Players in the hotel sector and governments all over the world are devising various methods of tackling the hospitality staff shortage in the best way they can. From offering a hiring bonus to new employees and giving a referral bonus to existing staff, to relaxing immigration policies, stakeholders are reaching for every trick in the book.
Read this article to find out how the Middle East, Spain, the United Kingdom, France and Italy are future-proofing the hotel industry by handling the current talent crisis, alongside tips for improving the talent situation in the future from experts at the WTTC and HOTREC.
Overcoming the hospitality staff shortage in the Middle East
The hospitality sector in the Middle East is projected to experience a steady growth in the coming years, driven in part by the impressive diversification of the tourism sector beyond religious contours. However, Saudi Arabia and the UAE alone will need to source at least 82,000 hotel employees. 
To stay ahead of the curve, local travel and leisure players must be creative to get the talent they need. These can include hiring from outside the core industry, as long as the candidates demonstrate drive and passion. Hospitality employers in this region may also need to do more to change the perception of the local population towards hotel jobs. This may involve campaigns to restore the pride of Arabian hospitality, and positively portray hotel jobs as a sustainable career choice.
Governments in the region are also doing their part to prepare the hotel sector for the impending boom. For instance, Saudi Arabia's ministry of education is establishing specialised hospitality academies to train and produce skilled hotel/restaurant workers.
There is also a plan to introduce hospitality courses in public universities. While the government's help is timely, the Nitaqat system requiring hotels to employ at least 30% of Saudi nationals might hamstring hiring, at least in the short term.
Tackling the hospitality staff shortage in Spain
The Spanish economy has always been heavily dependent on tourism, with the sector accounting for 14.3% of GDP and 15% of total jobs in the pre-pandemic era. As expected, COVID-19 stifled the hotel industry significantly, leading to hotel closures and job losses.
The good news is that Spain’s tourism sector is currently doing well. However, like many other EU states, the country is facing a hospitality staff shortage to meet its growing tourist numbers. The reasons for this include economic uncertainty about the industry, furloughs and loss of migrant staff.
According to a study by McKinsey, the loss of hotel talent to other sectors, such as construction and agriculture, has greatly impacted the rebound of Spain's hospitality industry.
Reattracting lost hotel employees is proving harder than anticipated, with some employees reluctant to resume the long working hours typical of hospitality roles/jobs. The hospitality staffing shortage situation is further exacerbated by the lack of an employee training strategy. Only a handful of Spanish universities offer hospitality training, while the vocational centres lack the capacity to meet industry demands. With hiring needs estimated at 900,000 by 2030 against an annual entry of 50,000 into the job market, the situation requires more urgent intervention at multiple levels.
Spain’s hospitality players are getting innovative in a bid to stay afloat. Some hotel/restaurant chains are offering higher salaries, free accommodation and extras such as sign-on bonuses, and health insurance to quickly fill vacancies.
On its part, the Spanish government announced an easing of the work permit and visa rules for foreigners to enable struggling industries to get workers. With the new rules, the government is looking to allow around 50,000 non-EU students to combine studies with work. Those who can show a previous connection to Spain through family, residence or at least two years of work, will also be considered for entry.
Going forward, the McKinsey study recommends focusing on resilience by preparing the hospitality workforce for the future. Key action plans here include improving technological skills literacy and partnering with industry associations to develop dynamic reskilling courses.
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Overcoming the hospitality talent crisis in The United Kingdom
The UK hospitality industry is battling stronger headwinds, attributable to the double aftershocks of the Coronavirus pandemic and Brexit. Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) indicate that the hospitality industry has over 170,000 vacancies, a record high. 
The ONS further reports that the UK hotel sector employs around 7% of the entire workforce in the country. With a vacancy rate of almost 8%, the ripple effect on the sector and the wider economy is apparent. According to UKHospitality, these vacancies are costing hotel businesses and national coffers to the tune of £21bn and £5bn in revenues, respectively.
