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March 16, 2009

Emiratis encouraged to seek jobs in meetings sector

Emiratis encouraged to seek jobs in meetings sector 

First Future Leaders Forum outlines career options for nationals


The Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) is trying to encourage more Abu Dhabi nationals to pursue careers in the meetings industry.


Currently, just one percent of the 47,700 jobs in Abu Dhabi’s tourism industry are held by Emiratis, but ADTA wants to increase this ratio to five percent by 2012. The meetings industry has been given particular focus as it is seen to be the most lucrative segment of the industry, and is set for rapid expansion – Abu Dhabi recently won the bid to host the World Ophthalmology Congress in 2012, which will bring around 12,000 delegates to the emirate.


“Emiratisation within the tourism sector is a priority for the ADTA and the meetings segment is one which could have major appeal to young, aspiring nationals,” said Nasser Al Reyami, director, tourism standards, ADTA. “We are currently pursuing a campaign of educating UAE nationals on the wide variety of career opportunities open to them within the industry.”


“Business tourism, in particular, which includes the meeting, incentives, conferences and exhibitions segment, is generally regarded as one of the highest yielding and most profitable in-bound tourism segments because of the significantly greater spend it generates compared to the leisure sector. This is a vital segment and one which is still in its embryo stage here in the UAE so it provides a great opportunity for nationals to get in on the ground floor of its emergence.”


In February, Emiratis were invited to attend the UAE’s first Future Leaders Forum - a training initiative to develop aspiring meetings professionals hosted by IMEX and Meeting Professionals International (MPI) - the world's largest meeting professional’s organisation. The forum outlined various career opportunities available within the meetings sector and included talks from local and international business tourism experts. 60 Emiratis, including students and those already employed in various government and private sector organisations, attended the forum, which according to the ADTA attracted at least 50 percent more attendees than expected.


Tom Hulton, director of international relations at IMEX, who addressed the forum in Abu Dhabi, said the potential for local employment in the sector is “very strong.”


“We are here to encourage Emiratis to dig deeper into the opportunities available in the tourism industry,” said Hulton. “The perception of the industry does appear to be gradually changing among the national workforce.”


Traditionally it has been difficult to encourage Emiratis to work within the tourism industry, largely because wages are seen to be lower and the hours longer than in the public sector. But Al Reyami puts this perception down to a “lack of understanding”. He believes education is crucial to encouraging more nationals into the industry. “Many nationals are unaware of the many facets the industry can open up to them. Education is the main key to overcoming this challenge – and the Future Leaders Forum was a tool used to begin this educational process in earnest,” he said.


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