Stock hotel lobby
As Dubai’s hotel sector alone is likely to add another 14,845 rooms in 2023, the staffing needs will continue to grow. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai: Professionals with expertise in IT, finance, marketing and management could soon find new avenues opening up for them: the hospitality and tourism sectors.

“About 80 per cent of the people who work in the industry (leisure and hospitality) have always been in it. If companies in hospitality adopt a much broader approach to recruitment (by hiring laterally), the value proposition would be higher,” said Margaux Constantin, Dubai Partner at McKinsey and Company. By embracing lateral hiring, hospitality companies can bring in fresh perspectives, innovative ideas, and valuable skill sets, leading to increased operational efficiency and enhanced competitiveness.

Jobs in UAE

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the industry is expected to create almost 7,000 jobs in 2023, surpassing the pre-pandemic peak and reaching over 758,000 employed in travel and tourism roles. By bringing in skilled professionals from other industries, the leisure and hospitality sectors can meet the increasing demand for employees and continue to grow.

New hotels to add more jobs

Entities including hotel and hospitality groups like Rotana, properties in Ras Al Khaimah, Burj Khalifa, Hilton, the Radisson group of hotels, as well as travel consultants, agencies, and leisure destinations, are actively recruiting with numerous job postings available as occupancy gains continue. And as Dubai’s hotel sector alone is likely to add another 14,845 rooms in 2023, the staffing needs will only grow.

However, that comes with a new set of challenges. “The presence of new hotels impacts existing hotels’ recruitment efforts in several ways. New hotels often offer more competitive packages and benefits to attract talent, making it challenging for existing hotels to compete,” said Manohar Roach, Cluster Director of Human Resources at IHG Hotels and Resorts.

There has been a noticeable shift in the demographics of the recruitment pool, with younger talent increasingly filling entry-level and mid-management roles.

- Manohar Roach, Cluster Director Human Resources at IHG Hotels and Resorts

He added, “Moreover, the talent pool becomes diluted with the influx of new hotels, leaving existing hotels to either compromise on candidate criteria or invest significant time in training them from the beginning. This poses a tough challenge in certain high-impact roles, such as Sales and Marketing.”

Traditional recruitment methods are inefficient

However, despite the industry’s growth and demand for talent, companies still heavily rely on traditional recruitment methods. This reliance on conventional approaches makes it more challenging for them to find qualified candidates to fill open positions. “Hospitality companies are not posting about the vacancies they have on LinkedIn and still work with universities to recruit fresh graduates, for example. This makes the process of finding good talent counterintuitive,” said Margaux.

Companies also work with third-party recruitment agencies regarding source market recruitment, and internal mobility is popular among large operators. “Again, this doesn’t grow the pie. Employers are focused on recycling internally. To fix the supply of talented folks here, companies need to commit to lateral hiring from other industries and go a lot more digital in advertising for the vacancies available,” she explained.

Based on data from social platforms like LinkedIn, there are only 30,000 hospitality profiles in the UAE, of which 6,000 are engaged in culinary roles. The reality, however, is very different. “The sector needs to embrace digital transformation to address its staffing needs,” she added.

Hotels are also looking for workers with top-notch digital skills, which they can find in ex-IT industry employees. “These (skills) have also become crucial, extending beyond just the marketing and communications department. Skills such as social media management, data analysis, online booking platforms and digital marketing are in high demand across various roles,” said Tarek Saoud, Director of Human Resources Marriott Resort Palm Jumeirah.

The hospitality industry, known for relatively higher turnover rates, faces challenges related to long working hours, demanding schedules and the allure of international markets attracting talent from the UAE.

- Tarek Saoud, Director of Human Resources, Marriott Resort Palm Jumeirah
More Emiratis needed in the workforce
There is also an increased requirement to welcome more Emirati talent into the workforce. “This is one of the sectors that aren’t as Emiratised as the others, and it is important to do so because travellers coming into the UAE are increasingly seeking authentic connections with the local folks. More needs to be done to get locals to schools to deliver the right type of degrees,” Margaux said.

What about salaries?

One good news is that salaries for jobs in the sector have increased compared to previous years. According to job aggregators, average wages in the industry went up to Dh8,500 this year from Dh6,900 in 2019-2020. “With more competition and the market continuously growing, we are seeing a difference in offerings and packages, especially with Dubai being one of the top destinations across the region,” said Joseph Karam, Director of Operations Ishraq Hospitality.

There is more that can be done such as implementing a more female to male ratio at work, especially in more customer facing positions. With the continual growth of other markets such as Russia and China we need to ensure we are catering to all markets and nationalities.

- Joseph Karam, Director of Operations, Ishraq Hospitality

Organisations are utilising entities that conduct salary surveys to ensure their offerings align with the market standards. As a result, there is greater salary alignment among similar categories of hotels. “However, what sets hotels apart are the additional perks and benefits they provide, which candidates and employees highly value,” said IHG Hotels and Resorts Roach.

Here is a breakdown of salaries for roles in hospitality
Travel and tourism sales manager: Dh8,500 to Dh 10,000

Ticketing agent: Dh3,000 to Dh4500

Hotel manager: Dh18,700 to Dh20,000

IT manager: Dh17,000 to Dh26,000

Concierge manager:Dh6,000 to Dh7,500

Hotel cleanliness supervisor: Dh5,000 to Dh6,000

Club general manager: Dh12,000 to Dh15,000

Hotel receptionist: Dh 4,000 to Dh5,000

Spa manager: Dh10,000 to Dh15,000