In the meantime, hotels and resorts are doing their best to attract and retain staff. Some establishments are offering bonuses to lure hard-to-find talent, such as chefs and front-of-house staff. Industry players are also calling on the UK government to relax visa rules and allow employers to hire qualified foreign staff.
In the long run, UKHospitality proposes a five-pronged solution to the crisis.  These include:
- Recruitment: Enhancing the industry’s capacity to access wider talent pools to fill available vacancies.
- Skills and training: Enhancing skills training to enshrine high standards and social mobility.
- Working lives: Making life and work more fulfilling for hospitality employees.
- Image of the hotel sector: Tackling misconceptions about the industry to make it attractive and career-worthy.
- Infrastructure: Fixing structural barriers that make hospitality work unenviable, such as working conditions and working hours.
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Dealing with the hospitality labour shortage in France
The French hospitality industry is once again on the rise, with tourist numbers approaching pre-pandemic heights. Unfortunately, the World Travel and Tourism Council reports a gross labour shortfall of 71,000 workers in France.
Hospitality players are using different strategies to address this shortage, such as improving working conditions, offering higher salaries, a hiring bonus and accommodation perks. Hospitality giant Accor has given a great example by running mass recruitment events targeting people with zero hospitality experience. The company is interviewing and filling various roles within 24 hours amidst rapid onboarding training, with more learning on-the-job.
The French government is prioritising the hospitality staff shortage, which it calls an emergency. Plans are also in place to make it harder for people to access unemployment benefits and mobilise people to look for jobs.
Another great initiative is the one launched by UMIH/France and Tunisia. The two countries signed a convention aimed at recruiting staff for the hospitality sector in June 2022. Within this framework, candidates are selected by the Tunisian National Agency for employment and self-employment in France’s hospitality sector. 
Overcoming the hospitality labour shortage in Italy
The hospitality staff shortage in Italy was expected to widen from 140,000 to 250,000 by the third quarter of 2022, according to the WTTC report cited earlier. The report further notes hotel and travel employers will not be able to fill 1 in 6 vacancies at a time when demand for services is expected to be the highest.
Thankfully, a fund to finance the ongoing training of tourism and tertiary sector staff has been launched in the country. Moreover, staff in Italy’s hotel sector are eligible for supplementary health insurance (financed by employers and workers), which covers medical expenses up to a maximum of EUR 90k. 
Recommendations to overcome the talent shortage at national and EU level
The WTTC and HOTREC propose the following measures to overcome the challenges presented by the talent crisis:
- Labour mobility and legal migration: Governments need to reconsider migration policies, streamline visa procedures to encourage cross-border movement of labour and bridge the skills gap. Hotrec goes a step further by suggesting bilateral agreements with third countries (non-EU) to increase the talent pool.
- Flexibility and different forms of work: Where possible, hospitality employers need to enable and support flexible working arrangements. This move can win back employees who left the industry during the pandemic.
- Image renewal and promotion: The sector’s image needs to be renewed post-pandemic by ensuring employees get work-life balance, fair treatment, and competitive compensation and benefits. These factors can make the hospitality industry a career of choice.
- Skills development: There is a need to enhance the skill set of hospitality workers to future-proof the sector, with the help of apprenticeship schemes, upskilling and reskilling, with the help of EU and national funding.
- Partnerships: Employers would benefit from fostering a collaboration with governments, communities and other related sectors to address critical challenges.
- Digital processes: Embracing technological solutions, such as cloud computing and artificial intelligence can make the sector more efficient and customer-responsive.
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- Hospitality Education in the GCC focusing on the UAE & the KSA, Colliers international
- The jobs crisis in hospitality is worsening, Property Week
- Hospitality businesses are most likely to be struggling to fill vacancies, Office for National Statistics
- Record staff shortages causing hospitality to lose £21bn in trade, UKHospitality
- The UK's hospitality workforce strategy: Fixing the crisis, UKHospitality
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