Maintaining high-class standards

The dynamic hotel industry in Dubai, is set to grow by a staggering 80,000 hotel rooms before the end of the decade. But how will these developments be maintained and what impact will this have on FM companies? Becca Wilson reports.

On the surface, Dubai's cosmopolitan metropolis exudes class and excellent service, especially in the hotel industry.

But with the Middle East as a whole expected to receive the highest number of tourists in the world in the next 15 years, the pressure is on to make sure these standards are maintained.

Hotels now need to focus on their recruitment drive. Maintaining 5* accommodation along with 5* facilities is a tough job and it is crucial that they employ the right staff and give them the right training.

But there is more to this than recruiting some staff and asking them to clean a hotel room, for example.

There is training to consider, staff accommodation, levels of customer service and most of all the healthy competition.

"It's becoming a little bit challenging to recruit in the hotel industry because of the number of hotels that are opening,"? explains Angel Magdalani, director of Human Resources, InterContinental Hotels Group.

With the Middle East being the fourth most visited place in the world, staff accommodation is a growing concern.

The rising costs of accommodation means hotels are now having to pay more for their employees to be housed.

“The common problem now is high rents.

If that doesn�t change then yes, it might affect recruitment quite a lot.

I think it�s very difficult for a company in the market to subsidise this fast growing increase in rent and the cost of living,� states Zeibote.

“It it�s going to continue, if the Government is not going to take any action to control it, it might effect any company�s recruitment,� she adds.

Even though she agrees that attracting staff when costs are so high could be a problem, Zeibote also thinks it won�t be a problem for long.

“I�m sure it will change because the vision of Sheikh Mohammed is to attract more people.�

One of the staff benefits when working for a hotel is that accommodation is a part of the package.

Depending on their level, staff can expect to share with other employees or have their own apartment/villa.

Magdalani explains that “in the GCC it is a standard that everyone provides accommodation.

Because 99% of the staff are ex-patriots, hotels have to provide them with accommodation.�

These facilities are often new builds and are situated near to work.

For example, Hyatt Hotels have an accommodation complex called Sahari Village that is home to most of its staff.

They will, as will InterContinental, provide staff with facilities including: housing, social activities, sports, internet connection, swimming pool, supermarket and hairdressers etc.

The management of these facilities is often outsourced and because they do not expect the high level of customer service their employees are expected to give when they are at work, FM companies are often used to service these buildings.

“We might outsource but we will still have a person employed by InterContinental to make sure all the services are provided at our acceptable standards,� explains Magdalani.

One of the InterContinental Hotels Group current projects is in Dubai Festival City.

In conjunction with the Al Futtaim Group, the InterContinental Dubai Festival City, Crowne Plaza Dubai Festival City and the InterContinental Residence Suites are currently under construction.

 

Recruitment Drive

executive committee members to start with the budgeting and planning.

Then we will start recruitment at the end of January, beginning of February next year.�

Most hotels tend to begin their recruitment process from within.

Internal promotions and transfers are one of the best ways to help ensure that the hotels high standards are maintained.

The InterContinental Group have over 300 hotels worldwide and will start their recruitment drive on an international level.

“The people who are promoted and have been with the company for a while will be the department trainers.

They will be able to train people who are either coming from another company or fresh into the hotel industry,� explains Magdalani.

Once staff have been sourced from other international InterContinental hotels, the recruitment process from other areas of the world and the local community can then begin.

Magdalani says: “We are hoping to have an average of 45 nationalities, out of which not more than 20% per nationality so we have a real mix of people.�

With over 1000 vacancies to fill, Magdalani�s overseas recruitment drive will the a huge task, but one she�s certainly looking forward to.

Most hotels run similar operations and with 80 hotels estimated to be opening within the next three years in Dubai, HR Directors certainly have their work cut out for them.

But they�re not the only ones.

In-house VS Outsource

On the surface, it�s strange to think why hotels don�t outsource all their services to a facilities management company for an integrated solution.

