Over the years, the Hotelier Middle East Salary Survey has generally uncovered a workforce that feels underpaid and concerned about the future. This year, a few streaks of light may suggest a new dawn for sentiment and salaries.
The hands of history are still developing the Middle East’s hospitality industry, revealing a polarised picture of the aftermath of the Arab Spring.
While the UAE and Saudi Arabia continue to break arrival and occupancy levels, countries such as Egypt and Tunisia are battling to recover to tourism levels witnessed in 2010.
It’s very much a story of perceived safe havens making the most of those travellers shunning countries that are still associated by many across the globe with images of violence and disruption.
Having said all this, the Hotelier Middle East Salary Survey 2013 reveals other trends, a few of which could be seen as positive. It would appear wages are increasing, certainly among lower paid workers, and overall sentiment also appears to be on the rise. But before we tackle the facts and get into the ‘whys and hows’, let’s take a look at our valued respondents.
Once again it was the UAE that supplied the majority of respondents (72.5%), with 7.7% working in Qatar and 6.8% in Saudi Arabia. Our Egyptian contingent made up 2.4% of total survey takers, while six hoteliers in Bahrain also took part.
Just over half of those surveyed (51.9%) work in a city hotel, with 5.3% working in a boutique property. Hotel apartment workers were represented by 24 survey takers and 83 resort workers offered their views in the survey.
Just under two thirds of respondents (65.3%) work for an international hotel company, 18.2% for a local firm and 16.5% for a regional organisation.
Not surprisingly, considering the majority of respondents are based in the UAE, 65.6% of those surveyed work in a five-star property. Seventy one work in a four-star establishment while 4.6% work in a three-star hotel. A further 4.6% work in a property with no rating.
Reflecting the transient nature of the region and the battle employers are facing to retain staff in a climate with such a robust pipeline, it is little surprise that 43.1% of respondents have been with their current employer for less than three years. Only 18.4% had been with their employer for more than 10 years.
Low on the go
Of course, one of the most popular reasons to move jobs and one of the best ways to tempt someone to stay with your company is an increase in salary.
Last year we noted that the dramatic increase in people earning less than US $3000 witnessed in the 2011 survey compared to the 2010 survey has made an about turn. The percentage had fallen from 47.5% in 2011 to 35.9% in 2012, almost returning to the 2010 level of 35.1%.
We are pleased to be able to report that the percentage of those now earning less than $3000 a month is down to 33.7%.
Of those surveyed, 36.8% said their salary had been below $3000 12 months ago, very much in keeping with the findings of last year’s survey.
While not dramatic, it is a sign that wages are on the rise for the lowest paid. Although we are unable to accurately compare this with rises in inflation, at least it is a reversal of the downward trend that immediately followed the global economic crisis.
Pay rises certainly seem to be a trend with 81.7% of respondents having received a hike in salary in the last two years, 52.3% of the total surveyed within the last 12 months.
There have also been plenty of promotions — 52.6% said they were promoted within the last 24 months and a huge 73.8% are expecting to be promoted in the next two years.
Line staff and management
We like it when our numbers add up and the apparent rise in wages is reflected in views on the remuneration of line staff.
Last year 81.4% of hoteliers didn’t believe line staff were being paid enough. This year 74.4% feel the same.
Certainly, there is clearly a lot of work to be done in increasing wages, according to three quarters of those surveyed, but on the upside things appear to be heading in the right direction.
The percentage of those that said wages were fair because of the career opportunities was virtually identical to the number who said the same in 2012 (10.3% compared to 10.5% last year). However, the number who said wages were fair due to the amount of training required leapt from 8.1% in 2012 to 15.3% this year.
Comparatively, 64.9% of respondents felt management wages in the region weren’t adequate. Of the 35.1% who thought they were adequate, 16.3% believed great career opportunities in the sector were the reason while 18.8% said large workforces provided managers with plenty of support.
Clearly there is still work to be done in either raising wages or convincing employees they are being fairly remunerated for other reasons.
This of course is the job of the employers, so this year Hotelier asked respondents which hotel company they felt offered the most competitive salary packages in the region.
There were a number of different answers, but by far and away the name that came up the most was Jumeirah.
Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton also had a number of mentions along with some of the other major international brands.
The perceived least competitive salary packages also provided numerous responses although ‘local companies’ received the most nominations.
Having said that, many of the companies who were considered the best remunerators also made it onto the worst list, so opinion is clearly divided.
When it came to locations, just under half (44.7%) of respondents said the UAE offered the highest pay scales in the region, with 26% saying Saudi Arabia and 17.3% opting for Qatar.
Egypt received the biggest backing when it came to the lowest pay scale (25.5%), followed by Syria on 14.4% and Yemen on 12.5%.
Surprisingly 20 respondents felt the UAE paid the lowest in the region, 18 of whom work in the country.
Just under half of those earned less than $1,500 which may go some way in explaining their views, especially if you factor in cost of living in each country.
Focus on procurement
Is there any surprise that it is all about the money for those in procurement?
From the purchasing professionals that took part in the survey, 44.4% said they would leave their current role for more money although 33.3% said they would leave for a more prestigious position (which to be fair would probably include a pay rise!).
However, only 44% said they looked forward to the future with complete confidence and 22% said they feel less confident than they did 12 months ago. Do our friends in purchasing know something we don’t? Amongst those who took part in our survey, moreover, two thirds considered their wage to be average for the region, but on a global scale this view was shared by 44.4% of respondents.
Finally, the feedback revealed the average top end salary for our procurement respondents is $5250.
The good news keeps coming in 2013. The number of people who are completely happy in their current job is at an all-time high since we began the Salary Survey. A healthy 24% are feeling the glow of being in the right job for them.
Last year this number was 18.5%, but remember, the number of people completely happy in their job in 2010 was a shocking 6.3%
Sixty respondents said they would leave for a higher salary with 28.5% saying a more prestigious role would tempt them away.
A further 17.5% said they would leave their current employment to go to a new destination. Around half of those who expressed this sentiment were currently working in the UAE, while the others were working in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, Bahrain, Tunisia and Oman.
It is clear from the results of this year’s survey that pockets of unrest are affecting certain markets and, while they suffer from the fall out, other destinations in the region are benefiting.
Generally though, wages appear to be on the rise and this is a welcome trend and is reflected in the job satisfaction responses. Despite this, experts warned that line staff in particular are still poorly remunerated and employers have to work extra hard to retain staff.
There is a great deal of optimism however, even in the hard hit countries such as Egypt, that a full recovery will take place within 12 months, but whether or not this will prompt an increase in pay we will just have to wait and see.
Hopefully, next year Hotelier can note even larger increases in salaries and greater job satisfaction across the board.
- 2.9 Percentage with less than 15 days annual leave
- 8.2 Offered unpaid leave in the past six months
- 21 Number of respondents who resigned due to impact of regional unrest
- 9 Respondents take more than 40% of their wage in commission
- 7.5% Are anxious about keeping their jobs