Zuma Dubai's Ruben Tieken [far left] and Intercat Hospitality's Despo Pishiri [second from right]. Zuma Dubai's Ruben Tieken [far left] and Intercat Hospitality's Despo Pishiri [second from right].

There is a stale-mate between UAE nationals and the travel and tourism industry, according to HR professionals: Emiratis do not want to join the industry and those that do are not receiving sufficient guidance to convince them of the long-term opportunities.

Discussing the issue at Caterer MIddle East's recent roundtable on recruitment, Intercat Hospitality group director of human resources Despo Pishiri said the company found it difficult to recruit UAE nationals.

“Our business depends a lot on waiters and cooks and those positions simply do not attract Emiratis; they don’t apply for these jobs,” she said.

Zuma Dubai human resources manager Ruben Tieken agreed: “I don’t receive any applications from Emiratis.”

“Being based with the DIFC [Dubai International Financial Centre] Free Zone, we are not required to have a certain percentage of Emiratis on our payroll, but my thoughts on this subject are the same as they would be anywhere else,” he continued.

“I’m willing to hire anybody — as long as the same rules, regulations and policies are applicable to that individual. So if an Emirati wants to start here as a junior waiter, he or she will get the same treatment and the same package as another waiter would.

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“And I can’t help but question whether they would find that prospect interesting.”

Intercat’s Pishiri added that the challenge of hiring UAE nationals was that they often expected “unrealistic packages” when they joined.

“We don’t want to bend, because if you offer one nationality higher wages or preferential treatment, you will of course demotivate everyone else,” she pointed out.

“I have worked with Emiratis in the past and my observation would be that they are not very keen to work in the hospitality industry.

“It has to do with their values: even though they are very open-minded now and interested in doing all sorts of different jobs, they seem to go for more financial or office roles.

“The hours [in hospitality] are a challenge and they are not that keen on tough shifts — they’d rather work a normal day,” she said.

However Pishiri said the high turnover rate of Emiratis in the hospitality industry also came down to how the employer acted.

“Emiratis need a lot of direction and guidance, but then they are very easy to work with,” she said.

“Most of them won’t have any experience but with the correct guidance they can be very valuable.