The Middle East is not an easy market to recruit for, and the hospitality industry in the region is no exception.

With many Middle Eastern countries traditionally perceived as ‘hardship’ destinations, not to mention the recent spate of internal unrest in countries across the region, the hospitality market in the Middle East has had to work hard to find and develop reliable source markets for recruitment.

In recent years, recruitment in the region has seen an influx of staff from India, the Philippines and many other South East Asian countries; but as their economies have become more buoyant — with many now touted as emerging property markets — it is becoming much harder to find staff who are willing to re-locate to the Middle East.

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This, coupled with a Middle East and Africa hotel pipeline comprising 474 hotels totalling 128,344 rooms, according to the May 2011 STR Global Construction Pipeline Report, means that recruitment in the region is set to endure increased competition from companies within the Gulf, as well as in traditional source markets.

And although many companies purport to have a global outlook when it comes to recruitment, there is no guarantee that staff members from new source markets will have the skill sets required to fill the more technical roles in hotels.

Many major hotel groups may have avoided the staffing crisis thus far, but as companies continue to expand in the region, there is no doubt that they will have to step up their recruitment programmes if they are to attract the right staff.

Hyatt International regional human resources director Ramjan Bhugeloo believes that the nature of staff recruitment has changed, and says hotels are expanding their search for potential employees into new source markets.

“It is definitely harder to recruit staff now economies in source markets are developing,” he confirms.

“So we continue to look at new destinations. Most of the hotels in Dubai recruit from the same countries, sometimes using the same recruitment agency. This is also a challenge.

Companies need to work on building their reputation as a preferred employer and should not “oversell” the destination during their recruitment trips. Over the years we have been able to establish ourselves, and this helps. We also take the opportunity of being an international company and internally transfer employees to our GCC hotels,” he adds.

But finding staff to work in the GCC comes with a different set of recruitment issues.
Marriott International vice president sales and marketing, Middle East and Africa, Jeff Strachan explains: “The place where recruiting is the trickiest is the Gulf, because the labour we are bringing in is, for want of a better phrase, imported labour and each country has its own rules and restrictions on nationalisation and the volume of visas for different nationalities — so we work based on the HR rules and policies of the country along with our ability to recruit staff.”

In addition to finding people willing to work in the region, and dealing with potential recruitment red-tape, finding the right people for the right positions is also a challenge.