Hotel and tour operators in Vietnam's Mekong Delta region are scratching their heads over solutions to the bitter truth that tourism employees usually "run away from foreign visitors" due to a lack of confidence in their communication skills.
The employees are better at proving their foreign language command in exams than actually communicating with tourists, experts said at a meeting in the Mekong Delta hub of Can Tho on Thursday.
The event was held to exchange experience and garner support and cooperation among the municipal tourism department and those in the neighboring provinces of An Giang and Bac Lieu.
Speaking at the event, Tran Ngoc Nga, deputy director of Ninh Kieu Riverside Hotel in Can Tho, said that some employees at his hotel, all of whom have foreign language certificates listed in their résumés, cannot properly communicate with foreigners.
“They often try to hide when they meet a foreigner,” said Nga, implying that the employees lack confidence in direct communication with foreign language speakers.
Piggybacking off Nga, Nguyen Thanh Buu, director of the Xeo Nhum ecological garden in Can Tho, complained that his company has to offer higher salaries to attract job applicants. However, attractive offers do not mean tourism companies are finding qualified employees.
In reality, the skills and qualifications of employees in the Mekong Delta region generally do not meet the demand of the emerging tourist area, which has unique tourism products and standard properties, according to Tran Minh Tri, director of An Giang Tourimex Company.
“We currently lack tourist guides that satisfy the requirements of socio-cultural knowledge, communication skills and foreign languages,” Tri said at Thursday’s event.
For solutions to the issue, Nga and Buu suggested colleges and vocational schools in the region should place more importance in training foreign languages to students.
Buu even advised training schools to run short-term classes to train their employees with his company’s sponsorship.
Addressing complaints of company representatives, Nguyen Minh Tho, rector of Can Tho Tourism College, said that the institution often opens short-term training courses at its place, as well as at companies’ offices according to enterprises’ demand.
Tran Viet Phuong, director of Can Tho’s tourism department and chairman at the Mekong Delta Tourism Association, believes that “the students have already had the foundation of foreign language knowledge and just need some months of further training [of practice]."