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Localization of positions success: team spirit required!

Amsa Hospitality promote localization of positions in the GCC
Asma Abdulhadi Tabaaji, a successful Saudi woman Chef

Hospitality is about people.

You can have the most beautiful decors, the utmost comfortable bedding, the greatest amenities, if the quality of service is not in par, guests will not come back if they have other opportunities in your market area – your hotel success is driven first and foremost by your location; irrespective of the quality of the standards implemented, if there is no other option than your property in that popular location, business will thrive no matter of what; but that’s a discussion for another time.

The Henn-Na hotel in Tokyo, Japan, tried to find a substitute by replacing first contact employees by… robots! It isn’t a true “human-free” hotel, as housekeeping and breakfast services are still manned by humans. In a similar way, the Formule 1 (F1) brand, from Accor Hospitality, proposed decades before Henn-Na a ‘computerized’ hotel where check-in was handled by an ATM-like machine and bathrooms were self-cleaning. Once again, interaction with humans was reduced as little as possible (housekeeping and breakfast). Eventually, Accor Hospitality replaced the ATM-like check-in by a traditional round-the-clock reception desk manned by a human. Both Henn-Na and F1 hotels are within the budget and economy segments.

At the end of the day, these two brands demonstrate that hospitality cannot do without people, regardless how much they try.

In an industry that is everyday more competitive with new brands popping up almost like mushrooms after the rain, quality of service is a must.

In an ideal world, how to achieve a constant level of quality of service in line with well thoughts of standards regardless of your location? It is necessary to define and implement a comprehensive scheme that starts with the educational system:

  • First, develop a network of hospitality schools to complement basic mainstream education. This professional instruction must propose various curriculums to allow pupils and students to exit at the level they feel most comfortable with – Rank&file, mid-management, management. After few years of work experience, these students must be able to reintegrate the professional educational system whenever they feel like the need to complete their instruction – for instance from Rank&File to mid-management. Each curriculum must be sanctioned by a Government endorsed diploma, whenever possible internationally recognized to promote trans-border mobility, a must in a matured hospitality industry environment.

  • Secondly, in parallel with the educational system, develop a mandatory training scheme, monitored by the Government, that allows already employed hoteliers (irrespective of their level) to learn new skills, perfect their expertise in an ever-changing environment, address their weaknesses, learn new languages, etc. It would be mandatory for each employee to follow at least one training cursus a year, sanctioned by a Government’ endorsed certificate.

  • Finally, each hotel, regardless of its management type (local or international), must provide a minimum of one hour in-house training a week to all its employees. (It should be noted that even the best educated/trained worker cannot – will not? - perform to their finest if they’re unhappy with their job and employer – but that’s also a discussion for another time!)

Such a comprehensive scheme is necessary to develop a strong local hospitality industry in line with its weight in the global economy – our industry accounts for one-tenth of the world’s GDP, and no less than 173 million people are directly employed (cf. Condor – Hotel industry statistics and trends, 2020/2021), not counting indirect jobs and revenue generated!

What does that mean for the Gulf countries and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in particular? Saudi Arabia is blessed by a huge number of points of interest that are just waiting to quickly become global tourism destinations: May they be the Red Sea pristine beaches with great scuba diving locations (Farasan Banks, Jabal Al Lith and many more….), or the UNESCO's World Heritage Sites, from Al Ula, Madain Saleh to Al Asha, not mentioning the Al Tayebat International City in Jeddah or Ad Diriyah in Riyadh. The Kingdom’s 2030 Vision put tourism among its top priorities, and it’s easy to understand why!

With a median age of a little over 29 years old in the GCC countries (cf. World Population Review – Median age 2022) – 27.5 in Saudi Arabia for 30.3 in the UAE -, the region has the young energy with enough maturity necessary to join a booming hospitality industry.

The hotel and tourism industries are still in their infancy in this part of the world – even Dubai started its striking transformation only in the early years of the 21st century. This is the reason why most of its workforce is foreign (81% on average as per a 2018 Glasgow Caledonian University study). Nevertheless, it is important to eventually give the keys of our industry to the local population.

Obviously, it cannot happen overnight.

The so-called 'localization of positions' is a generation-long process where the expatriate hotelier community willingly share their knowledge and experience with this local population, so to educate and train them to be the next line of waiters, chefs, room-attendants, stewards, receptionists, and – of course – general managers.

The hospitality industry is energizing, passionate. It opens minds and spirits to the world. The current expatriate workforce must share the love and passion for their job with our young Saudis, Emiratis, Bahrainis and more. Once they acquired the technical knowledge required to perform at their best, our local workforce will proudly run hotels to the finest possible standards, so to ensure that visitors to the GCC will come back not because they must, but because they want.

As you already know if you read my previous posts, this is exactly what Amsa Hospitality is doing: Born and based in Saudi Arabia, we are giving priority in all our hiring to Saudi nationals. Better: Our Team Amsa expatriate members happily work together with their Saudi colleagues in a fun and relaxed spirit, always doing their best to assist and teach them whenever needed. May I dare say that Amsa Hospitality is an example to follow?


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