Muscat: Oman’s future leaders are being trained for industry through a management scheme at one of the city’s leading hotels.
At the Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz Carlton hotel, management have addressed Oman’s shift to diversifying its economy and boosting tourism, with a training scheme tailored for the tourism and hospitality sector.
The first set of 13 students at the hotel’s culinary academy recently graduated to become full-time chefs in the hotel’s kitchen.
Melanie Dorange, communications director at the hotel, said one of the most important roles taken on by the company is the training and development of Omanis, and they hope to raise the Omanisation figure at the hotel in the coming years by employing more well-trained Omanis.
“We focus on Omani manpower, and today the hotel’s Omanisation rate is close to 50 per cent. We want to train the Omani staff to become future managers.”
Fatma is one of the graduates of the programme, who was handpicked by the National Hospitality Institute and recruited by the hotel’s culinary academy.
“I always wanted to work in hotels. I always thought you can learn so many things in hotels, which you cannot learn in other fields or in government positions”, she said.
Fatma had to quit her studies after high school because her grades were not good enough to allow her to attend college, so she thought of doing something different and the hotel industry became one of her options.
Although she is living her dream now, she did face some initial opposition from her family.
“My family did not exactly (want to) see me working in hotels. My mother, especially, was reluctant. I guess she wanted her daughter to join a government institution, in a safer and more comfortable place. However, my father always supported me in my decisions.”
Fatma lives in a ‘Shabi’, a traditional Omani house with her family, in Al Seeb. She is the oldest daughter and has set her goal to become head chef at the hotel one day.
“I want to be head chef, this is what I have in mind and, step by step, I will get there. I want to learn a lot.”
She also plans to travel abroad and learn more about food and cooking, and is very excited about an upcoming trip to Munich.
“Travelling and seeing different places will help me gain more knowledge and extend my horizons. I am very excited to go to Munich, since (this is) for the first time I will be travelling to Europe,” she noted.
Currently, the hotel offers employees the opportunity to enroll in its three-year Culinary Academy Programme. The programme includes the 11-month Omani Leadership Programme, and 18-month Voyage Management Training programme.
According to Melanie, the hotel is now planning to train Omanis in other fields linked to hospitality.
Zuweina is another Omani woman who was taught by Al Bustan Ritz Carlton’s training department to work in the guest relations department. Her story is particularly fascinating, as she was married at the age of 12 as the fourth wife to her husband, and had to overcome many hurdles before reaching her current position.
Born in Sinaw, she was raised by her oldest sister and stopped going to school soon after being married. Following her husband’s brother’s death, his children were automatically brought under her care.
She added that she later divorced and married a loving husband.
Shortly after this marriage, she felt the urge to work and remain active. Initially not able to speak English, she found a job as a telephone operator and went on to impress her colleagues with her desire to learn.
Later, supported by her husband and family, she applied to work at a three star hotel. After working there for a number of years, she was hired by the Al Bustan Ritz Carlton.
She was initially trained in the housekeeping department, after which she gained experience in the hotel’s business center, before she moved to the souvenir shop.
Finally, she joined the guest relations team where she still works, welcoming guests to the hotel with her warm smile and open arms.
Today, she has been transformed from a shy woman who was once disheartened by the troubles surrounding her life, to an active person who is independent, while also working to guide her children.
She offers tea and coffee to the hotel’s guests with a smile,while wearing beautiful traditional attire, and proudly introduces guests to the Omani art of hospitality.