Tourists from all over the world are flocking to Japan following the easing of pandemic restrictions. But the hospitality industry in the country is struggling to meet their needs because they are facing unemployment. Some hotels are now turning to foreign workers as a solution, with one well-known hotel leading the way.
Rasel Khan, from Bangladesh, has been working at the Kagaya inn in Ishikawa Prefecture since November 2022.
Kagaya is one of the most famous ryokan in Japan. It is often at the top of the list of best hotels compiled by national travel agencies.
As such, visitors arrive with high expectations.
“I’ve always wanted to live here,” one visitor says. “I have heard that Kagaya is very respectful and trains his employees well.
Work regardless of country
More than 30 foreigners work for the Kagaya company. They should learn the Japanese language and the finer points of omotenashior a hospitable spirit.
“Workers from overseas make our foreign guests feel at ease,” says Okuda Takehiro, Kagaya’s staff manager. “And their fun work makes Japanese tourists feel comfortable and relaxed. In the end, the world of workers doesn’t matter, as long as the tourists are happy.”
Changes in the middle of the workforce
The ryokan does not hire non-Japanese people. But the lack of work forces them to adapt.
The industry has been suffering from recession for a long time, but the spread of the coronavirus exacerbated the problem. While hospitality job opportunities are on the rise before 2020, the number of job seekers is not rising enough. Some experts say that many of the former candidates now see the business as unsustainable, having been forced to stop during the pandemic, and have given up altogether.
According to a recent survey conducted by Dive, an organization that supports the hospitality industry, nearly 90 percent of hotels and guesthouses across the country say they are suffering from unemployment.
“Notable Skilled Workers”
The government has been trying to solve this problem since before the outbreak. In 2019, it launched the “Specified Skilled Worker” category, a new tourist accommodation. It was a major change in the government’s policy and its purpose was to deal with the shortage of workers.
Qualified Workers Can work in 12 sectors that are called “hard to find workers.” The accommodation industry is one of them. The government says it will allow more than 11,200 people to work in the industry by the end of March 2024.
Suganuma Motoi is a foreign staff assistant at Dive. He said that ryokan like Kagaya who hire Specified Skilled Workers for their employees are pioneers in the industry.
“Many owners hesitate because they think that the process of hiring foreign workers is difficult and tedious,” he said. “I think what a well-known hotel like Kagaya is doing will have a positive impact on the industry.”
Foreign workers build the future
The presence of foreign workers like Khan seems to be helping to change the perception of tourists.
“He was more polite than the Japanese workers,” said one visitor.
“I want to improve my position here,” says Khan. “I believe that I will be one of the main managers at Kagaya, so I have to work hard to continue learning.
The government has said it hopes to restore the numbers of foreign visitors to the epidemic by 2025. Workers like Khan could be crucial to this goal. No matter how many additional visitors come in, inefficiencies due to understaffing can affect the culture of a country’s hospitality industry, resulting in less revenue.