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Inhospitable: How hotels in Qatar & the UAE are failing migrant workers

Briefing Company Responses Press Release Arabic Summary

Gulf countries working to diversify their economies are investing in hospitality, with the 2020 World Expo in Dubai and 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar driving much of the regional sector’s growth. Migrant labour will be the backbone of hotels’ efforts to accommodate the influx of people visiting the region.

The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited 17 hotel companies, representing 68 hotel brands with more than 200 properties across Dubai, United Arab Emirates and Qatar, to participate in a survey on their approach to safeguarding migrant workers’ rights in these countries.

Seven of the 17 companies responded: Four Seasons, Hilton, Hyatt, InterContinental Hotel Group, Marriott, Radisson, and Whitbread. This briefing analyses their responses, along with all 17 companies’ publicly available human rights and labour rights policies, and compares it to testimony from migrants working in the hotel sector in Qatar and the UAE.

It reveals a stark contrast between hotel chains’ public commitments and policies and how these are enforced on the ground.

Since producing the report, we have recieved updates and clarifications detailed below.

Key findings

  • Recruitment fees, restricted freedom of movement and lack of overtime payment are the key labour abuses revealed in testimonies from migrant hotel workers in the region.
  • Most of the 17 hotel companies surveyed failed to disclose any information.
  • Migrant workers at Gulf hotels risk falling through the gaps between companies’ global policies and practices.
  • Hotel companies are failing to enforce human rights standards in their business relationships.
  • Only one company (Hilton) indicated it conducts due diligence on the hotel property owners it partners with in these countries.
  • Nevertheless, a cluster of four committed companies (Four SeasonsHiltonMarriott and Radisson) had the strongest disclosures and demonstrated emerging best practice on enforcing ethical recruitment and facilitating worker representation.

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What people are saying

“The welfare of migrant workers is a clear priority for the work of ITP in the coming years, as our member companies are working pre-competitively to address risks of forced labour in their operations. It’s very positive to see that ITP member companies are the most responsive and proactive businesses in the report and it encourages us to pursue our collective work to strengthen implementation of our ITP Principles in the region. We hope the best practices from the most committed of our members will inspire others to join our work on human rights, learn from our collective experience and promote the best possible conditions for hotel workers globally.”  

Madhu Rajesh, Director of the International Tourism Partnership (ITP)

"A timely and highly relevant briefing paper on the gaps between the human rights policies of hotel companies and the actual situation of migrant workers in the hospitality sector. The conclusions confirm findings from Swedwatch’s research on migrant workers' rights in the sector and shows that many hotel companies with properties in the Gulf have a long way to go before workers' rights are adequately protected and respected."

Olof Björnsson, researcher at Swedwatch and author of "Shattered Dreams - Migrant workers and rights violations in the Dubai tourism sector"

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Company updates

  • Marriott shared that the company's Area Director for Middle East and Africa participated on a panel at an ILO/IHRB event on ethical recruitment in Qatar in 2018, where he acknowledged the risks that migrant workers face and shared the company's due diligence process.