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March 26, 2009

Emiratis encouraged to seek jobs in meetings sector

Emiratis encouraged to seek jobs in meetings industry


First Future Leaders Forum outlines career opportunities for UAE nationals


The Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) is trying to encourage more Emirati 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 5 percent by 2012. The meetings industry has been given particular focus as it is seen to be the most lucrative segment of the tourism 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 MICE segment is one which could have major appeal to young, aspiring nationals,” said Nasser Al Reyami, director, Tourism Standards at ADTA. “We are currently pursuing a campaign of educating UAE nationals on the wide variety of career opportunities open to them within the industry.”


He added: “Business tourism, 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-Meeting Professionals International (MPI) - the world's largest meeting professionals 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 was at least 50 percent over expected numbers. . 


Tom Hulton, director of international relations at IMEX who addressed the forum, 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.


Last year, the employment authority warned that it could start to impose quotas on the tourism industry if it did not start employing more Emiratis. With the tourism industry on the brink of rapid expansion - the ADTA has set a target of attracting 2.7 million tourists a year to by 2012, almost double the current number – employment of nationals is vital to ensuring the sustainability of the sector. But Al Reyami believes that mandatory Emiratisation quotas are not a preferable option. “Quotas have been a tool used in some circumstances particularly Oman, where there are high levels of local participation in the tourism industry. This is not however, the favoured option in Abu Dhabi presently,” he said. “Rather than a regulatory approach to Emiratisation we favour a more sustainable approach based on better communication about the benefits of participation in this exciting industry, building a pool of ready trained and talented Emiratis and as required, and addressing cultural and salary packaging issues.”


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