IHG warns of staff crisis ahead of Beijing Games

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International hotel chains face a severe staffing shortage in China as they clamour to expand to meet the growing demand for hotels in the run-up to the Olympics in Beijing next near, InterContinental warns today.

Despite China's huge population and burgeoning economy, IHG's director of human resources in China Winnie Ng, says a "human resources skills deficit is being unearthed", with a shortage of frontline hotel workers and key executive management positions in HR, finance and sales.

"The majority of the population live in the rural areas and are not educated," she says. "There are about 3 million university graduates every year but they have no real work experience or exposure. Only about 2 per cent are suitable for multinational companies."

She adds that the talent of pool of executives with experience of working in multinationals was small and highly sought after. "There is little company loyalty," she said. "Top of people's lists are salary and career development opportunities."

To address this issue, IHG, the world's biggest hotel operator, has partnered with a number of academic institutions to offer education and training to meet the needs of the industry.

The courses, including a two-year advanced course in hospitality management launched at Shanghai University last year, guarantees employment at IHG on graduation.

IHG has been in China for 22 years and operates 67 hotels, including 36 Holiday Inns, the No 1 international hotel brand in the country. A further 84 hotels are in development, including 12 InterContinentals and 29 Crowne Plazas.

IHG employs 23,000 staff in China but needs to recruit 20,000 people over the next three years to support the 125 hotels it plans to open by the end of 2008. "It is important that we build a talent pipeline, and we develop a reputation as an employer who excites people," Ms Ng says.

There are 85,000km of highway under construction linking major cities in China, and IHG wishes to mimic the growth of Holiday Inn in the US in the 1950s, which developed along highways.

IHG will manage the world's largest hotel, the InterContinental Nanjing, which is scheduled to open next year and will be 432 metres high.

By 2020, China will be the world's top incoming tourist destination, with 100 million Chinese people travelling abroad, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.