Sweating the small staff

Be it on land or in the air, a shortage of skilled professionals in the short term could have negative implications for the region’s aviation and hospitality industries


Demand for airline pilots will outstrip supply in most regions globally between 2022 and 2024 – with the Middle East feeling the heat first, a report by Oliver Wyman has stated. Another report claims that nearly 90,000 skilled professionals will be needed in the GCC’s hospitality sector by 2026 or it could affect the GCC’s status as a global tourism hub.

This spike in demand for air travel coincides with declining supply of pilots in the region, due to a combination of lay-offs during the Covid-19 pandemic, a falling number of newly certified pilots, and retirements eventually outstripping new pilots. The new figures from Oliver Wyman show that the regional shortage could start as early as the end of this year, reaching an estimated 3,000 pilots by 2023 and 18,000 by 2032 if no accelerated mitigation actions are taken.

According to André Martins, Partner – Head of IMEA Transportation and Services at Oliver Wyman, “If demand for air travel continues to grow, airlines need to accelerate recruiting efforts from other regions where we anticipate less acute shortages, particularly Latin America and Asia Pacific, to fill gaps. Failing that, we may see adjustment of schedules into and out of the region, impacting the Middle East’s carriers and airport operators.”

In the GCC alone, there are more than $143 billion worth of leisure and hospitality projects planned and under construction, according to data from projects tracking service Meed Projects.


“As we continue to embrace our belief of ‘We grow talent, talent grows us’, we aim to add more than 1,500 team members in EMEA”
– Tim Cordon



Nearly $28 billion of this total is already under construction, including developments such the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Museum in the UAE; Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Park Royal Arts Complex; the Six Flags Theme Park in Riyadh; and luxury hotel projects by the likes of The Red Sea Development Company and Katara Hospitality.

“Covid-19 sparked unemployment across travel and tourism not just in the region, but globally. As the industry recovers, there are clear indications of pent-up demand – but not all workers may choose to return,” stated to Cyril Lincoln, Executive Vice President, Global Head of Real Estate Finance and Advisory at Mashreq Bank.

Employee demands are changing, with the staff of tomorrow wanting more flexibility in the way they live and work. Raki Phillips, Chief Executive Officer, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, says, “We are actively embracing the concept of liveability as part of our balanced tourism ethos. This includes several progressive policies to promote employee well-being, leading to the authority to be named the sixth best workplace in the UAE by Great Place to Work for 2022 in the Small & Medium Organisations category, the highest placed government entity.

“Our progressive policies, which we have put in place to retain our existing and attract new talent, include the ‘Lifestyle Benefits’ policy which ensures employees are provided for equally, regardless of age, gender, parental or marital status. We were also one of the first government entities in the emirate to introduce an Official Remote Working policy, to ensure equal options for all team members and an extensive hardship assistance programme. Additionally, a robust Emiratization programme provides Emirati nationals with leadership training and development opportunities for placement within the authority or in leading industries throughout Ras Al Khaimah.” 

Tim Cordon, Senior Area Vice President MEA, Radisson Hotel Group, says, “As we continue to embrace our belief of “We grow talent, talent grows us”, we aim to add more than 1,500 team members in EMEA. Here in the Middle East, we recently launched the Concierge Navigation to Success programme aimed at upskilling Saudi nationals working in the hospitality industry and providing them with the tools and resources needed to progress in their career and ultimately enrich the customer experience. The initiative is part of our ongoing commitment to grow our Saudi team and further reinforce our presence in the market.

“We have recently introduced RAKFAM, a series of initiatives aimed at enriching connectivity, community life and facilities for tourism sector employees”
– Raki Philips


“We have put significant efforts to implement a robust engagement plan to motivate, develop, and connect our teams with RHG’s business purpose. This plan focuses on three dimensions: Communicate – Connect – Learn.”

Raki Philips further adds, “Just as destinations need to adapt and rethink visitor source markets, they also need to look at markets for recruitment. As a fast-developing emirate, we are always assessing ways in which we can attract skilled professionals from within the region and internationally. We have recently introduced RAKFAM, a series of initiatives aimed at enriching connectivity, community life and facilities for tourism sector employees. This promotion of Ras Al Khaimah as a tourism destination aligns with the leadership vision to establish the Emirate as a preferred place to live, work, visit and invest for both UAE residents and international visitors.

“We also place huge importance on fostering the growth and development of the Emirate’s next generation of tourism talent. We partner with local universities to train the next generation. One example is our work with the American University in Ras Al Khaimah to sponsor scholarships for tourism related educational programming. This includes the Tour Guide Training Program ensuring that the emirate’s tourism industry continues to grow with trained and professional individuals.”