Hotels may reduce capacity during CNY due to manpower shortage

Local hotels may need to cap their maximum guest capacity to 70-80% during the Lunar New Year holidays (CNY), commencing this Sunday, due to a shortage of staff in operations, the president of the Macau Hotel Association, Luís Heredia, said in a TDM TV report.

According to Heredia, staff shortages in several areas of the hotel’s operations have resulted from the abrupt reopening of Macau borders on Jan. 8. The need for restricted capacity stems from a need to ensure the quality of service provided by hotel units, which must comply with the standards of their respective class.

Still, he believes the border reopening and the influx of tourists over the last 10 days have already contributed to revitalizing the sector, as well as retail stores and restaurants.

Heredia explained that since the measure came suddenly without warning, many hotel units were understaffed and unable to recruit new staff members at such short notice. This is especially the case since many roles require staff to undergo training before being able to work without supervision.

According to information the Times gathered from local hotel units’ connoisseurs, some are likely to cap their guest numbers due to staff shortages, while others have been able to re-hire former staff members who were laid-off or did not have their contracts renewed during the pandemic.

The latter solution aims to overcome the problem of the training period, as these workers are ready to start working as soon as they arrive in Macau.

Other hotels are choosing to recruit local part-time workers to fill positions that require less experience, as well as calling on their current staff members to extend their working times and temporarily reduce their rest days.

Those workers recruited part-time are mostly students and people who are currently unemployed. However, the majority of students are non-residents coming from the mainland as well as South Asian countries. A bigger concern, in this case, is the time it takes for the Labour Affairs Bureau (DSAL) to approve these workers’ quotas so they can travel to Macau.

This issue has been mentioned by some lawmakers representing the business and commercial sectors.

During Monday’s Legislative Assembly plenary session, the topic was raised once again by lawmaker Wang Sai Man. In a spoken inquiry before the agenda, Wang noted the sectors have voiced concerns that the pool of available workers has halved compared to the pre-pandemic period, and even so, “only half of those workers have experience, while the other half has very little to none.”

Wang said, “the most urgent thing [to do] is to quickly increase staff numbers as the lack of staff and particularly experienced staff affects the experience of tourists and the reputation of stores.”

The same lawmaker also recalled that during the pandemic, “DSAL promised companies that took the initiative to return the labor import quotas that, if they requested them again, the assessment of their requests would expedited. I hope they keep that promise so that companies can quickly get back on track,” he said. Regarding the entry of the non-resident workers to Macau, he said, “I hope that the authorities will review and optimize the current formalities and strengthen communication with the relevant mainland departments so that the formalities for issuing an entry permit can be handled smoothly, and be more convenient and hassle-free.”

Wang also expressed fears that the recruitment of local workers by gaming operators would increase as the hotel and tourism sectors recovered, again causing staffing problems for local SMEs.

“These companies [SMEs] look like a ‘sponge.’ During the pandemic they became a ‘training center’ for qualified personnel for large companies, which was not an easy task. But now with the potential economic recovery, they will again be left behind and see their staff being ‘absorbed’ by large companies,” he said. He called on the government to find ways of stabilizing the labor supply.

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