Nikhil Sharma, market managing director for Eurasia at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts said the chain aims to recruit 1,500-1,700 workers this year and has partnered with The Job Plus to absorb skilled individuals directly.

Rachit Mathur, founder and CEO of Shiftz said he is providing gig workers to the industry as they will be a major driver for the sector in the coming months. “The key areas where gig workers will be used in regular operations are entry level kitchen and bartending jobs, front office, and housekeeping,” he added.

Vikramjit Singh, former president of Lemon Tree Hotels said in his new role as founder and CMD of Alivaa Hotels, he is outsourcing the entire food and beverages department and is planning to ensure senior management of every hotel and unit will be incentivised on the basis of the gross operating profit earned.

“The owners are making money. The brands running hotels are making money, but the staff continues to be poorly paid. This will have to change,” he added.

Bahadur of THSC said it’s possible that hotel chains may need to adjust to operating with fewer staff members in 2024, especially if they continue to encounter challenges in recruiting and retaining skilled employees.

Although managing with fewer personnel may pose certain challenges, hotel chains can navigate this transition by embracing technological advancements and streamlining operational processes, he added.

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