Jobs in hospitality and tourism as viable career options for young Omanis

When Zayana came back to Oman after almost 10 years stay in Malaysia, one thing was clear in her mind — she wanted to work in an industry where she will be able to use what she studied in university as well as keep interacting with diverse race and nationalities.
She decided to pursue a career in the hospitality and tourism industry and was overjoyed to finally land a job as a sales executive for one of the country’s top hotels.
“This is totally different from my previous career and I was thankful that my parents were supportive of my choice,” she said.
As an Omani, Zayana is first to admit that some traditional families do not find it lucrative for their children to work for hotels.
“Back in my school in Malaysia, we have over 150 nationalities going to the same university so when I came back here, I wanted to be able to have that exposure to interact with people from a diverse background. I didn’t find any problem with my family but I can understand that some families have their reservations,” she said.
“The challenge of being in the hospitality industry is that we have a very long day. We really cannot work from home and we cannot remotely delegate things. It’s the kind of work that we have to be physically present,” shared Katrin Herz, General Manager of Al Bustan Palace, A Ritz-Carlton Hotel. She has broken the glass ceiling when she became the first female general manager for the company in the Middle East.
“I personally had seen the right changes happen in the last few years in Oman. It’s incredible what they have done — opening a new international airport, putting in place a state-of-the-art convention centre, putting up a lot of fantastic infrastructures and creating roads that lead to everywhere in the country. It really is in the right track,” she said.
“Hospitality and tourism I think is a very new industry for Oman. It was not really seen as a good career option but I am the first to say that there is growth here. When you look at a hotel structure, you’d realise that it’s comprised of different departments — you have the kitchen, housekeeping, finance, procurement and many others. You definitely have to work from the bottom to the top,” she shared.
Katrin had her start as a concierge agent in a hotel in Barcelona, worked several years in Housekeeping and moved to several other departments before finally finding an opportunity to become a hotel general manager.
“In this industry, you have to work yourself up. You don’t necessarily just jump to a manager or director post. It takes a little bit of time,” she said.
Katrin also believes that newer generations of Omanis have the potential to become executives. She said historically, for most of the Omanis working in hotels, they didn’t have the education which posed a challenged into rising to their desired post.
Current trends all over Oman is that “we try to get graduates. Those people have huge potential to end up in the executive department. We also conduct lots of training. We have a programme that helps fast track a person’s career. When you are part of the programme, the usual five years assistant manager level, you can get in a year and a half,” she said.
Katrin believes that changing the perception about working for the industry is important and proposed that educating people is needed.
“Anyone who would like to work for the hospitality or tourism industry should follow their passion. Traditionally, there are three ways you can join — you can take the food and beverage route where you will start as a restaurant server or like in my scenario, I moved up through the ‘rooms operation’. Some also have their start in sales and marketing — there are many different paths,” she said.
“Working in the hotel and tourism industry is never boring which tick the box for many millennials. Your day is often unpredictable like for my case, no two days are the same. It comes with a lot of sacrifices but also comes with rewards,” she said.
She also firmly believes that it is something that can be done by Omani women but may require a lot of adjustments.
“Oman is a beautiful country. It is one of the most livable and beautiful countries which have good schools and airports. My first time here, I came here for a private visit and loved it and didn’t know that I’d end up managing a property — a beautiful luxurious one at that,” she said.
Katrin’s only hope is that summer activities for guests will be given attention to.
“Summer is a challenge. Holiday resorts with big beaches are a bit dependent on the weather. While we can’t fix the weather, we can diversify the activities. There are lots of guests from Europe who come for 2 or 3 days during summer so if more towns and cities will be developed which can provide them better options, that would work well for everybody,” she said.
She also pointed out that more marketing should be done within the Middle East. She added that while Europeans had this idea of Oman being a beautiful country, a lot of people from the Middle East perceived Salalah and khareef as the whole of Oman.
“People love Salalah and khareef but many people within the region are still not fully aware of what Oman is all about. In the GCC, there is some work that still needed to be done,” she said.
“Omanis becoming executives — this is happening already. We have several Omani staff who have successfully risen to the executive ranks. It may take sometime for the new batches but with the right support and programmes, their careers can definitely be fast-tracked,” she said.