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Key position vacant: But who will fill it, and at what salary?

Trained Staff Shortage: New Resorts Go Hunting

Monday, April 14, 2008
LA FLORA Resort and Spa Patong has just opened, and the law of unintended consequences has already played its part.

For every resort and their employees all over Phuket, it's Game On this green season.

Let us explain. The finishing touches were still being applied to the new five-star on the beachfront when the first guests arrived on April 1.

One unexpected result: People have been walking in off the street to try the elegant-looking beachfront resort in such numbers that La Flora has a surprising 100 percent occupancy rate.

Staff are coping not just with the newness of the place, but also with an unanticipated abundance of guests.

It's just as well, then, that the key staff have been expertly trained . . . at other quality establishments on Phuket.

The key front office staff are from Twin Palms at Surin beach, the key food and beverage staff have come from the Hilton Arcadia at Karon beach, and the housekeeping team learned their trade at a third outstanding Phuket resort.

Let's say right now that we do not know the exact terms of individual salary arrangements. Pay and conditions are, of course, private matters, subject to negotiation.

There are probably sound financial or personal reasons why experienced staff would want to join a spectacular new resort.

Yet it's reasonably safe to predict that there will be a second unintended consequence of the La Flora opening.

And the same consequence is likely to apply to the brace of openings that are to come on Phuket before next high season.

The unintended but predictable outcome: There will be a growing shortage of trained resort staff on Phuket this year.

Given the number of resorts involved, the impact will probably spread to become an intense shortage of staff in some resorts.

This will probably be worsened by the existing shortage on the rival holiday island of Samui, which has already led to Samui resorts advertising on Phuket for staff.

As the opening of La Flora highlights, good staff are in such demand that inflationary pressures over the next few months seem inevitable.

The big question is, can they be controlled, or will the extra cost be passed on?

Only resorts that have their own training programs, combined with attractive loyalty incentives, are likely to retain their go-getters.

Inevitably, some of the best people are likely to go-get.

Looking towards next high season, an increasing number of vacancies seem inevitable, even among the most contented resort staffs.

Being new and extremely appealing, La Flora will probably now enter a honeymoon period when the issue of finding new staff or replacing existing staff is not a prime concern.

But for other resorts, it will become a prime concern, or continue to be one.

That said, La Flora is an imposingly attractive destination, closer to Soi Bangla than the neighboring Impiana Cabana, and like the Impiana, right on Patong beach.

We think it's the only five-star with the Patong sand right at the back entrance. And it has been cleverly implemented by a Thai design team to make the most of that advantage in a tight space.

Two parallel 40-metre lap pools run from near the Beach Road entrance to the ocean steps, surrounded by 57 rooms and 10 villas, each with their own walled pools.

In the Pool Villa Sundeck, for example, mirrors, atrium ceilings, textured timber fixtures and mezzanine floors utilise the space cleverly.

Style and comfort come with the brand, given the experience of the owner, Sompong Daorusit, with the highly-regarded La Flora Khao Lak.

Some of the associated bars and restaurants have yet to be finished but the race is on now to complete the resort, the better to cope with La Flora's unexpected out-of-season popularity.

Until October 31 the low room rate is 9000 baht a night, rising to 30,000 baht for a Beach Grand View Pool Villa.

Those rates rise to 10,600 baht and 35,000 baht respectively for next peak during high season, plus the usual 17 percent tax and service charge.

Meanwhile, the pressures of finding staff will apply through 2008 at the coming new resorts that are expected to boost Phuket's available rooms by 2000 to about 40,000 this year.

But those pressures will rebound on the existing resorts where desirable staff have had their training.

We are told by reliable sources not connected with La Flora that to attract new staff, some resorts are now offering service charge payments that remain the same through high season and low season, no matter what the occupancy rate.

This is a break with common practice that will not please others in the industry.

Every resort on Phuket would like the low season to be wiped out so that peak rates can be maintained all year long.

However, it seems that in-demand resort staff will be the first segment of the tourism industry on Phuket to obliterate the low season from their revenue streams.

For the industry, it presents a high-wire balancing act that may be difficult to maintain without lifting room rates.

Some other resorts are offering prospective staff the advantages of a five-day working week. Again, this is a break with tradition and, for staff who are used to working six days a week, an enormous inducement to change resorts.

Talent and experience deserve rewards.

But will the cost eventually be passed on to paying guests? And will customers begin to compare the price of a Phuket holiday with prices at other destinations?

All we can say is, there may be more unintended consequences for everyone.

For reservations at La Flora Resort Patong, call +66 76 344241

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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In the case of La Flora and other resorts in the 4* and up segment preopening their respective properties, salaries offered are significantly over and above the mean average.

You righly point out the shortage of qualified personnel in Phuket (many left for Samui, Hua Hin, Pattaya etc after the tsunami).

The other important point is that new properties do not yet have a record of the level of service charge paid in low, shoulder, high and peak-season, so Thai staff do not know what to expect and these days do not just accept assurances and are therefore reluctant to accept employment.

To overcome this - at least in the short-term - these new properties tend to pilfer staff from existing resorts and offer substantially higher, but often untenable and unrealistic salaries.

Once the resort is up and running, and after the main season, many staff are retrenched and rehiring is then only on lower salary scales improve bottomline yield.

There are, of course, a few exceptions.

Posted by aseanhotelworks on April 15, 2008 06:47

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People seem desperate for good staff on Phuket everywhere these days. Perhaps that's why the Burmese who speak Enlish seem to end up in some good jobs?

Posted by Fullforward on May 20, 2008 12:16

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Those two comments are absolutely right ! Even in Koh Samui, where there are new resorts opening every month. The hotel management teams of these upcoming establishments could not find any skilled and qualified staff !

Posted by Chicagojackk on August 23, 2008 10:58


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