x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Arabian Gulf hospitality sector falls behind in job competitiveness

As the pace of hotel construction in Asia-Pacific, northern Europe and the UK picks up, companies in the Gulf will face stiffer competition to recruit talent.

The UAE had 590 hotels accounting for 93,000 rooms at the end of 2013, employing 291,500 people. Delores Johnson / The National
The UAE had 590 hotels accounting for 93,000 rooms at the end of 2013, employing 291,500 people. Delores Johnson / The National

Salaries in the hospitality sector in the Arabian Gulf region need to keep pace with global standards to attract talent as hotels seek to fill positions in a short time ahead of Expo 2020, according to a new report.

The first Hospitality Employment Index (HEI) from the online jobs portal Catererglobal.com surveyed 156,151 people seeking employment in the sector in the UAE, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia in the second half of last year.

“Salaries in the region are not competitive compared to those outside of the Arabian Gulf”, said the report.

The number of hospitality job vacancies in the region increased to 61,000 last year, up from from 18,000 in 2009, it said. The UAE had 590 hotels accounting for 93,000 rooms at the end of last year, employing 291,500 people.

As the pace of hotel construction in Asia-Pacific, northern Europe and the UK picks up, companies in the Gulf will face stiffer competition to recruit talent.

“There are so many hotels in the pipeline, and the issue is how the Middle East [will] still be able to offer the great services when they are going to need so many people and there is a skills shortage in the hospitality sector globally,” said Pete Willis, the director for the Middle East at Catererglobal.com. “If it keeps growing at this rate, they would need to import a lot more qualified labour and they need to change their benefits packages to attract more qualified hospitality professionals.”

For instance, 12-hour days might need to be cut, he said.

The report also points out that westerners in the Gulf earn the most.

Of the countries surveyed, only the UAE, Qatar and Iraq posted more vacancies last year than the previous. Iraq, a new destination for hotel operators, experienced a 165 per cent increase year-on-year of jobs.

Among the 13 job categories, the largest increases in vacancies were reported in food and beverage, front office, chefs, housekeeping and sales and marketing positions. About 76 per cent of posts advertised in the second half of last year were non-management roles – a rise of 32 per cent year-on-year – while management vacancies dropped two percentage points to 24 per cent during the same period.

In a hotel, 80 per cent of the job roles are in non-management categories.

About 55 per cent of hospitality managers from outside of the region would want to relocate to the region, according to the HEI report.

With new hotel and restaurant openings in the past four and five years, the demand has “exploded”, Mr Willis said. “For instance, there is a shortage of chefs because hotels are opening so many restaurants with different cuisines. Now, a hotel has eight to 10 restaurants.”

In the Gulf, the UAE is the primary destination for employees.

In the Middle East and Africa, the UAE has the most number of rooms under construction at 16,762 rooms, said the research company STR Global. It was followed by Saudi Arabia at 16,336 rooms and Qatar at 5,757 rooms.

Of all the vacancies posted in the Gulf, 70 per cent were in the UAE in the second half of last year, followed by Qatar at 12 per cent and Saudi Arabia at eight per cent. The Emirates also attracted the most applications per job, at 100 applications per management job and 75 for each non-management job.

The Gulf hotel market is more focused on luxury. In the UAE, 71 per cent of the properties are in the four- and five-star category.

This is also its weakness, according to the HEI report.

“With such a meteoric boom during the past year, all hiring managers are struggling to bring on board enough of the right people, quickly,” it said. “We therefore expect to see greater numbers of vacancies as we move through [this year].”

Among the global hotel operators, Hilton has about 100 openings in the UAE alone, 20 in Qatar and 40 in Saudi Arabia. Marriott has 210 vacancies in the UAE, 99 in Qatar and 107 in Saudi Arabia.

ssahoo@thenational.ae

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