Dubai's hotel industry now employs more than 500 UAE nationals - compared with just 15 in 2002.
The Emiratisation of Dubai's hotel industry has gathered pace with more than 500 nationals now employed in hotels across the city, a significant increase from 15 in 2002.
Industry sources predict this growth will continue, but remain concerned at the complexity of the Emiratisation process and several remaining obstacles - including a lack of vocational training and parity between private and public sector employment.
Jumeirah Emiratisation and Training Department assistant project manager Sarah Shaw said Emiratisation had exceeded most expectations in the hospitality industry.
"Emiratisation is not just a programme, it is a system, and in order to properly drive the success of the model the programme needs to be incorporated into each department in every hotel in Dubai," she said.
"The Emiratisation programme is successful in the hospitality sector simply because the Emiratis have it within their character to be very hospitable, and the hotels can utilise these skills throughout many departments in the sector.
"Emiratisation has only one challenge, which is the awareness of the entire system to both Emiratis and non-nationals alike."
Hyatt International Hotels and Resorts regional director of human resources Yves Givel said the company first employed UAE nationals in 2003, and had 40 staff members by the end of last year.
"It's been a very lengthy process; we have been working with the Emiratisation taskforce since 2002," he said. "It's going pretty well. We face the usual challenges of finding people to match our requirements of the hotel."
Exacerbating the issue of finding local staff, he said, was the lack of vocational training available - staff were either taken straight from high school where they may not have gained the necessary language skills, or had achieved a diploma and may have had expectations that didn't match entry level positions.
Hilton International regional director of HR Middle East David Leman said a further challenge was making the hotel industry an attractive career path.
"The biggest challenge will always be that until there are labour conditions consistent between the private and public sector, the Emiratis will always prefer to work in the public sector," he said.
The attractions of the public sector were higher potential salaries and reduced working hours, Leman said.
"From a government perspective it is self-defeating," he said.
"We would be delighted to hire Emiratis, however, attracting these people is difficult."
Moevenpick Hotels and Resorts general manager and Dubai regional manager Thomas Tapken said it was important the industry showcased available career opportunities to attract more nationals.
"Unfortunately there is a common misconception that a career in the hospitality industry is seen as a poorly paid one in relation to the workload and often unsociable hours," he said.
"Moevenpick Hotels and Resorts is trying to educate the local community and bring the hospitality industry closer to the local work force."
He said the company planned to participate in local job fairs and work with training academies to fill their vacancies.
"The most difficult issue is to find the right person for the right job," Tapken said.
"We will not simply engage a UAE national if the match between candidate and position is not right."
The Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management managing director Ron Hilvert said the Emiratisation programme was going "from strength to strength".
"It's accelerating very quickly from slow beginnings," he said. "The signs are very optimistic. The last year, year and a half, has really picked up."
Awareness of the industry was also increasing, he added.
Hilvert believed the lack of vocational training in the region meant the onus for training often laid with the hotels themselves.
Kerry Robert Associates director Kerry van der Zyl said the past nine months had seen an increase in UAE nationals applying for jobs in the hospitality industry.
"I am getting very good applications from people looking to move into the service industry," she said.
"The people coming through do have some service background, in the travel industry or in customer service."
I have been visting Dubai for over 20 years now and have seen a lot of postivie developments in business, in tourism and the positive direction the Emirate has taken itself. My family and I decided to go on vacation this past holiday season and we decided, "...let's go to Dubai, you can ski in the morning and swim in the afternoon, go shopping afterwards and have a wonderful meal...all in one day...that sounds great!" But, I personally was disappointed at the service staying at a relatively new FIVE STAR INTERNATIONALLLY-RECOGNIZED HOTEL CHAIN. Gone were the days, in recent past, where service was "your best friend!" Don't get me wrong, if it wasn't for the ambiance, the various exciting locations, the entertainment for kids, the shopping for the adults, then it would be different. Overall experience for the family was that they all had a great time, yet being a person who has been in the service industry for over 22 years, the disappointment I experienced was that the FIVE STAR HOTEL that the family and I stayed at, we were 12 people in three deluxe suites (separate bedroom, and sitting room and kitchen area with a huge bathroom); now the hotel was very elegantly laid out, rooms were great, food was good, entertainment in the adjacent shopping mall was fantastic, yet in the 2 1/2 weeks we stayed, "NOT ONCE, NOT ONCE AT ALL, DID ANYONE FROM THE HOTEL, EITHER ITS STAFF OR MANAGEMENT EVER ASKED US IF WE WERE ENJOYING OUR STAY OR WHETHER WE NEEDED ANYTHING...NOT ONCE!!" You know, it's the little things that make the big difference NOT the big things that you may come to expect...for example, when housekeeping cleans the rooms, they forget to place towels, or the toiletries; and upon arrival asking whether you want an English or Arabic paper and recieve it the first day, and then you have to call the remaining days of your stay to remind FO they you didn't get the papers...then on another occassion, sitting in the lobby, approached by a Cafe waiter asking if we wanted coffe, we replied three...and thirty minutes later NO ONE CAME so we left...SERVICE...SERVICE...SERVICE...you are absolutely right in your article that if you do not have the right person for the right job, this will effect the overall stay of Guests...whether on a business trip or as a tourist. NOW IS THE TIME TO ENSURE THAT SUCH LACK OF SERVICE or TAKING FOR GRANTED THAT THE HOTEL WILL BE ALWAYS FULL AND THEREFORE BE RELAXED ON SERVICE, THIS SHOULD NOT BE EXCEPTED...IT SHOULD NOT BE TOLERATED...in the end it's the image of a wonderful, beautiful, vibrant Emirate that is at stake.... Thank you and I hope SERVICE will not be sacrificied!