Career prospects in the hotel industry as borders reopen

Expat news
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Published on 2021-10-18 at 10:00 by Mikki Beru
The announcement that Australia is preparing to gradually reopen its borders after 18 months of “travel ban” caused a stir. This might be a great opportunity for people who are looking to live and work abroad. Indeed, border reopenings symbolise growth. But it is also true that the hotel industry, which is highly exposed to the Covid-19 pandemic, was already in crisis before the pandemic? So what should you expect if you wish to build a career in the tourism industry?

Hospitality jobs amid the crisis

The hospitality sector is vast and multifaceted and comprises several categories: the self-employed, luxury hotels, hotel chains, and catering. The reopening of the borders has brought to light many jobs that have been severely affected by the pandemic, such as reservation agent, housekeeper, receptionist, valet, butler, manager, event communications manager, waiter, cook, revenue manager (or yield manager). But the hospitality sector is currently hiring. Australia, Canada, France, United Kingdom, United States are some of the most popular tourist spots currently facing a labour shortage. In the United States alone, the hotel occupancy rate has jumped 69.6% in July this year (according to NBC News) -- it is the most significant increase since 2019. In tourist areas like Miami and Virginia Beach, the occupancy rate broke records. The reopening of the US borders in November is very likely to impact this progression positively. Still, the situation depends on various factors.

For example, Boston is clear proof of the disparities between cities. The luxury hotel industry seems to be recovering more quickly. However, independent operators are in a critical situation which is compelling them to merge with large groups. According to the American Hotel and Lodging Association, the revenue of Boston's hotel industry has only reached a third of pre-pandemic levels. The city has suffered a lot from the crisis and is still struggling in terms of attractiveness. For the US Travel Association, the hotel industry is not likely to flourish until 2025. The situation is quite similar in Europe. According to RevPAR Trends, an institute analysing the hotel industry trends and data, the economy yet has to improve. Compared to 2019 (-37% in turnover), the European hotel industry is still fragile despite a significant rise for this year (+ 66.7% compared to 2020). The highest losses were recorded in Hungary, the Czech Republic and Austria. Meanwhile, Italy, France, the United Kingdom, Spain and Germany are doing better.

It's worth noting that the hotel industry was already under strain before the health crisis. Booming Airbnb and guest houses had a major impact on the sector all over the world. As a result, the hotel industry is struggling to reinvent itself. The hotel apart concept is being developed, and seminars, forums and special business packages are being designed and organised. However, this also involves many constraints, such as Covid-related technical and hygiene costs added to salaries. Still, borders reopenings around the world look like a ray of hope.

Hospitality: opening up borders and career prospects

The third-largest tourist destination in Africa, Senegal was popular for its excellence in hotel training before the pandemic. Its international reputation helped in strengthening partnerships around the world. More broadly, 2019 was a good year for the African hotel industry -- Senegal, Egypt, Nigeria and Morocco being the most attractive countries. So the global health crisis had a significant impact on a booming market. While Senegal and Egypt have reopened all their borders, Morocco and Nigeria have only opened their air borders. With the ongoing crisis, these countries, which had developed an international openness strategy (conversion of all diplomas and names of professions into English, partnerships with foreign bodies, work-study programs and internships, etc.), are now shifting their focus on their local workforce. Kenya, Cape Verde -- two other popular tourist destinations -- are following suit. Since unemployment is on the rise in Morocco (12.8%), Egypt (9.8%) and Cape Verde( 13.4%) since 2020, these countries are mainly relying on local labour. Reception, maintenance, catering, marketing, business development, management, etc., are slowly getting back on track as borders reopen.

In Thailand, tourists and expats are coming back massively as borders reopen. But regarding employment, the country is more dependent on the local workforce. Tourism represented nearly 20% of its GDP in 2019 (travel turnover). New hotel projects are cropping up, with many positions in the pipeline. Thailand's aim is to return to its prosperous years and attract even more foreigners -- having a record of over 40 million tourists in 2019). When it comes to immigration, the country is seeking wealthy expats, including investors, retirees, qualified professionals, etc. A series of incentives have been set up for them. Thailand is thus taking up the challenge of attracting at least 1 million expatriates over the next five years.

With its "zero Covid" policy and an 80% vaccination rate, Australia recently announced the progressive reopening of its borders. In fact, the country is one of the top destinations for foreign professionals. The hotel sector is particularly in demand of foreign labour for certain targeted jobs, which is good news for working holidayers. Australia is currently focusing on the United Kingdom and intends to hire 500 British immigrants. To attract them, the country offers a $ 1,000 paycheck and covers the quarantine costs. Not sure if that is enough, though. But it's worth noting that since Brexit, the UK is also facing a labour shortage. The Covid-19 pandemic is questioning not only career prospects but also life choices. Many workers have turned away from the hotel industry with no intention of returning. Yet, Australia looks confident about being able to attract foreign labour again.

The question does not even arise in Canada, where borders are officially open since September 7. The country is hiring massively and is advertising positions available in its job bank. According to the Canadian government website, cook, supervisor, waiter, receptionist, receptionist, marketing directors are some of the most sought-after jobs. It's no secret that Canada is one of the world's biggest expat job and career providers. Currently, full vaccination against Covid-19 is required for moving to Canada. Besides English language skills, candidates are also expected to be fluent in French, not only in Quebec. Just like in Australia or the United Kingdom, Canada is also facing a labour shortage.

The Covid-19 has shaken an industry that was already in tension. So border reopening are as much an opportunity for expatriates as a risk. The luxury hotel industry has not escaped the crisis, but the strong demands from recruiting countries may contribute to improving the situation. A boom is thus expected in 2022.