UAE - The planned forthcoming supply of hotel rooms, and the rapid development and growth of the tourism and hospitality markets in the GCC, mainly in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, will generate significant demand for skilled hospitality professionals, new research by Colliers has found.

According to Colliers’ recent report on Hospitality Education in the GCC, the hospitality industry in the GCC region has grown “phenomenally” over the past decade, with inbound tourist arrivals reaching 59.7 million in 2019, growing at a CAGR of approximately 4.1 per cent during the period 2015 – 2019. The majority of the demand is personal/leisure/religious travel followed by business and professional travel.

Mansoor Ahmed, executive director & head of Development Solutions, Healthcare, Education & PPP for the Middle East & Africa region at Colliers, observed that inbound arrivals to the region have seen a recovery after Covid-19, as travel restrictions are lifted and global travel is seen to recover to pre-Covid-19 levels. He noted that the UAE attracts the highest number of inbound arrivals, establishing itself as a top business and leisure destination over the past years.

As per Euromonitor International’s estimates, there were 894,700 rooms supplied across the GCC in 2021, an increase of nearly 387,000 rooms over the past decade, at a CAGR of around 5.8 per cent. Saudi Arabia and the UAE feature as key markets in the region with 70 per cent of the supply concentrated in Saudi Arabia to meet the growing demand for pilgrims visiting the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah, and the UAE accounting for 23 per cent of the entire GCC’s supply.

It is estimated that over 100,000 rooms would be supplied across the GCC by 2026, with the total supply estimated to exceed one million rooms - the large majority being supplied in Saudi Arabia followed by the UAE. Considering typical manpower ratios and the supply of rooms in the market, it is estimated that a total of 0.7 million individuals are employed within the hotels sector in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

“Considering the forthcoming supply of hotel rooms, it is estimated that the GCC would require over 90,000 skilled hospitality professionals by 2026 out of which approximately 82,000 would be required in Saudi Arabia and the UAE,” Ahmed revealed.

Currently, a significant proportion of staff serving within tourism and hospitality in Saudi Arabia and the UAE are expatriates, with less representation of local professionals especially in technical roles, experts have noted. This creates an opportunity to cultivate local talent and skilled & trained hospitality professionals, in order to meet the snowballing demand for manpower.

The Colliers report also highlighted that tourism and hospitality remains a niche field of study in the region. In addition, disruptions caused by the pandemic to the industry has also raised concerns regarding the industry’s employment potential. Some expect that students may exercise greater caution or reconsider tourism and hospitality as a career in the short-term, however, a large proportion of students, faculty and industry personnel remain optimistic as the sector shows signs of rebound as the pandemic gradually fades away. The successful completion of mega-events such as Expo 2020 has further instilled traveller confidence and consequently restored hope for the industry.

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