Dubai: It’s not just jobs that are being created in the UAE hospitality sector - pay packages are rising just as fast.
Average pay - on new recruitments as well as from organic increases - is higher by up to 10-15 per cent compared to 2022. But it’s when comparisons are made to what they were in 2019 - the year before Covid - that it gets really interesting.
In this case, salaries have increased by 30 to 45 per cent for mid-tier to senior executive positions. Not just that, hotel employees in managerial posts, including restaurant managers and sales and marketing heads, are getting paid 50 per cent more.
“We have seen a notable increase in average pay scales across various roles,” said Heni Sather, HR Manager at Hotel Indigo Downtown Dubai. “While precise percentages vary across roles, the offerings align with market standards to remain competitive.”
Hotel sources say that it only takes a move to a new employer for individuals to get themselves take-home packages that are in line with current trends. And that’s also why staff retention has become quite a task in itself for employers in the industry.
Current pay scales
For example, restaurant managers are drawing between D16,000 and Dh22,000 compared to the Dh13,000 average they made in 2019. Wait staff and front desk receptionists are earning Dh2,800 to Dh3,500 compared to the Dh1,500-Dh2,200 in 2019.
Commis chefs (essentially, those who are learning on job) are earning Dh2,200-Dh 2,400 (vs. Dh1,700 four years ago), and head chefs are drawing Dh16,000 to Dh22,000 compared to the Dh14,000 they took home in 2019.
In contrast, heads of departments at corporate offices within hotels are receiving salaries well in excess of Dh15,000. In 2019, these roles typically commanded salaries ranging from Dh10,000-Dh12,000.
“We have to keep the salaries competitive because there is immense competition,” said the owner of a UAE-based hotel chain. “Since the skill sets are transferable, we will lose the good talent to the aviation sector if we don’t do more to retain them.”
Given that UAE‘s hospitality sector will be getting an additional 9,000 plus hotel rooms before the close of 2023 (according to the consultancy Knight Frank), hotels will have to loosen their purse strings to retain top talent.
“Hospitality operators in the UAE need to carefully plan their talent needs from entry level up to senior level, by not only attracting the right talent but by retaining the right people,” said Tiago Costa, CEO of Parisima Talent.
“Because there’s a lot of competition out there, including from Saudi Arabia, where there is a huge focus on tourism and hospitality.” (The Kingdom plans to add 315,000 hotel rooms by the end 2030, taking the total stock to 450,000.)
The UAE’s population is also increasing and continually diversifying, which is also reflected in recruitment needs.
Demand for trained workers
However, hotels now require all prospective employees to possess, at a minimum, a Bachelor’s degree in Hotel Management.
“We are searching for workers who can bring more than one skill to whichever department they are being hired for,” said the hotel owner. “Those holding hotel management degrees are preferred for their versatility.
“We do train our new hires as needed. However, a specialised degree is now a must. That was not the case pre-2019.”
While local talent remains essential, many hotels, focus on recruiting internationally to diversify their workforce.
Multilingual capabilities and international perspectives are highly valued in Dubai’s cosmopolitan hospitality industry
Earlier this year, the World Travel and Tourism Council forecast 7,000 hospitality vacancies to open up, to reach more than 758,000 persons employed by the sector. As hotels continue to have optimum occupancy levels during the peak phases, they hope to cash in during the final quarter.
Tarek Salam, Head of MENA Expansion at Deel, a global HR platform, said hiring in the hospitality industry has continued to increase throughout 2023, following strong growth in 2022.
Our data show that the number of people hired in the UAE’s hospitality industry has doubled in the past 12 months, with strong growth forecast for the rest of the year
Hotel Indigo Downtown Dubai, for instance, anticipates a surge in demand and is actively recruiting across various departments.
Most new hires are international (78 per cent), including from Portugal, Finland, Ghana, Canada, Greece, and the Philippines. “However, UAE-based workers also made up a significant proportion (22 per cent) of those hired in the sector,” said Salam.
Front-office positions, including receptionists and concierge, top the list. The F&B scene ensures that kitchen chefs and waitstaff also remain in high demand.
According to Tarek Salam of Deel, “We see that it’s a mixture of front-office and back-end roles, along with some more technical roles in sales, finance and marketing positions.”
Hotel Indigo Downtown Dubai's Heni Sather said front-office and F&B roles are having the highest demand. “These positions are pivotal in delivering exceptional guest experiences,” said Heni. “Additionally, roles in the kitchen continue to be sought after as Dubai's culinary scene flourishes.”