Popular misconceptions about careers in tourism are causing many Emirati youth to overlook rewarding careers in the tourism industry, says a local cultural expert.
Ali Al Saloom, owner and founder of Embrace Arabia, an organisation dedicated to enhancing intercultural relationships and educating newcomers about Emirati culture, argues local students and their families often hold negative stereotypes about careers in the tourism industry.
“Tourism jobs are often overlooked by school leavers because many Emiratis believe the industry involves low pay, irregular working hours and goes against the Emirati religious ethic because hotels serve alcohol,” said Al Saloom, who underlined his message today at World Green Tourism conference and exhibition in Abu Dhabi.
The event, the first commercial conference and exhibition specifically for the sustainable tourism sector, is currently taking place at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre – the Middle East’s Leading Exhibition Centre.
Tourism is one of the key sectors that the UAE government is looking to in order to stimulate job growth and diversify away from the resource sector.
Al Saloom claims programmes, like those currently offered by Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) to increase the numbers of Emiratis working in the tourism industry can encourage youths to look seriously at a career in tourism, but more work needs to be done.
“Emiratis are key to the success of UAE tourism,” said Al Saloom who is a regular columnist in the Emirates.
“Nobody can host and welcome UAE guests better than a skilled Emirati host. If we want our country to be portrayed in a certain way it is essential that we do it ourselves.
“We will see a huge shift in the industry once Emiratis students fully realise that there are lucrative, fulfilling job options available to those that work hard – positions that do not pose challenges to their cultural and religious beliefs.”
ADTA runs a series of programmes throughout the year designed to encourage young Emiratis to consider a career in tourism.
Work experience programmes, training sessions and a popular Tourism Youth Summer Camp help educate students about the different available career paths, and introduce them to Emirati role models already involved in the industry.
Al Saloom was part of a panel of experts tackling issues surrounding students in the tourism industry during a discussion titled ‘Youth Employment in the Arab World: Tourism and the Environment’ at World Green Tourism.
The panel also discussed whether careers being created by the emerging environmental sector are attracting youth, although Al Saloom claims that ‘green’ matters as a whole are utterly disregarded throughout the region.
“There is not enough emphasis placed on environmental issues at all,” said Al Saloom.
“Our ancestors mastered the art of resourceful living but the new generation is spoiled by seemingly endless resources.
“We need to re-establish respect toward God’s creations in our youth.”
Organised by Streamline Marketing Group, World Green Tourism is hosted by the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) and the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi (EAD).
Among the other high profile conference speakers is Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al Nuaimi, the Environment Advisor for Ajman Government.