Filling the Skills Gap

In spite of the presence of almost 6.7 billion individuals on our small planet, one of the daily concerns of the business world is “manpower shortage” or rather “scarcity of talent”, that is individuals trained as specialists in one discipline or the other.

Travel & Tourism (T&T) is not immune. If anything, the fact that it is both the world’s largest employer and one of the fastest-growing industries probably means that it is facing the greatest challenge.

 Yet, apart from hotel management schools and various levels of courses for pilots and engineers, the travel industry is grossly underrepresented in the academic arena. In particular short supply are facilities that will train the new crop of meetings and events professionals.

Awareness of its potential as an employer is also extremely low among the young generation. Our industry must go out and promote itself. We must increase the awareness of the myriad career opportunities available. And I do mean careers, not just jobs. With the growth of the industry, there will be plenty of room for promotion for the best performing staff in all segments of the business.

Then, we must be prepared to take on talent that is worth paying for. In a time when bespoke travel arrangements and individual client requests take on an ever-increasing importance, let’s put our money where our mouth is. We must invest to recruit, to train and to retain the best staff. “Best price” and best service rarely make best friends. Let’s stop arguing about pennies and cents, both with our clients and with our staff, and rather talk long-term dollars – or maybe euros nowadays – and indeed career opportunities.

 Here in Dubai, the facts and figures in that regard are fairly unique. Our staff comprises a mix of UAE nationals and expatriate professionals. The tremendous growth of tourism is reflected in its 21 percent direct share (31 percent indirect) of Dubai’s GDP. That growth and that economic impact serve us well, as they contribute to a growing awareness of the sector among the population in general and the UAE nationals in particular.

While taking advantage of that “natural” promotion, we also participate in dedicated Career Fairs organised for UAE national students to promote the various careers available in the industry. In fact, our best ambassadors at those fairs are our very own local staff. Having themselves undergone training in different departments of the company, they are best placed to describe and promote the various fields of activity, and our common efforts in that area are gradually demonstrating success.

Nevertheless, the promotion of the business events industry as a valuable, long-term employer requires increased emphasis, both locally and globally. The responsibility to take that challenge up to our various associations and governments is one we all share.


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