Nearly a third of managers in the hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism sectors believe skills gaps are affecting their bottom line.
The claims are made in a survey by People 1st, the Sector Skills Council set up this May to address skills issues in these industries.
Its survey of 5,800 employers found that more than 12,000 job vacancies remained unfilled because there were too few candidates with the required skills - especially in customer care, communication and team-working.
The organisation said the shortages posed a threat to the future of these industries because an under-skilled workforce led to lower productivity, higher operating costs, lost orders and missed customer service targets.
The survey revealed that slightly more than half of the employers had provided some training for staff in the past year.
The skills gap will be discussed at People 1st's inaugural conference on 2 December at the iMax cinema in Waterloo, London.
Speakers will include Sir Francis Mackay, executive chairman of Compass Group; education secretary Charles Clarke; tourism minister Richard Caborn; and Digby Jones, director general of the Confederation of British Industry.