What is the challenge of recruitment in the hotel sector in Europe? Part One

8 min reading time

Published on 26/03/20 - Updated on 17/03/22


"It is necessary to change paradigm, to start from the human" said Olivier Chopin, General Manager at Les Hôtels de Bordeaux and President of the Association of Franchisee Investors Louvre Hotels Group, about the challenge of staff in the hotel sector at the Paris Asset Forum >hospitality 2019. But how is this workforce defined in Europe? What are its characteristics? What are the differences between countries? Part One: The main figures to remember and Between unstable contracts and part-time jobs, the quality of employment varies greatly.

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The hotel industry, and by extension the tourism industry, is linked to the tertiary economy, the service economy. The key factor in the realization of a service is the person. Unlike productive industries, such as food, automotive or electronics industries, where the production chain is standardized and rationalized on a large scale, the tourism industry is based on a personalized and unique approach to the product: the service. However, it is through the staff that we personalize the service. The challenge is to choose them well, and also, and above all, to create loyalty in order to keep them.

A flourishing industry in the European economy, tourism brought in 538 million international visitors to the continent in 2017. It generated €342 billion in international tourism revenue in 2016 (source: European Union Tourism Trends, World Tourism Organization, 2017). But all this activity was only possible through the 13.3 million jobs in the tourism industry in 2017.

But how does this workforce qualify? What are its main characteristics? And which profile of workers for which country? Hospitality ON provides the keys to understanding the subject through this unique analysis of tourism jobs on the European continent.

The main figures to remember

Catering employs more than half of the industry's workforce in general

Tourism is one of the leading job-providing sectors in Europe, accounting for 21% of the region's service industry. Of the 13 million people employed in the sector, almost 8 million people work in catering companies, which thus becomes the majority sector of the entire industry, accounting for 61% of jobs. In addition, 2.7 million people work in an accommodation business, whether it is a hotel or an outdoor site, which represents 20% of the industry's jobs. Then there is the transport sector, accounting for 15% of tourism jobs (1.98 million jobs). Finally, the travel agencies and tour operators (TO) represent 0.5 million people, only 4% of the jobs in the industry.

If we look at the spectrum of jobs strictly related to tourism, namely the hotel sector, the transport sector (particularly air transport), and the travel agencies and TO, it is the hotel sector that becomes the majority sector, accounting for 52% of tourism jobs. Then comes the transport sector, which accounts for 38% of jobs, and finally travel businesses (travel agencies and Tour Operators), which employ 10% of the European Union's workforce.



All the data that have been included in the following sections concern strictly the three tourism sectors (accommodation, air transport, travel agencies and TO) of the European Union and several other countries present on the European continent and not necessarily EU members (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland).

Germany, Europe's leading tourism employer

When broken down by country, Germany is the leading country in terms of absolute employment, with 2.5 million people employed in the tourism industry. Next comes the United Kingdom (2.3 million), Italy (1.5 million), Spain (1.4 million) and France (1.1 million). These five countries represent 66% of total tourism employment in the European Union.

It is also interesting to note that there is a correlation between the proportion of hotel employment in total tourism employment and the degree of dependence of the national economy on the tourism industry. Indeed, the more dependent the country is, the larger the proportion of the hotel sector jobs represent in the overall tourism employment.

On average, hotel businesses represent 20% of total tourism employment in Europe in 2016. In Cyprus, it represents 41.1% of tourism employment; in the same country, the tourism industry represents 21.9% of the national gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018. By way of comparison, the hotel industry accounts for 18.1% of industrial employment in France, while tourism contributes 7.2% of the country's GDP, thus providing an example of an economy less dependent on this activity. Like Cyprus, Malta employs 35.4% of its workforce in accommodation facilities, while the local economy relies on tourism for more than a third of its resources (27.1%). Croatia has a similar situation, with a large workforce employed in hotels, more precisely 26.7% of total tourism employment, while the country's GDP depends for 19.6% on this industry.



