The efforts of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries to strengthen its position as a global tourism hub are being challenged by a shortage of skilled labor in the tourism, hospitality and leisure sectors.

Cyril Lincoln, Executive Vice President and Global Head of Finance and Real Estate Advisory at Mashreq Bank, said that the region’s governments need to invest in developing local talent and deploy innovative strategies to create a competitive tourism sector, explaining that while many countries in the region are advancing on the ladder In terms of projects and destinations, global tourism needs to pay equal attention to the “soft” aspects of industry development, represented by human cadres, technology and sustainability, reports a local Arabic daily.

According to MEED Projects data, there are projects planned and under construction in the hospitality and entertainment sector in the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries, with investments exceeding $143 billion, most of them in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, of which projects worth $28 billion are currently under construction.

Lincoln believes that “the challenge now is not the absence of opportunities, but the lack of manpower and technical skills, as the Corona pandemic has caused widespread unemployment in the travel and tourism sector, not only in the region, but globally. With the industry recovering, there are clear indications of pent-up demand for human resources, but not everyone may choose to return to work in the sector.

Hotels and resorts represent about half of the projects currently under construction in the Gulf, with a total investment volume of $13 billion, 45 percent of which are in Saudi Arabia, according to Med Projects, while Colliers real estate services company estimates the need of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries. For more than 90,000 skilled workers in the hospitality sector by 2026, nearly 86,000 of them are in Saudi Arabia and the UAE alone.

According to MEED, there are Gulf investments in tourism projects of about 115 billion dollars that are now in various stages before implementation, which indicates the expected rise in the demand for skilled labor.

Lincoln stressed that the tourism sector is more than just projects, as training and retaining talent is equally important, as is creating a balance between the local and expatriate workforce in the sector, through the establishment of training institutes and related university programs, expecting that the Gulf market will receive 100 1,000 new hotel rooms by 2026, raising the total hotel capacity of the six Gulf countries to more than one million units.

Most prominent tourism targets for the Gulf countries:

Kuwait: Re-development of 11 major projects in the hospitality and entertainment sectors.

Saudi Arabia: Attracting 100 million visits annually in 2030, raising the sector’s contribution to the domestic product from 3 percent currently to 10 percent, and creating one million tourist jobs.

UAE: Abu Dhabi seeks to double the number of tourists to 23 million annually in 2030, while Dubai aims to receive 25 million visitors in 2025.

Qatar: Increasing the contribution of tourism to the economy to 10% by attracting 6 million tourists annually in 2030.

Bahrain: Vision 2036 is based on spending more than $10 billion on tourism infrastructure and raising the sector’s contribution to the GDP to 11.4 percent, by attracting 14.1 million visitors.

Oman: Reaching tourism revenues to $23 billion annually in 2040, increasing the number of tourists to 11.7 million, 40 percent of whom are from outside the Sultanate.

Read Today's News TODAY... on our Telegram Channel click here to join and receive all the latest updates