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Staffing could be roadblock to UAE hotel industry

United Arab Emirates: Monday, June 16 - 2008 @ 12:48

Up to 500,000 new staff will be needed over the next five years to meet the human resource requirements of hotels in the UAE, according to Siegfried Nierhaus, General Manager, Radisson SAS Hotel, Dubai Media City.

He says hotels will face enormous challenges with regard to attracting, retaining, training, and housing this huge influx of workers.

New challenges in attracting workers

One of the major difficulties in attracting workers to the UAE is the country’s soaring inflation, which shows no signs of letting up.

‘The increased cost of living in Dubai is definitely a growing concern among overseas workers who are considering the emirate because their main goal is to save money and send it back home,’ Nierhaus explains.

With the emergence of India and other developing countries in Asia, the UAE is also facing greater competition for workers.

‘Historically the Middle East has relied on a highly dependable Asian source of candidates,’ says Peter Willis, Sales Manager of Catererglobal.com, a hospitality recruitment website.

‘With the growth of these emerging markets, especially in India, we are now seeing the flow of candidates change direction. Indian hotel professionals are now returning home as the strong rupee and better living conditions can outweigh what they are being offered in the Middle East.’

With some of the traditional sources of talent beginning to dry up, hotels will need to widen the scope of their search if they expect to find qualified candidates.

‘The resource pool obviously needs to be extended and some HR teams are actively targeting new areas such as South America and Africa,’ Willis says.

Hotel groups are also changing their views on the criteria expected of candidates. ‘Hotels are now starting to look outside the hospitality industry for personalities who have enthusiasm, because the right people can be taught the key skills within a new industry,’ Willis noted.

Retention plays key role

Retention is another area that hotels in the UAE need to dedicate more attention to if they are to meet their staffing targets.

Just 10% of staff in the Middle East hotel industry expect to look for career opportunities within their current property, Willis says, citing a survey of 3,000 hospitality professionals from across the region by Catererglobal.com.

The good news for employers in the region is that 61% of those surveyed said they would be looking to stay in the Middle East, despite the growing number of opportunities that are available elsewhere in Asia.

Given these new challenges, hotels are taking a closer look at what they offer candidates in terms of salary, benefits, and accommodation. ‘We have a staff retention committee where we evaluate why some employees leave and examine our benefits package,’ says Nierhaus.

Every six months the hotel requires its staff to fill out an anonymous questionnaire that seeks to measure their level of satisfaction with regard to their work. This information is critical because ‘only with happy employees will we have happy guests’, Nierhaus says.

In some cases, benefits that were not automatically given are now beginning to be rolled out for the first time. ‘One benefit that we are offering that we have never offered before is life insurance,’ Nierhaus adds.

Housing these workers is becoming a growing challenge, as staff are becoming more demanding about the quality of the accommodations that they live in. ‘We make sure that the owners that we partner with provide good accommodation for workers, which is getting harder in Dubai,’ Nierhaus confirms.

‘If you house them in the emirate it is very costly, but if you move them farther out into the desert transportation costs are going to be high, and workers are going to be spending a lot of time in traffic.’

Training gains importance

Another challenge that hotels need to address is ensuring that service levels for the industry are maintained in the region. ‘Dubai has built a strong reputation in the industry and customers who travel to the emirate expect a high-level of service,’ Nierhaus said.

Training will play an increasingly important role in providing these basic skills and enhancing the skills of existing employees to help boost their career development.

Catering to the region’s growing need for training in the hotel industry will be the new International Hospitality Trade and Training Zone (Ihottz), a $2.8bn joint venture between the Investment and Development Office of the Government of Ras Al Khaimah and the US-based Argentum Development Company.

Around 16 world renowned educational institutions will be hosted at the 90-acre Ihottz campus, which is designed to accommodate as many as 15,000 students upon completion.

The campus will have two centres providing the two-year Hospitality MBA programme, a culinary school with international recognition and a College of Hotel Administration, run by one of the leading international brands, which will offer 4-year and 2- year courses.

Ihottz says it will enter into strategic alliances with local, national and international companies that supply and cater to the hospitality and tourism industries in the region, creating the world’s first hospitality industry ‘super hub’.

See also:
Watch: The Hotel Show overview
International hospitality education hub planned in RAK

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Monday, June 16- 2008 @ 12:48 UAE local time (GMT+4) Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Mediaquest FZ LLC.

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