Between unstable contracts and part-time jobs, the quality of employment varies greatly

Air transport, the most stable sector for employment

The quality of employment in tourism can be measured in several ways. First, there is a strong predominance of permanent contracts over temporary contracts (fixed-term contracts or other short-term contracts), i.e. 77% compared to 23% respectively, indicating a rather stable employment overall. Nevertheless, the hotel sector is slightly above this ratio: 73% of permanent jobs compared to 27% of short-term jobs. This result reflects a strong use of external service providers, who work on targeted tasks and for a short period of time, typically for housekeeping - which is one of the more outsourced activities of the hotel industry today. As a result, the countries with the highest proportions of their workforce in the hotel sector are also those with the highest proportions of temporary jobs in Europe: Greece (45% of temporary jobs), Croatia (43%), Italy (43%), Cyprus (41%), Poland (40%) and Portugal (36%).



On the other hand, the air sector is the one offering the most stable contracts: 91% of the jobs are long-term contracts, and only 9% temporary contracts. Indeed, the activity is essentially based on support functions such as aircraft maintenance and upkeep, traffic management at the airport, as well as positions in contact with passengers for the reception and orientation of passengers. Air traffic is also constant throughout the year, with peaks in activity during certain periods (summer holidays, end-of-year holidays, etc.), but never during breaks. Full-time and permanent staff are therefore necessary to ensure proper management of the activity.

A marked seasonality of employment

This distribution between temporary and permanent contracts reflects a predominant phenomenon in the tourism industry: seasonality. It is very important in some sectors. Calculated in relation to the annual average, the change in employment in tourism reveals a slow period in autumn-winter, during the first and last quarter of the year, when employment varies by -6.2% and -3.5% respectively. On the contrary, employment is more important in spring (+2.9%) and especially during the high season, in summer (+6.9%).



Not surprisingly, the sector with the highest seasonality, i.e. the highest intra-annual variation in employment, is the hotel sector, which is consistent with the results of the distribution of work by contract duration previously discussed. Hotel employment is very much focused on the summer (+9.4%) and spring (4.0%) seasons and much less on winter (-8.7%) or autumn (-4.6%). This indicates a strong predominance of seaside destinations in Europe, where activity is mainly concentrated in the summer months.

The destinations with the greatest variation in employment during the summer are those with a strong focus on seaside and/or leisure tourism: Greece (+35% more jobs in summer - the record of the whole panel), Cyprus (+30%), Croatia (+23%), and Italy (+17%). Spain is a rather interesting case in point: a variation of only +14%, proof that there is another form of tourism that is quite present, namely urban tourism around cities like Barcelona, Madrid or Seville, which extends over all periods of the year.

The other two sectors, air transport and travel organizations (agencies or tour operators), are only slightly affected by the seasonality inherent in tourism. In summer, aviation companies hire only +1.8% of people than the annual average, compared to -0.7% for the autumn and -1.6% for the spring, and even hire in winter (+0.5%). Travel agencies and tour operators hire mainly during the spring period (+1.3%), although the other seasons are also favorable, since the variation is only very small (-0.2% for the first quarter, -0.2% for the third and -0.9% for the fourth).

In northern Europe, countries rely more on part-time jobs

The distribution of employment by hourly volume, i.e. full-time or part-time, reveals another reality of the situation in Europe. First, the average in tourism is 76% of full-time contracts and 24% of part-time jobs. Hotels, with the subcontracting system discussed earlier, induce a larger proportion of part-time contracts, i.e. 26%. Travel business, on the other hand, have a lower proportion than the industry average, namely 22% of part-time contracts. Finally, the air transport sector, the most stable sector since it is essentially based on support functions, is the sector with the highest proportion of full-time jobs, accounting for 82% of jobs.

However, some countries are above these figures. Countries in Northern Europe have a high proportion of part-time jobs: the Netherlands (52%), Denmark (42%), Sweden (39%), Germany (35%), Ireland (34%) and Norway (32%). At the same time, it is interesting to note that these are the same countries where gender parity in employment is most balanced. Indeed, 55% of workers are women in the Netherlands, 56% in Denmark, 62% in Sweden, 56% in Ireland and even perfect parity, namely 50% in Norway.

We observe a large majority of women working in tourism in Europe, since they represent 59% of the industrial workers in the region, while men represent 41% of the workforce. Also, women incorporate a smaller proportion of part-time contracts, up to 18% of the workforce (men and women combined), while for men, 35% are part-time, and only 6% are full-time.




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