RIYADH: Talent acquisition, retention, and mentoring will be in the spotlight at the upcoming hospitality summit in the UAE as industry heavyweights gather to discuss the significance of investing in human resources and incorporate the concepts of environmental, social, and governance in the recruitment process.
The Future Hospitality Summit scheduled to be held on Sept. 25-27 at Hilton Yas Island in Abu Dhabi under the theme “Focus on Investment” will focus on the importance of prioritizing human capital investment, addressing talent shortage, recruiting, and retaining suitable workforce.
According to Mariam Al-Musharrekh, executive director of human resources at Miral — the summit’s host sponsor — recruitment retention, and development of talent are essential to meeting the increasing demand for sustainable, digitalized, and hyper-personalized guest experiences in the leisure, entertainment, and tourism industry.
“A heightened focus on attracting and retaining top talent, while cultivating and investing in their long-term growth and ensuring they have the best possible start to their careers will remain paramount for the growth of the industry,” Al-Musharrekh said.
“An organization’s workforce must be empowered to contribute meaningfully to sustainable practices by cultivating a culture of ethical governance, community engagement, and continuous learning,” she added.
Hospitality leaders will offer their perspectives on key aspects such as workforce skills, finding and keeping talent, and attracting Emirati and Saudi nationals in the hospitality sector.
As guest preferences continue to evolve and technology becomes more prominent in the hospitality industry, it’s essential to ensure that workforce skills stay current.
“The hospitality sector has gone through a revolution over the past few years through the integration of digital ecosystems within its operations. Following this revolution, recruitment, retention, and development remain a focal point for success within the industry, as hospitality professionals are key to driving hyper-personalized experiences,” Al-Musharrekh added.
“It requires passionate individuals who understand the delicate balance between technology and hospitality, and by dedicating more of our time and budgets toward mentorship programs, cross-training, and tailored development paths,” Dimitris Manikis, president of Wyndham Hotels and Resort in Europe and MEA, said in a statement.
Manikis said that increased investment is required in the recruitment and retention of individuals with the right qualifications and adaptability to meet the changing demands of the sector.
It involves supporting the upcoming generation and commencing from the foundational level. This entails collaborating with educational institutions such as schools and universities to establish internship initiatives that enable young talents to learn insights from industry experts and prepare for the future.
Paul Griep, director of Industry and Alumni Relations at Hotelschool The Hague, said: “I believe both education as well as the industry can make a true competitive difference by assessing which aspects of the hospitality journey can be resolved by technology and which aspects will need a more ‘human’ touch.”
The Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia, is making record-level investments in the tourism and hospitality sector. It is estimated that by 2026, there will be a demand for nearly 100,000 well-trained hospitality experts.
“Over the last few years, we have seen notable transformations in recruitment and retention practices, with the shift attributed to various factors including technological advancements and changing market dynamics,” Al-Musharrekh commented.
She also added that recruitment has become more focused and personalized as a result of the use of data-driven methodologies, assisting in the discovery of more suitable individuals
Sunil John, president of ASDA’A Burson Cohn & Wolfe in the Middle East and North Africa, said that the hospitality sector has emerged as one of the top areas for creating new jobs, especially for the youth but added: “To attract regional talent, the hospitality sector must underline the growth opportunities it provides.”
“Typically, in the region, the hospitality sector has been dominated by expatriate professionals — and there is an urgent need to nurture and build robust career choices for nationals,” John continued.
Griep added that the industry has a chance to do this “right” this time, viewing the demand for 100,000 skilled professionals as both the most significant challenge and the “greatest” opportunity.
However, he said that “this may not be the most sustainable and/or ethical which will be accepted at a lesser extent by newer generations.”
“Saudi Arabia can be the ‘lab’ where an array of new techniques, approaches to talent, and recruitment can be tested in action,” Manikis said.
Attracting and retaining talent in the hospitality industry requires a holistic approach that addresses compensation, work-life balance, career development, workplace culture, and societal responsibility.
Jeroen Greven, the managing director of the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management, explained different approaches to attracting and retaining talents.
He said it is important to showcase “the unique opportunities and experiences” that the Middle East has to offer to attract potential candidates. Another approach, he added, is to increase collaboration with educational institutions to provide specialized hospitality programs.
Greven also added: “As the industry expands, a strategic mix of appealing incentives and employee-centric policies will remain central to securing and nurturing a skilled workforce.”
“Our approach to nurturing Arab youth talent involves forging partnerships with educational institutions, continuing to offer internships and mentorship programs, and remaining committed to creating an environment where young local talents can flourish and contribute meaningfully to the industry,” Manikis commented.
Moreover, ensuring the development of talent in a responsible ESG-driven environment is also important to ensure sustainable growth of the industry. Greven added: “Start by incorporating sustainability modules into training programs to raise awareness and foster a culture of responsible practices through continuous education on environmental and social issues.”
This can also be done by implementing mentorship programs where seasoned professionals guide talent in ESG considerations.
In May, the summit was held in Riyadh under the theme “Invest in Change,” as it emphasized the importance of the positive change that can be brought about by investing in time, intellect, and experience to keep up with the changing times and trends.
The summit focused on creating job opportunities for young Saudis by fostering the development of a skilled and talented workforce for the hospitality sector.