As Algeria rushes to expand its limited hospitality infrastructure, the country risks surpassing its ability to effectively staff and manage its tourism establishments. “Hospitality is a true profession,” Xavier Arnoux, general manager of the new Radisson Blu in Algiers, told OBG. “We see private investors improvise at operating hotels, then after a few years regret it and lease their establishments to a management company.” In such cases, the risk is that establishments may offer a service level below international standards and hinder Algeria’s efforts to sell itself as a competitive destination. “It’s easy to build hotels; you need money and two years. But personnel is something else,” Said Boukhelifa, former advisor of the Ministry of National Planning, Tourism and Craft Industry (Ministère de l’Aménagement du Territoire, du Tourisme et de l’Artisanat, MATTA), told OBG. “Investment is needed in human resources.”
Push To Expand
The push to increase tourist arrival numbers by 2030 will demand a similar leap in hospitality staff numbers. The World Travel & Tourism Council estimated that Algeria will see an increase from 327,500 tourism sector jobs in 2015 to 475,000 by 2026. Training nearly 150,000 new workers will challenge the country’s small but growing training infrastructure. The MATTA currently manages three schools with a combined annual capacity of 880 students: a hotel management institute in Algiers, a catering and restaurant institute in Tizi Ouzou and hotel services institute in Bou Saada. Construction of a fourth school designed to accommodate 300 students annually has been under way in Zighoud Youcef, near Constantine, since 2015. The Ministry of Vocational Training and Education also offers courses, and announced in September 2016 that places for handicrafts and tourism training had been expanded by 15% of the total available training places.
However, while the government is taking steps to expand training capacity, concerns over the quality of public-sector curricula linger. “The training is in serious need of review and updating,” Boukhelifa told OBG.
Tourism students have also voiced dissatisfaction. In March 2015 students at the National Tourism Institute in Algiers addressed a petition to the MATTA lamenting that they “continue to receive lessons through classic teaching methods, without any modules delivered with software”. Since assuming his post in July 2016, Abdelwahab Nouri, the minister of national planning, tourism and the craft industry has stated that authorities are taking measures to update public training curricula.
Meanwhile, the private sector is working to fill the gap. In 2014 Algier’s High Institute of Hospitality and Catering (Ecole Supérieur d’Hôtellerie et de Restauration d’Alger, ESHRA) welcomed its inaugural class. Funded by Société d’Investissment Hotelier (SIH), which manages several major international hotel franchises in Algeria, ESHRA is building towards a total capacity of over 1000 students. Students study five-star service delivery from international instructors, benefit from practical experience at the school – which also serves as a hotel and conference centre – and graduate with joint diplomas through an agreement with Switzerland’s Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne. Despite its hefty annual tuition fee of AD1m (€8270), ESHRA has attracted students from all across Algeria. In June 2016 SIH began construction on a second school, set to open in 2018.
As the sector grows, training institutes must remain responsive to evolving needs. “You can find good management in Algeria,” Arnoux told OBG. “What operators like us really need is more personnel at the operational level, such as servers and cooks. A real tourism and hospitality culture needs to grow. I am confident on this point; Algerians have a welcoming culture and a desire to host their guests well. All that is needed are well equipped and up-to-date training facilities.”
Mustapha Haouchine, director-general of the ESHRA, agrees that training is the key to unlocking the tourism sector. “We can help the hospitality industry contribute a great deal to the national economy,” he told OBG.
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