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Sun 14 Sep 2014 11:18 AM

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Hospitality industry embracing more women in senior roles

Women are naturally better equipped to keep up with the evolving hotel customer expectations, according to a leading Dubai hotelier

Hospitality industry embracing more women in senior roles

The UAE's fact-paced hospitality industry is now more open to employing women in senior management roles, according to Margaret Paul, who has herself climbed up the ladder within Dubai's Jumeirah Group from a hotel manager for Jumeirah Carlton Tower in London in 2002 to the general manager of the award-winning Madinat Jumeirah in 2012.

The Scottish-born executive oversees the management of the three hotels – Al Qasr, Mina A’Salam and Dar Al Masyaf – as well as the Souk Madinat Jumeirah and the resort’s Conference Centre and was speaking at the recent Hotelier Middle East Great GM Debate.

“Women don’t necessarily make better managers but organisations would benefit from gender diversity because certain skills come more naturally to women than men,” she started her ‘Take 5’ presentation, reminding the audience of the famous Margaret Thatcher’s quote that “if you want something done, ask a woman.”

She explained the benefits include women’s effective communications skills, higher levels of emotional engagement and tendency to foster collaboration.

“Women are able to articulate key messages better, to feel in a moment and respond with care, and are less interested in what’s in it for them, but what something will bring to the team,” she said.

Speaking to Arabian Business on the sidelines of the event, she said she believed the hospitality industry was now more open to employing senior female management: “When I look back over the ten years, it’s become more acceptable to be a female in this industry.

“It’s still difficult to make your way up to the top because it’s a very demanding job.

“It’s demanding on your time and your private life, and I think there are still not as many career opportunities for women although they are growing.

“These things take time to change. I don’t think we can expect it to change overnight.”

She added that half of their Emirati employees were women and was pleased that not only were they ready to embrace the industry, which was traditionally a male one, but it became quite acceptable for the industry itself to have more women holding senior roles.

“A lot of Emirate ladies that I’ve met are focused, they know exactly what they want, and they are very determined and passionate about achieving their goals.

“You need the right drive and motivation, and the groups like Jumeirah can help you gain the right skills but a lot of it has to come from you as well.”

The group, which is a member of Dubai Holding, has launched Jumeirah National Youth Programme and Jumeirah UAE National Future Leaders Programme to train and fast track Emirati nationals to become Jumeirah’s hotel managers of the future.

While the former targets high school graduates, the latter trains interested Emiratis for senior positions through a five years long immersion programme, during which they are mentored by the group’s general managers and offered a hotel or general manager role upon completion of the programme.

With the event gathering more than 200 optimistic hotel general managers, she confirmed that it was a very exciting time for the hospitality Industry in Dubai with many projects in the pipeline, including their own new luxury hotel that was due to open in March 2016.

The new extension of Madinat Jumeirah, which was announced in November 2012, is being built next to the Burj Al Arab. It will be a 434 room five-star hotel, and will include a villas complex, a commercial centre, and restaurants with retail stores and pedestrian precinct.

When asked whether the growing demand and government calls for more affordable accommodation signalled that the current room rate in Dubai was too high, Paul said guests got great value for money. “You get a luxury experience. You get a great value for money and I wouldn’t say it’s overly expensive.”

However, she warmly supported the initiatives to develop the mid-tier hotel market in Dubai since it would give more choices to international customers.

“There’s no need for luxury hotels to become complacent, and that balance is well needed,” she said.

Being at the helm of one of Dubai’s most luxurious hotel brands whose 30 percent of guests are returning year-on-year, imposes the challenge to constantly innovate and offer different experiences.

Paul said: “One of the biggest challenges is keeping up with the evolving customer expectations because they are evolving faster than they ever did before.

“That is partly due to technology. You’ve got much more engagement with your customer pre, while actually in the hotel, and post [their stay in a hotel], and that brings the level of expectation with it.

“So it’s being innovative and looking at this evolving expectations.

“There’s no one main point. You always have to look across all of your services and facilities, and question yourself whether it’s relevant and can you do better, which you always can.”

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