AMMAN — Although the hospitality sector is experiencing a revitalisation with an unprecedented quantity of tourist footfall, the migration of skilled labour is threatening to compromise growth in the sector, say officials.

About 1.5 million tourists visited Jordan during the first quarter of this year, almost a 90 per cent increase compared with the same period of last year, according to a monthly report from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

Despite the significant jump in the sector’s profits and returns, the increase in tourism requires a highly skilled, motivated and “committed” workforce to manage the increasing demand on service providers.

However, highly skilled and qualified hospitality sector workers are not only resigning from their jobs locally, but leaving the country entirely, believed to be motivated by the promise of better wages abroad.

Ward is a 30-year-old Jordanian who used to work as a full-time travel guide in the Kingdom. In his previous job, Ward told The Jordan Times that his monthly earnings averaged to around JD700. However, Ward received a job in a neighbouring country, where his first job offer provided a monthly salary of JD2,100 as well as a reallocation allowance.

“At the end of the day, we all work for money. I made the right decision by migrating for better payment in return,” Ward said.

Job security doesn’t exist in the hospitality sector, Ward said. As a travel guide, Ward relied on the tips he received from tourists, so when COVID-19 hit, he found himself without a sufficient source of income.

Mohammad Qasem, Spokesperson and Board Member of the Jordan Hotel Association, told The Jordan Times that there has been a profound impact on the industry’s sustainability due to the increasing immigration of skilled workers to neighbouring countries.

“Better salaries overseas are enticing members of the skilled workforce to migrate,” Qasem added.

During COVID-19, authorities decided to reduce the service charge from 10 per cent to five per cent, “Which made sense back then,” Qasem said.

Service charges are additional charges related to the purchase of a product or service. Service charges are paid directly to the company, and are different from tips, which are paid to the employee who renders the service. When paying a tip, the amount is wholly the decision of the customer. However, service charges are included in the total bill.

“Seven of the 10 per cent used to be added to employees’ monthly salary,” Qasem said.

Now that tourism has bounced back, the service charge remains at only 5 per cent, with employees receiving an average of 2.5 per cent.

“We are calling on the authorities to reinstate the 10 per cent the service charge,” Qasem added.

However, Khaled Alhajawi, a board member of the Jordan Travel Agents Association, said that increasing the service charge will have a negative impact on the sector.

“Instead of increasing the service charge, hotels can increase employees’ wages,” Alhajawi told The Jordan Times.

“Jordan is an expensive country for tourists,” Alhajawi noted, adding that increasing the service charge will lead to an increase in the overall cost for tourists, which is a “repellent” factor for the vast majority of potential visitors.

A well-trained and highly skilled workforce positively contributes to the consumer experience and the country’s tourism product. However, increasing service charges will be harmful to the industry in the long-term, he said.

“We need to establish a training department in every hospitality sector facility to be able to deliver a top-notch final product to our tourists,” Alhajawi added.

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