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Dubai Hotels Struggle to Fill Jobs

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May 24, 2013

Dubai Hotels Struggle to Fill Jobs

Dubai Marina cityscape, UAE
Dubai Marina cityscape, UAE

DUBAI ? Before graduating in June from Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management, a school in?Dubai?that is in academic association with the renowned ?cole H?teli?re de Lausanne and part of the Jumeirah Group, Samuel Moult is busy filing applications to work in one of Jumeirah?s global hotels. He is hoping to get a placement in Dubai.

With the city facing a shortage of skilled labor in hospitality and tourism as the sector is poised to boom, Mr. Moult, 21, says his chances of finding a job are good.

?The industry itself, all over the world, is notorious for long, unsocial work hours and low pay, so while more and more hotels open in Dubai it?s difficult for operators to attract the right staff,? said Mr. Moult, who is British. ?For me, I?m aware of all this and still find something about hotels that is fun, fast paced, and high-energy, rather than a 9-to-5 desk job, and studying hospitality in Dubai was just too good of an option for me to say no.?

Dubai is in need of more eligible candidates who feel this way to fill current and future jobs. The government plans to triple annual income from tourism to 300 billion dirhams, or $82 billion, by 2020 and double the existing number of hotel rooms, according to an ambitious government agenda made public last week, Vision 2020.

Figures from the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing show that the city has 599 hotels and 80,500 hotel rooms; the government hopes to double the number of rooms by 2020. A supply of 11,200 more rooms is already scheduled to open by the end of 2015, according to the hotel consultancy Jones Lang LaSalle, including the Conrad and Oberoi Hotels in Dubai this year.

Private companies, rather than the Dubai government, are spearheading plans to construct the new hotels. The government is playing a supporting role by promoting tourism abroad, regulating visa procedures for tourists and working on new destination routes with Emirates Airlines, which is owned by the national government of the?United Arab Emirates.

Occupancy levels, which plummeted during the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009, have enjoyed record highs during the past two years. Occupancy at hotels in Dubai averaged 88 percent in the first quarter of 2013 and 78 percent for 2012, according to Jones Lang LaSalle?s research published this month.

As political and economic instability spread during the Arab Spring, the hospitality industry here boomed, as tourists who would have visited Damascus or Cairo chose Dubai instead for safety. Two years later, the hospitality industry has proved sustainable, attracting more visitors from China, India and Russia. Occupancy levels and room rates continue to rise even as capacity increases with new hotel openings.

Having more tourists means big money. Revenue per average room, a common indicator of growth at hotels, showed 9 percent growth in the first quarter of 2013 compared with 2012, reaching $243, the Jones Lang LaSalle report said. This is far above the days when revenue per room fell to $60 in 2009 from relative highs of $150 in 2007, according to data from the management consulting firm PRTM, a part of PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Airport arrivals registered a 13 percent increase in 2012, also supporting the demand for hotel accommodation in the city. Dubai?s airport is the world?s second-busiest for international visitors, after London Heathrow, and continues to experience rapid passenger growth. Dubai received over 10 million tourists for the first time during 2012, reflecting a 9 percent increase over 2011, according to research by Jones Lang LaSalle.

Hotel experts are now concerned with finding the right staff as hotel supply increases.

?There is an absolute need to have more programs or to build vocational colleges for the hospitality industry in this country,? Ron Hilvert, managing director of Emirates Academy, said during a roundtable discussion with industry insiders. ?We expect 27 percent of Dubai?s work force to be in the tourism sector by 2020 as it becomes an even bigger contributor to the economy.?

A study conducted by the consulting firm Deloitte and by Dubai International Academic City, a free zone dedicated to higher education that offers 400 internationally recognized degrees from different universities, found that there are a number of skill gaps within the tourism and hospitality sector that make it difficult for employers to find eligible candidates.

Employers said it was difficult to find staff from entry level to senior management who have all the necessary hotel management, facilities management and customer relationship skills needed to work in the industry.

?It?s crucial to find skilled talent, and we shouldn?t only focus on fresh graduates,? Matthew Mee, vice president of the Jumeirah Group, said at the roundtable discussion. ?We also need to provide opportunities and training programs for those in their 30s who have local experience and are seeking a career change. We need to explore all options.?

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Source: Sara Hamdan (2013). Dubai Hotels Struggle to Fill Jobs, New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/23/world/middleeast/dubai-hotels-struggle-to-fill-jobs.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0? published May 23, 2013. Viewed May 24, 2013,

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