The sector, according to experts, is also evolving due to automation through the use of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.
As such, workers need to have new skills to stay relevant.
"Without new skills, what they know becomes obsolete, it cannot be utilised nor can they enter into the labour market," Institute of Labour Market Information and Analysis (Ilmia) senior director Betty Hassan said in her presentation for a study titled, “Environmental Scan for the Tourism Sector.”
The tourism and hospitality industry in 2017 employed 23.5% out of 15 million Malaysian workforce and contributes RM159 billion to the country's Gross Domestic Product.
According to the study, there is a growing skills gap among many current workers in the industry as well as fresh graduates.
This is due to a limited or outdated curriculum, a lack of trainers with "on the job" experience, limited internship options and employees ill-equipped to take on new digital skills.
The study said employers should be encouraged to invest in skills development to overcome the gap.
Digitalisation incentives or grants are needed to help local players in the sector.
There should also be efforts to set up accelerators or incubators to create digital solutions for local tourism and hospitality companies.
Tourism Malaysia senior director of domestic and events Datuk Dr Ammar Abd Ghapar said private colleges should have short courses to provide reskilling and training programs in the hospitality and tourism industry to fill in the vacuum of skills and talent needed in the industry.
"It can be a collaboration between the Human Resources ministry, Tourism, Arts and Culture ministry and the private sector.”
Ammar said the industry must act fast to train up local workers.
"We are now talking about preparing for post Covid-19. When we open the industry to international tourists, will we be ready?”
UiTM Head Centre of Hotel Management Mohd Noor Ismawi Ismail said the syllabus for courses in most public university, including UiTM emphasises Industrial Revolution 4.0 and Education 5.0.
Industrial Revolution 4.0 is the ongoing automation of traditional manufacturing and industrial practices, using modern smart technology, while Education 5.0 is UiTM's teaching and learning approach which embraces technological advancement, with emphasis on values and future progressive thinking.
Ismawi said the hotel and tourism faculty inculcates digitalisation in many of its subjects.
"These include a property system for check-in hotels, smart room technology, food technology via menu engineering, and others such as digital tourism which works to link all travel agents using Big Data, ” he said.
Ismawi said curriculum reviews are done every three years with input from stakeholders such as industry players and policy makers.
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