Hotel rooms

GCC to house one million hotel rooms by 2026, but faces shortage of hospitality staff: report

The GCC will house more than one million hotel rooms by 2026 – with Saudi Arabia holding the largest share – as the region’s tourism industry grows, according to a new report.

However, the white paper, published by consultancy firm Colliers International, also points out that growth in the sector will go hand in hand with a shortage of hotel staff – with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates alone needing more than 90 000 employees over the next few years. unless more local talent is trained in the sector.

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In the report, “Hospitality Education in the GCC with a focus on the United Arab Emirates (UAE) & the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) – Unlimited Growth Opportunities”, the research group states that the hospitality industry in the CCG has grown phenomenally over the past decade, with inbound tourist arrivals reaching 59.7 million in 2019, growing by around 4.1% over the period 2015-2019.

The majority of demand is for personal, leisure and religious travel followed by business and professional travel.

Growing demand

Mansoor Ahmed, Executive Director for the MENA Region at Colliers, said: “While Saudi Arabia has always been the center of religious tourism and pilgrimage for Muslims, the Kingdom is growing rapidly as a leisure destination, with the activation of several destinations including Al Ula, Qiddiya, The Red Sea Project, etc., in line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 which emphasizes the development of hotels and tourism.

Developers behind Saudi Arabia’s ambitious Red Sea project have revealed design plans for a new hill station named Desert Rock. (Provided)

He further clarified “On the other hand, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) attracts the highest number of inbound arrivals, establishing itself as a leading business and leisure destination over the past few years.”

Bahrain is also a popular destination, largely supported by the influx of tourists from Saudi Arabia via the King Fahd Causeway which connects Al Khobar to Bahrain.

The report revealed that inbound arrivals to the region have seen a recovery post COVID-19 as travel restrictions are lifted and global travel is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels.

In 2021, there were 894,700 rooms provided in the GCC in 2021, an increase of almost 387,000 rooms over the past decade, according to the report.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are key markets in the region, with 70% of supply concentrated in Saudi Arabia to meet growing demand from pilgrims visiting the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, and the Emirates United Arab Emirates representing 23% of the total supply of the GCC. .

Pilgrims pray at the Grand Mosque during the annual Hajj pilgrimage to their holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, August 8, 2019. (File photo: Reuters)

Pilgrims pray at the Grand Mosque during the annual Hajj pilgrimage to their holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, August 8, 2019. (File photo: Reuters)

Ahmed estimates that over 100,000 rooms would be supplied in the GCC by 2026, with the total supply estimated at over one million rooms – the vast majority being supplied in Saudi Arabia, followed by the United Arab Emirates.

It is estimated that an additional 110,000 units will be added in holy cities by 2030 to meet pilgrim demand.

Labor demand

Based on typical labor ratios and room supply in the market, it is estimated that a total of 700,000 people are employed in the hospitality sector in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the main markets regions,” Ahmed said.

The projected future supply of hotel rooms and the rapid development and growth of the tourism and hospitality markets in the GCC – primarily in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – are expected to generate significant demand for skilled hotel professionals. ‘hotel.

Ahmed pointed out, “Given the upcoming supply of hotel rooms, it is estimated that the GCC would need over 90,000 qualified hospitality professionals by 2026, of which around 82,000 would be needed in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.”

Additionally, if the planned megaprojects in the holy cities are taken into account, Colliers estimates that these projects would require approximately 50,000 additional skilled/trained hospitality professionals by 2030.

“This creates an opportunity, or rather a necessity, to cultivate local talent and skilled and trained hospitality professionals to meet the snowballing labor demand,” Ahmed said.

“Saudi Arabia, as part of a campaign of Saudiization, has demanded that at least 30% of the personnel employed be Saudi.

“Additionally, all reception/management roles are to be assigned to Saudi nationals only, however, technical roles are still filled by expatriates. Major source markets for staff recruitment include the Philippines, Egypt and the South Asian subcontinent (India, Pakistan, Nepal). In the UAE, Sri Lankans and Africans also have a notable presence among the sector’s workforce.

The Ritz-Carlton, Jeddah retains elements of its palatial roots, welcoming hotel guests with a fountain, majestic arches and traditional Saudi hospitality.  (Provided)

The Ritz-Carlton, Jeddah retains elements of its palatial roots, welcoming hotel guests with a fountain, majestic arches and traditional Saudi hospitality. (Provided)

Ahmed said that in Saudi Arabia, given the upcoming offer and the government’s vision to strengthen the hospitality and tourism sector, the government through the Ministry of Education (education Higher) and the Technical and Vocational Training Corporation (TVTC), has undertaken an initiative to establish dedicated hospitality academies and introduce hospitality and tourism related programs in public universities.

However, enrollment in the field of study is still low. Based on the most recent information, almost 5,500 students were enrolled in courses related to tourism and hospitality in higher education institutions (HEIs) in the Kingdom, which represents only 0.3% of the total. total number of enrollments in HEIs in the country.

Ahmed pointed out that in Saudi Arabia there is a lack of technically qualified personnel with major shortages in cooking, cooking, catering and sales.

“Very few job applicants have hospitality-related qualifications and are mostly graduates and holders of degrees in other fields. hospitality as demand grows However, a lack of skills and preference to move directly into management and front office positions is a challenge as candidates generally lack training for these roles.

“One of the main challenges we face is that the profession, and more specifically the technical roles, are perceived to have a lower social status within the local population.”

In the United Arab Emirates, Colliers found that there are four private institutes specializing in tourism and hospitality offering courses and training in the sector, collectively enrolling 609 students in various undergraduate and postgraduate programs, which represents 1.7% of total enrollment in private/non-federal higher education institutions.

“While the issue of perception and associated low social status is also somewhat applicable in the UAE, the high cost of earning a hospitality degree in the UAE and the potential low returns also deter students to pursue a career in hospitality,” Ahmed said.

“Tourism and hospitality remains a niche area of ​​study in the region. In addition, the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to the industry have also raised concerns about the career and employment potential of the industry, which has put students enrolled or considering pursuing tourism and hospitality as a sector.

“Some expect students to be more cautious or reconsider tourism and hospitality as a short-term career, however, a large proportion of students, faculty and industry staff remain bullish as the sector shows signs of rebounding as the pandemic gradually wanes. .

“The success of mega-events such as Expo 2020 has further boosted traveler confidence and, as a result, brought hope to the industry.

“Given the growth to come and the resulting demand for skilled labor in the sector, it is likely that courses related to tourism and hospitality will gain popularity in the region, especially among the local population in Saudi Arabia, as the sector would offer a high probability of employment due to the considerable and growing demand to meet the requirements of employers/service providers.

Ahmed said overcoming the perception challenge should be eliminated to make the field more attractive.

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