Job creation in hotels is a good sign

By The Editorial Board 17 April 2024, 10:00AM

The clock is ticking and it is now just six months away from the biggest international event this tiny island nation has ever hosted, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, CHOGM.

One of the biggest obstacles faced by the nation is logistics, mainly the accommodation of the thousands who will converge on the island towards the end of October. On that note, it was rather warming to hear that the hotel dubbed as the ‘grand old lady’ at Vaisigano is promising more than 200 jobs when it opens its doors in July after being closed for more than three years.

Major renovations work for the iconic Sheraton Aggie Grey’s Hotel and Bungalow in Vaisigano has been progressing well in the past months giving the Beach Road a glow at night.

The hotel’s Managing Director, Frank Lu said the renovation is expected to complete in June and is planning to do a soft opening in July.

The grand old lady of Apia has been a historic venue and to hear that it will reopen and employ 230 people is indeed good news. This also means that the hotel is anticipating full capacity when CHOGM starts. So are the other hotels.

The delegates from all of the 56 member countries of the Commonwealth, including their entourage, other government ministers, civil servants, security personnel, journalists, photographers, cameramen, and other international bodies would be in Samoa.

This also means that all hotels that will be full would require an adequate labour force. Is the labour drain situation that the nation has been facing an obstacle? It most certainly would be if all staffing shortages especially in the hospitality sector were to be addressed.

This means that for Aggie Grey to get their 230 staff to fulfill all positions, they would have to look abroad to get staff. The nation simply does not have people trained in the hospitality sector to do this. The two possible destinations most hotels would be looking at are Fiji and the Philippines.

The hospitality sector is not just limited to the people serving guests, there are other fields within the hotels as well, such as food and beverage, the kitchen, housekeeping, and guest interaction staff.  

Other hotels would also be utilised and most of these hotels would also look at getting their staffing numbers up to date. If all hotels can utilise local and foreign staff to fulfill their labour quota during CHOGM, it would be great.

However, the question that is raised then, is what would happen to most of the staff that have been brought in after CHOGM ends. Would hotels continue to employ foreign staff when the occupancy drops? This is a very possible scenario because CHOGM would guarantee full occupancy in most hotels but what is the guarantee that the same occupancy rates would follow after CHOGM?

The hiring of foreign staff would have to be done because of the gaps in the labour force. This would be the short-term strategy, and the longer-term strategy would be for the National University of Samoa to offer hospitality courses across all departments, from front desk to housekeeping.

Another issue to raise is about littering. There is a need for many to change their habit of throwing litter everywhere. The mayor of Apia is not happy because throwing litter makes the beachfront an eyesore. Sadly, he is not worried about what litter is doing to the nation, he is more worried about what the tourists are going to be thinking.

There is a definite need for more bins across the country but there should be a change in the habit because children will replicate their parents’ behaviour. Litter is a big problem that has a lasting impact on the environment but the litter issue is something we should not just tackle because it makes the place look bad for tourists but because the future of this nation depends on it.

Back to CHOGM, many questions remain to be answered. What we know is that reserve water supply and backup generators are already being planned and some are already being installed to ensure the smooth flow of these services.

We also know that neighbouring countries would also be providing security personnel from either their police or defence forces for the visit. We also know that the government has shifted all other priorities aside and made CHOGM its number one goal.

All major infrastructure work is CHOGM-themed, most government departments are also working toward this mantra including the Ministry of Education, which is already short of teachers but would provide 300 for logistical operations.

We hope that CHOGM is a success and not an event where all attention is focused so hard on pleasing other people, that the people who matter are forgotten.

By The Editorial Board 17 April 2024, 10:00AM
Samoa Observer

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