Following a three-year public-private sector initiative aimed at engaging the hospitality industry in Emiratization led by Ahmed Ramdan, founder of Ròya International at AHIC 2017, and in line with this year’s theme of Focus on the Future, AHIC hosted a seminar and mini job fair for 100+ young Emiratis interested in a hospitality industry career.
UAE Nationals attending saw a compelling film with Emiratis now working in various segments of the industry. Following the film produced by DTCM/Medyaf and the Emaar Emiratization team, the students met with international hotel brands and regional hospitality leaders with the aim to explore career opportunities and further bridge the information awareness gap between Emiratis and the hospitality industry.
On day three of the conference, Jonathan Worsley, chairman of Bench Events and co-founder of AHIC, led a panel discussion on Emiratization with Ramdan, Olivier Harnisch, chief executive officer of Emaar Hospitality Group and Haitham Mattar, CEO of Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority.
Commenting on where the industry is at, following the establishment of the board at AHIC last year, Harnisch, said: “Emiratization for us at Emaar is not a business issue, it’s a matter of the heart.”
“We are working effortlessly to inspire and attract as many Emiratis as possible to the hospitality industry and to showcase the diversity this fabulous industry has to offer locally, regionally and internationally. Our target is to double the percentage of Emirati employees at Emaar Hospitality Group by the end of the year and we’re looking to diversify the roles they have within the hotels.”
The panel agreed that the industry does face challenges in attracting Emiratis to work in hospitality, mainly because of the perception of the hotel industry, which they are collectively looking to change by visiting schools and colleges to talk about the opportunities the industry offers across all facets of hotel management and operations.
Ramdan said: “Thanks to the industry initiatives over the past few years and last year’s formation of the industry group, we see things moving into the right direction. The industry needs to take a lead to find and develop talent, positioning UAE Nationals to lead the industry in the future.”
He continued: “Perceptions of the industry are changing and as younger generations are coming onto the job market, they have less fear about working in the hotel sector, which is a great sign. They now see the industry as a more sophisticated and serious business than before.”
Mattar addressed Emiratization from a government entity perspective. “Three years ago, we only had three percent Emiratis at the Authority, but we only had 19 employees. Now we have 80 employees and we have 35 percent Emiratis working at RAKTDA.”
“Some of the work we have done to encourage Emiratis to join the Authority is to show the opportunities they can explore in the sector and we have seen a great uptake, for example in disciplines such as marketing. We also work toward educating the Emirati population about the value of tourism to the overall value of the economy.
“This initiative will help us to encourage the hotels in Ras Al Khaimah to embrace Emiratization further through a culture shift.”
The panel agreed that there is definitely more momentum when it comes to Emiratization than in the past, but urged that the private sector need to be proactive and move the initiative forward.
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