For one, it�s far easier and more cost effective as the only contract the hotel has to worry about is the one with the facilities management company.

However, the hotel service industry is one that needs commitment, dedication and most of all, control.

Their reputation is what drives their business and they pride themselves on their customer service.

“Each company has it�s own standards and quality of services that they would like.

They have more control and more capability to change things when people are from within, than if they were outsourced to another company,� states Magdalani.

Even FM companies feel the same way.

“Front of house will never be gone in 5* hotels – it�s an area of expertise, it�s an industry in itself,� says Stephen Barker, director of Operon Middle East.

Zanda Zeibote, soft services director of EFS Facilities Services has a successful background in the hospitality industry.

Her experiences of working within the sector image what Magdalani and Barker are saying.

She says: “The hotels have enough time to spend on each customer whereas a facilities management company might not have as much time as required.�

It�s understandable why hotels dominate the hotel industry when it comes to front of house services.

But there are many behind the scenes services that FM providers can get involved in.

“I think facility management companies will play a part in helping and developing the market.

There are certain services that have been outsourced for quite a long time, even in the hotels, like pest control, landscaping, waste management, window cleaning etc.

These involve a lot of time and effort and an FM company can provide all that,� explains Zeibote.

She adds: “Hotels are a different service industry, they have a very high service level department.�

Because of this, training is extremely crucial.

Training

Hotels set their own benchmarks and best practice to create the right sort of environment for their customers.

Training the staff to understand the philosophy behind the hotels vision will enforce the hotels reputation and excel their business.

Senior level staff members are often responsible for staff training and this is why hotels prefer to promote within.

Because each hotel has its own way of doing things, it�s important for the junior staff to learn from someone who understands what it is the hotel expects.

Zeibote started out in the hotel industry as a housekeeper and she thinks this is the best department to start in.

“You interact with all other divisions and you get to understand the hotel operations from A to Z.�

Hotels also offer cross-training.

Magdalani says InterContinental like to cross-train their staff so they can then promote from within and utilise the staff they already employ to keep the service levels high.

“We have cross-training programs so that people who are successful if their main role, can cross-train in other departments.�

In Dubai, there is a HR hotel committee that consists of 24 HR directors.

They meet once a year to conduct salary and benefit surveys to make sure they are all providing a similar package.

The hotels are very open enabling them to learn from each other and make sure the industry in an attractive one to potential staff.

Directors also discuss any new laws that are relevant and trends within the industry.

The committee also organizes sports activities between hotels to help keep moral high.

So with the phenomenal growth in the hotel industry, it seems there are still many service contracts to be awarded to FM companies.

It seems clear that front of house services will still be maintained and controlled by the hotels, however, there is a potential gap in the market for a high class FM company to change this thought process and work with hotels to provide that high level of customer service they expect.

“ It�s becoming a little bit challenging to recruit in the hotel industry.�

 

“ The rising costs of accommodation means hotels are now having to pay more for their employees to be housed.�

 

“ Internal promotions and transfers are the best way to ensure high standards are maintained.�
Fact Finder…

- Average growth rate of 7% - highest in the world – resulting in 68.5 million international arrivals by 2020 (United Nations World Trade Organisation)

- Currently, around 6 million tourists visit Dubai every year – Government want this to more than double to 15 million by 2010

- Travel and tourism set to generate around US $148 billion during 2006

- Average room occupancy in Dubai 83.3% and average room rate in Dubai 249 dollars (figure until end of July 2006)

- Around 80,000 hotel rooms will be needed by the end of the decade
 

Dubai Festival City/Intercontinental Facts

- The development spans over 1600 acres of Creek-side land

- 20,000 homes will be leased

- 90,000 people will live, work and play there

- InterContinental Dubai Festival City will cost more than AED 600 million to build

- Hotel rooms will be equipped with high speed board band internet access, flat screen TVs, each with CD, DVD and VCD
 

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