Gates Hospitality CEO Naim Maadad outlines his vision for a better and more stable workforce
With an ever-growing portfolio of luxury hotels, resorts and restaurants, the GCC’s hospitality scene continues to go from strength to strength, in line with the region’s ambition to firmly cement itself as one of the world’s leading tourism destinations.
As reputations and standards continue to rise, what’s equally important is that educational and talent platforms are in place to produce home-grown talent who can meet the escalating expectations.
As an employer, this is something that I believe is crucial to the long-term success of the industry, and while I’m blessed to be supported by an incredible team, finding the right people in this region can, at times, be a challenge.
In the UAE, the introduction of Michelin Guides in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, which joined other prestigious awards such as MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants in putting Dubai on the global culinary map, means that the top culinary talent no longer has to leave the city to pursue their dreams.
It’s up to us all to ensure that this is the case for all in the hospitality industry who come to the region
A job in hospitality is often looked down upon as not a viable career option, or seen as something people fall into only when they are unsure of their career direction. Driving forward, we must focus on ways on making it a viable career path for all, one that is filled full of excitement, opportunity and reward. It’s only then that will we gain staff stability.
Traditionally, budding hoteliers have enrolled in the likes of EHL Hospitality Business School or Gillon Institute of Higher Education in Switzerland, for example, to receive the best kickstart to their careers. How great would it be if Dubai became the ‘go to’ place for an education in hospitality, making it the starting place for people’s career journey, instead of just a potential step along the way.
There are certainly the right brands, hotels and crucially, people to make it happen. Indeed, we’ve already seen the success of the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management, which since starting in 2001 with an initial intake of 15 students, has, in true Dubai style, quickly established itself as one of the leading schools around with over 900 young aspiring leaders graduating through its programme. But as the region continues to grow, the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management cannot do it alone. We need to complement this with more management programmes, more openness to internships, and more opportunities for development for all nationalities and backgrounds.
Once trainees have caught the ‘hospitality bug’ and been educated to the high standards that the region demands, all while being exposed to the five-star brands here, we then need to ensure they’re rewarded for their hard work.
Rewards should include financial incentives, a clear career path, opportunities for continued development and recognition, and a guarantee that employees' mental health are a number-one priority. Retaining talent is equally as important as nurturing it. After all, a revolving door approach will only succeed in taking us right back to the start of the process.
A recent shake-up to the visa system is just the latest initiative that proves to promote the UAE as a place to work, live and thrive. Previously, many saw the GCC as a tax haven where they would work for two or three years before returning to their home country. Today, however, more and more overseas workers view it as a feasible long-term option, and it’s up to companies to ensure they feel at home.
Just as workers have helped to develop Dubai, Dubai must help to develop them.