Dozens of Expo 2020 Dubai pavilions have begun to hire thousands of staff in anticipation of the global event's launch in October.
The boom in recruitment is for guest services, tour guides, chefs, hosts and site managers, as governments and embassies look to hire front-facing personnel to host their pavilions.
There are 192 country pavilions on the 438-hectare site. Some of the larger pavilions require up to 200 staff each.
Millions of visitors are expected to visit Expo 2020 between October 2021 and March 2022.
Before the pandemic, the organisers predicted 25 million visitors – a majority of them tourists.
Ahmed Al Khatib, chief development and delivery officer at Expo 2020 Dubai, said despite the Covid-enforced travel disruption, he was confident of huge visitor numbers – and that thousands of smiling staff were needed to welcome them.
"We are very optimistic that, with vaccination and increased awareness of the entire world of how to deal with Covid, that people will continue to come to this event," he told The National in an interview this week.
"It's a platform for so many opportunities that the world can benefit from."
David Mackenzie, founder of Mackenzie Jones Middle East, is among the employers now filling roles.
He said: "Everyone is gearing up now for Expo".
He said Global Affairs Canada, which manages the Canadian government's diplomatic and consular relations, is the latest to send out a tender for a recruitment agent to find them 60 staff to work in its pavilion.
The British embassy has already awarded its contract to a consortium led by ServeU to operate and staff its pavilion.
Recruiters are looking for a range of roles, from an overall pavilion manager to visitor experience guides and back office staff – including cleaning and security.
An advert was posted on LinkedIn two weeks ago for an "enthusiastic operations officer to support ground logistics for the USA Pavilion".
The full-time position "will require the co-ordination of deliveries, vehicles, logistics, accommodation services, accreditation, visas, etc. so similar experience will be highly advantageous".
Big Fish Recruitment has several job adverts on LinkedIn for a "European pavilion", including one for visitor guides and one for receptionist and lounge staff.
Director Gary Segesdy said Big Fish are offering HR consultancy services to embassies looking to recruit staff for their pavilions in the UAE and abroad.
“Depending on the footprint, pavilions need anything from 10 to 200+ staff, if you include all the blue-collar workers for services such as housekeeping as well,” he said.
“Preparations started well over a year ago, and obviously because of the pandemic everything has been delayed," said Mr Segesdy.
“As confidence started growing, and it looked like the event was actually going to happen, countries started to look for manpower and staffing solutions.
“We are expecting this demand to increase as we get closer to the start date, and it’s going to provide a lot of people with jobs.
“It’s going to be a shot in the arm for the employment market, for sure. It can only be good thing,” he said.
The salaries on offer vary depending on the host pavilion and their local employment laws, and also the skillset offered by the prospective employee.
Languages are a key requirement for this global event, and guides or receptionists who can speak English, Hindi, Arabic and Tagalog are in particular demand.
Pavilions are not looking to hire only host nation staff, as the ability to communicate with visitors is a priority.
Recruiters are keen to hire a mix of staff as pavilion guides, from graduates to mums looking to return to the workforce on a temporary basis.
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The impact of the Expo will not only be felt locally, as recruitment agents said they are looking further afield for talent.
Tasc Outsourcing, a staffing agency headquartered in Dubai, has just won a contract to recruit about 190 people for two pavilions, said their senior vice president, Abbas Ali.
“We are bringing lots of technicians from different parts of the world – real specialists like laser technicians who create experiences," he said.
“Contracts are getting awarded as we speak. There’ll be lots of interviews and assessments in June and July."
Even international hires have an impact on the market here, as incoming expats need visa services, compliance help, housing and potentially schools and nannies.
Estate agent Harry Tregoning, founder of Tregoning Property, has already noticed an sharp rise in business.
“I’ve had inquiries from two separate companies looking for more than 150 rooms for seven-month leases for Expo,” he said.
"One needs 25 two-bedroom flats for housing locally employed security staff and hostesses, the other group wants 46 two-bedroom flats for catering staff coming from Switzerland."
While thousands of staff will be coming from abroad, Mr Ali of Tasc Outsourcing believes the majority of the staff needed will be employed locally.
“We specialise in volume hiring, and Expo 2020 is a great opportunity for us. We can provide the experienced people, the client service managers," he said.
“We are looking to provide 2,000 to 3,000 people on short-term contracts.
“The demand is coming – it should be a very productive year," he said.
10 roles available at Expo 2020 Dubai
(Salaries are estimated and per month)
1) Pavilion guides – Dh8,000 ($2,178) - Dh12,000
2) Pavilion operations manager – Dh15,000 - Dh25,000 (depending on the size of the pavilion)
3) Receptionist and lounge staff – Dh6,000 plus accommodation
4) Media officer – Dh10,000 - Dh15,000
5) Protocol and events officer – Dh15,000 - Dh20,000
6) Housekeeping manager – Dh15,000 - Dh30,000 (depending on the size of the pavilion – some have 300 cleaners)
7) Hospitality – Dh2,000 plus accommodation
8) Events chef – Dh18,000 - Dh25,000
9) Events manager – Dh15,000 - Dh25,000
10) Acrobats, stage performers and musicians – freelance and paid per event (depending on skill level and success)