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Hospitality: start dishwasher to become CEO. Yes it's possible

Amsa Hospitality promotes Arab hoteliers
Abdulrahman Ghareeb Alajmi, Assistant Reservations Manager, Radisson Hotel Riyadh Airport

If you regularly read this and other posts from my colleagues at Amsa Hospitality, you know that we are dedicated to promoting the ancestral Arabian culture of welcoming and generosity to today’s world.

This translates in real life through standards clearly defined (design, service, and people management). To draft, develop and implement all these standards, we need knowledgeable professional men and women, hospitality experts, able to reinvent our industry. To that end, they first need to be well-versed in the hospitality trade and be successful seasoned hoteliers.

Furthermore, as I mentioned some time ago, as a hotel company aiming at promoting the Arab civilization and therefore its people, we are committed to actively supporting the so-called ‘localization of positions’. I know that these blog posts are read well beyond the Gulf region – and I would like to take this opportunity for thanking you for your interest! -, so let me define briefly what ‘localization of positionsmeans, in case you’re not familiar with the terms: [Gulf region governments] increasing efforts are being put into place to build and nurture a more balanced private sector workforce with greater GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) national inclusion and greater diversification from historical expat labour dependencies. In other words, offering job opportunities in priority to the local workforce.

As part of our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) commitment, thus as a ‘citizen company’, localization of positions is a must to Amsa Hospitality, in order to take the greatest part in preparing the GCC’s hospitality professionals who will be leading globally tomorrow our industry.

According to a June 2022 Colliers report, the GCC as a whole will require no less than 90,000 skilled hospitality workers by 2026 (82,000 for the UAE and KSA alone). 50,000 more will be required by 2030, mostly in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Today, the vast majority of hospitality workers is expatriate.

According to Colliers, despite the Saudi government efforts, only approximatively 5,500 students are currently enrolled in the Kingdom’s universities higher hospitality programs. By far, not enough to address the Kingdom’s needs, despite a 30% Saudization requirement imposed on the hospitality sector. What’s more, this little number of students is being educated to occupy managerial jobs, while the greatest majority of positions, “more specifically for technical roles, are perceived to be of low social status amongst the local population”, adds Colliers. By ‘technical roles’ you must understand bellmen, waiters, housekeepers, cleaners and so on.

As Denis Sorin, Amsa Hospitality’ President of Hospitality, recently said, there is no shame occupying these so-called lower positions – in the contrary, as they are part of a good hotel manager field training.

Both the UAE and KSA concentrate the vast majority of hospitality education establishments in the region – from the Emirates Academy for Hospitality Management (EAHM) in Dubai to King Saud University in Riyadh, both proposing bachelor’s degrees.

To paraphrase the famous sentence, are we heading to a situation when we will have “too many Chiefs but not enough Indians”? It seems so.

This is the conundrum that we, at Amsa Hospitality, are facing – like all of our competitors: The hospitality sector is a ‘field’ industry. This is the reason why so many hotels General Managers but also COOs, CEOs and Presidents of hospitality groups started at the lowest positions to climb their way up through dedication and hard work. Our President of Hospitality is a perfect example. But he is not the only one, for instance…

  • Arne Sorenson, President & CEO of Marriott International who started as a motel night cleaner

  • Chris Nassetta, President & CEO of Hilton Worldwide and Chairman of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) who started at the lower level of the Engineering Department at a Holiday Inn hotel

  • David Kong, President & CEO of Best Western Hotels and Resorts who started as a dishwasher at a Hilton hotel

  • Craig Reed, President & CEO of Auberge Resorts Collection who started as a busboy at London’s Grosvenor Hotel

Only to name a few!

Actually, starting at mid- to management position is not a guarantee to occupy top jobs one day for lack of hands-on field knowledge.

How come the majority of industry’s top executives went from Busboys (such as Denis Sorin and Craig Reed) or Cleaners (such as Arne Sorenson and David Kong) to Presidents and CEOs, and very few are graduates from business management hospitality institutions? Because they learned the reality of their industry before the theory. Hence, they know the hard work necessary to make guests believe that running a hotel is easy, that what looks like the simpler and most obvious solution is rarely the correct one.

Most importantly, because they know that there is no shame at serving and cleaning behind others.

Isn’t it the Ritz Carlton employees motto that says “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen”? Meaning by serving others doesn’t put you at a lower social position than those you are serving… regardless of what the latter maybe thinking! (Actually, I already mentioned this in a recent post discussing the hospitality industry ‘robotic invasion’)

Our Gulf local workforce must realize all the great opportunities the hospitality industry has to offer… and Amsa Hospitality top among them due to our core Values and overall goals.

But that’s not it! As you know, Amsa Hospitality aims at developing globally, proposing its unique Arabian hospitality concept all around the world. But...

Whichever hotel you go to, you soon notice that, from rank & file to top management, all continents and nationalities are represented among these properties’ employees, from 1* to palaces. All except one: the Gulf region.

Of course, as we discussed above, there is a dramatic lack of native hospitality professionals in the GCC region. Even so, we nevertheless have few great individuals that proudly represent Arabian hospitality. But they are nowhere to be seen working in hotels in Los Angeles, Paris, Kinshasa or Hong Kong.

That’s another issue we need to tackle: GCC hospitality workers must realize that a successful career is not only built on working their way up from rank & file to top executive positions, but also by confronting themselves and learning from other cultures, other ways of life. Our hotels are welcoming guests from every corner of the world. To welcome them and serve them better, we need to understand and respect them. For that, we must have the experience to live and blend as much as possible in as many countries as possible.

This is extremely important to us, at Amsa Hospitality: Because our goal is to bring Arabian hospitality to the world, we need Arab experienced hoteliers to work in our hotels and oversee our properties colleagues from different non-Arab nationalities to help them understand and live the “Arabian hospitality” promise made to guests.

Amsa Hospitality is committed to bring Arabian ancestral hospitality to today’s world. We acknowledge that behind the pledge, there is a challenging – yet beautiful – groundwork to be done: Discovering, educating, training the Arab hoteliers of tomorrow to work in our hotels within the GCC, but also well beyond. Arab hoteliers proud of their job, from room cleaners to general managers, because everyone is equally responsible of a hotel success, and that there is no shame to work at lower positions: Only great opportunities for those who are ready to grab them!


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