Spearheading the strategy of Emiratisation is the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management and John Mowatt, director of its Emiratisation projects.
A workshop during the Great GM Debate, held at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, heard that it is a circle that is not easy to square. Emiratis tend to earn a lot more in roles in banks and in the police force.
Add to this the obvious emphasis the F&B industry places on alcoholic beverages and the cultural/religious difficulties this presents to the Emirati.
The Middle East and especially Dubai are now very multi-cultural places and the huge mix of cultures and habits, dos and don’ts is hard to fully grasp in a hospitality setting.
So why encourage Emirati to view the industry as a viable career option and employers to embrace Emiratisation?
The premise is quite simple if you think about it. When a tourist travels to another country they normally expect to see that country’s nationals in all areas, especially in the hospitality industry.
This is not the case in the UAE. Interaction with locals is far less than in other countries. That lack of contact, the sparsity of cultural negotiation can disappoint many travelling to the region.
The Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management is seeking to redress the balance. There are barriers mostly in terms of cultural attitudes.
Emirati look for higher salaries and in a business it is hard to justify employing someone in the same job as a lot of others, but on a higher wage.
For them, there are the obvious cultural obstacles. Serving alcohol and working in an environment in which alcohol plays a big part presents difficulties and can lead to social stigma.
John Mowatt has an enthusiastic approach to overcoming these problems. He believes that the obstacles are surmountable and that the hospitality industry and the Emirati can productively engage for the benefit of the F&B business.
The prize is the creation of an authentic Emirates experience for tourists.
What is clear is that there are precious few nationals working in hotels and restaurants at the moment.
Employers, Mowatt says, have often resorted to hiring Emirati simply for the sake of making up the numbers and without proper efforts to understand the culture or genuinely develop a career path for the employee. This leads to a negative experience for both.
However, a start has been made towards bridging the gaps. An online jobseekers board has gone live alongside a program aimed at employers for coaching and ‘onboarding’.
It will be interesting to see where all of this goes, but the belief among those at the academy and Emirati who have taken part in hospitality is clear to see.
“There are outstanding Emiratis and we will be saying that to general managers,” Mowatt said.