Izki students don chef’s hat at Nizwa star hotel

In a stunning initiative by the Ministry of Tourism’s Dakhilyah Regional Office, the Golden Tulip Nizwa Hotel threw its doors open last week for a group of 26 young Omanis from the Aous Bin Thabit School in Izki, accompanied by teachers Khalifa al Rashdi and Salim al Tobi. The trip helped students to explore job opportunities in the hospitality sector.
Hamood Khalid Saleh, Regional Manager of the MOT, explained that “His Majesty Sultan Qaboos has challenged all companies to seek new ways to encourage Omanis to work in tourism, as it is the Sultanate’s key growth industry, and to ensure that the community, and especially future jobseekers, are aware of the opportunities available to them. Tourism is more than a service industry…we want Omanis involved at the managerial level, but the industry demands hands-on knowledge and experience, of each, and every job to get there, so an Open Day such as this seemed a good idea.”
He explained that the Omani culture has always been one of staying with family and friends when they travelled in the past, so it is only in relatively recent times that Omanis have been identified, generally, among hotel clientele.
“This means,” he said, “that most Omanis have actually never actually set foot inside a hotel like this, a major tourist destination, and there is a definite lack of knowledge as to how hotels here operate, and the potential for a range of employment alternatives in the hospitality tourism industry.”
Jaitly said, “The ministry asked us to give the students a tour of the hotel, to demystify hotels, and we thought we could do better than just a tour, so we created a genuine interactive experience. This way, the students were able to speak with all our team, from the front of house, through the rooms, to the restaurants, and finally to our amazing swimming pool. Our staff were fully involved, and the students had a fun, interactive experience.”
The students were initially welcomed by Saleh, Ali al Hadidi, Human Resources and Administration Manager, and Neeti Sharma, Talent Development Manager of the Golden Tulip, who encouraged the students to “look, learn, and ask questions,” and then after a demonstration by Khursheed Zaman, the students sought to master folding napkins for the restaurant dining tables.
Most confessed that it was “a lot harder than it looked,” and were amazed when they were told that all the service staff can fold napkins in up to 25 different ways.
Next, the students were dressed in chef’s apparel, and entered the kitchen, where they were given an idea of the number of meals produced each day, shown the hotel-sized cookers, ranges, ovens, and the preparation areas and chillers. A visit to the hotel’s rooms followed, guided by Hassan Mohammed and Mohammed Al Sulaimi, where the service staff demonstrated how they prepare the room for guest arrivals, and emphasised how important it is to meet the high standards of the hotel for guests so that everything is exactly as they want it to be, and that they want for nothing, in what is their ‘home, for a day or two.’ One of the students, Mazim Masood al Rashdi said later that he was, “so impressed by the teamwork of the staff.”
The last hotel area for them to visit was the swimming pool area, which Jailty said was, “Our special little oasis. When our guests come here after a day taking in the local sights, they like to know that our pool is clear and clean, that our towels are fluffy, and that the loungers around the pool are ready for them.” The visit came to an end with light snacks, and the opportunity for Saleh to recap on the aims of the open day, which focused on the variety of transferable skills within the industry from information technology, languages, engineering, accountancy, to the artistic world of the chef’s kitchen.
Jailty explained that their industry is one that provides excellent prospects, “maybe you’ll not be getting big money when you start, but learn well, be reliable, and above all enthusiastic, and you will be limited only by what you want to be.” Mansoor al Rashdi said he wouldn’t mind a job in a hotel, while sitting next to him, Mohammed Said al Rashdi was more emphatic, saying, “I would start one tomorrow!”
This then, was an initiative of modest beginnings, but demonstrated a growing awareness of the need to meet the needs of young Omanis. These young men are the future jobseekers of Oman, and at least this group can recognise now, that there are opportunities beyond the public sector.

Text by Ray Petersen
Photo by Lena Petersen