The hospitality sector in Vietnam must take steps to improve the quality of personnel as tourism professionals from other countries in the ASEAN Economic Community (EC) will be permitted to work within the region by year-end.

Tourism and hospitality staff must have basic professional knowledge and be proficient in foreign languages and IT, according to Nguyen Van Luu, director of the management board of a project called Strengthening of Human Resources in the Hospitality and Tourism Industry in Vietnam, implemented by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

As many as 700,000 employees work in the country's hospitality and tourism field, an increase of 220,000 compared to 2010, Luu said. The number is expected to increase to 1.5 million by 2030.

Of the 700,000 employees, only 7.4 percent hold a bachelor's or post-graduate degree.

As many as 60 percent have some knowledge of foreign languages, including English, China, French and others, with English being the most predominant. However, only 15 percent are proficient in English.

Jon Glendinning, Director of the HCM City-based British Council, cited a survey on tourism in Malaysia, saying that English proficiency could affect hotel choice and satisfaction with their stay.

Luu said that conditions at training facilities in Vietnam are not as good as enterprises, leading to limitations in skill improvement.

Enterprises in this field should take the initiative in cooperating with training facilities to give chances for internship, he said.

"It is best to have a national standard framework for human resources in the field. Based on this, training facilities would have suitable curricula. And the framework would provide criteria on recruitment for enterprises," he said.

Tran Hung Viet, General Director of Saigontourist Holding Company and Chairman of HCM City Tourism Association, said he was optimistic that many students majoring in tourism at university or college would work in other countries in the ASEAN region.

Many Vietnamese students are aware of the upcoming EC Community regulations and are studying on their own to improve their language and IT skills.

In recent years, many students have worked on five-star cruise ships that cater to 1,000-3,000 tourists, he said.

Three to five-star hotels in Vietnam have the same standards as other countries in the region, he said, adding that local staff could easily work at the same hotel chain in other countries.

The forum was held by the Human Resources Centre in cooperation with the Vietnam Institute of Management and the British Council.-VNA