Career Advice Job Market Trend Report

Asia-Pacific travel surge fuels salary rises

Workers catering to Asia-Pacific’s frenetic travel boom are reaping the benefits of being in the world’s hottest tourism market.

A recent survey conducted by ACI HR Solutions, a recruitment firm specialising in the travel, tourism, hospitality and lifestyle industries, showed that more than two out of three staff (68 per cent) in the travel and hospitality industry in the region have received a salary increase in the last 12 months.

ACI’s 2014 Salary Report on the Asia-Pacific travel and hospitality industry is based on interviews with over 800 employees. Most are from Singapore, Hong Kong and mainland China, with others from India, Thailand, Australia, Indonesia, Macau and Malaysia. They represent a wide variety of roles, from cabin crew and travel consultants to CFOs and general managers.

Andrew Chan, founder and CEO of ACI, says although the proportion who received a pay hike in 2013 is slightly lower compared to 2012, the figures remain solid. The average hike was also bigger, with 29 per cent saying they had a rise in excess of six per cent, against only 18 per cent in 2012. “This could mean employers are having to spend more to either retain staff or lure them away,” Chan says.

Even as positive Asia-Pacific tourism over the past few years has fuelled travel and hospitality growth right across the region – particularly in terms of new hotels and rising travel demands – Chan believes the talent pool has fallen behind. “This has given employers major challenges in staffing new developments and has swung the pendulum over in the candidates’ favour, particularly in key growth cities,” he says.

Job satisfaction is also up, the report states. A total of 34 per cent of respondents rated the opportunities for career progression at their current employer “excellent” or “good”, compared to 28 per cent in 2013.

Career progression, a key factor in employee satisfaction, was considered either “extremely important” or “very important” by 71 per cent, a slight climb from 66 per cent the year before.

Chan believes the improvement signals that most bosses recognise the talent-pool issue and are implementing talent-management strategies across their organisations, with an emphasis on retention. “Salary is only a small component and ... most candidates will choose organisations based on career-development opportunities,” he says.

As salary prospects remain rosy, Dean Winter, area director of operations – Hong Kong hotels and China projects at Swire Hotels, believes that now is a good time to launch a career in hospitality, or to commit to a future in it. “The growth of the industry in the region, particularly in hotels and restaurants, presents opportunities for all aspects and at all levels. I would expect this to be the case for the next five years, at least,” he says.

Hong Kong recorded the second highest average salaries in the ACI report at US$84,936, behind only Macau (US$106,800) and ahead of Australia (US$81,939). The lowest average was recorded in Malaysia (US$37,418). On the other hand, average salaries of respondents in Singapore increased by 16.1 per cent in the survey, the highest in the region, followed by Thailand (11.5 per cent) and mainland China (9.8 per cent).

Salaries are likely to continue rising if business demands are there, Winter says, with bosses needing to adjust compensation packages to attract good talent. “I would also expect demand for increased efficiency in management positions, where companies pay well for one manager who can do a newly defined role done previously by two,” he says.

On a sour note, the survey discovered that a salary divide between men and women persists, but is less pronounced. Salaries for male respondents were, on average, 12 per cent higher – an improvement on the 40 per cent gap in 2013. Chan thinks the industry is heading towards parity, and this may even be achieved in the next five years. “For now, the choice of family and working-life balance can be the obvious reason we still see this gender gap,” he says.

Chan stresses that the key to retaining valuable workers is to engage them – and efforts must start at the top. “Staff engagement should be at the forefront of best practice when it comes to attracting and retaining talent,” he says. “Long-term goals should be identified early. Work to help them gain the skills and experience to progress.”