Innovative solutions to address future staffing issues were one of the key topics addressed yesterday at the fourth Arab Hotel Investment Conference in Dubai.
Executive Chairman of the Jumeirah Group, Gerald Lawless, said one solution would be to attract more and more nationals and Arab speakers into the employment pool. "Guests like to interact with locals and many expect it," he said.
He said that initiatives such as the $10 billion (Dh36.7bn) fund for education in the Arab World recently announced by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, were a great step forward in preparing the region for the huge growth in the hospitality sector and its staffing requirements. "It is in our interests to develop vocational institutes and training facilities here in the region, at all levels of the industry – and there is potential to invest in facilities in source labour countries too," he said.
The approach was endorsed by Accor COO and Sofitel CEO Yann Carriere, who said the group had established 15 Accord academies worldwide to fulfil its staffing needs as it expands globally. "In Morocco, for example, where we have 25 hotels, we train staff locally then send them overseas for experience before returning them to Morocco – in this way, we can be perceived as a 'local' operator – where 23 out of the 25 general managers are Moroccan nationals," he said.
Another challenge opening up was poaching of staff, according to Lawless who warned this could develop in to a major issue as more hotels opened up in Dubai and around the region.
"Jumeirah is a target for new operators who want trained staff," he said. "Headhunting is rife and it is important for us to deliver as an employer of choice and this will become easier as we expand since we will be able to offer an international career path."