A third of the 1,200 staff at a theme park that opens in Dubai in October will be Emirati.
The number of UAE nationals who will work at Motiongate is unprecedented in the business: in Abu Dhabi, Emiratis comprise only about 1 per cent of staff in the tourism industry.
The 400 Emiratis at Motiongate will run ticket booths, operate rides, interact with visitors and work behind the scenes in management.
“It’s going to change the dynamic of how Emiratis represent themselves. It will normalise it for us to be out there in operations," said Alia Al Marri, 23, an assistant show manager.
“I worked in a hotel reception for six months and it wasn’t normal for people to see that but visitors want to interact with locals.
“This will change everything and people will be more comfortable in joining these kinds of positions, especially women, when they see more of us."Aisha Al Abbasi, 21, assistant manager of VIP tours and events, said role models were important. “It’s nice to show people a different side of Emiratis, to be the face of these major attractions. It’s a chance to show other Emiratis that it’s OK for us to be in these positions.
“It’s very important for us to be represented. So many expatriates haven’t ever interacted with a local so it’s nice for us to be in the front line and show them who we are, especially as women."
The two women are in the first batch of 10 graduates from a training scheme run in conjunction with Motiongate and the Rosen College of Hospitality in Orlando, Florida, that awards scholarships in theme-park management. Eight of the first batch are women. Another 40 graduates are enrolled and will finish their training in Dubai.
Motiongate is one of six attractions at the huge Dubai Parks and Resorts development. A further 600 Emiratis will be employed at the other five attractions, and the company is aiming for a third of the staff throughout the development to be UAE nationals.
“We believe our country has a wealth of talent and our Emirati colleagues will add value to all areas of our business," said Aida Hamza, a senior vice president at Dubai Parks and Resorts.
“The main challenge we have faced is awareness. The theme park industry in the region is in its infancy, and therefore is not always a natural consideration for many Emiratis when planning a career. We have been working hard to raise the profile of this flourishing industry and to spread the word about the exciting and diverse career opportunities the industry offers."
Forsati, which means opportunity, is one of three employment schemes the company runs for Emiratis with at least a high-school education. “We are hoping to hire 800 young UAE nationals for this programme, which begins with a six-month training course before they enter into a full-time role with our company," said Ms Hamza.
Chris Dutt, a lecturer in tourism at the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management, welcomed the Emiratisation effort. “Activities that provide Emiratis with the opportunity to be involved in the tourism offerings of their country represent more long-term competitive advantages for companies and the UAE as a whole.
“Having Emiratis involved at all organisational levels will provide customers with a true, unique experience and help Emiratis develop world-class skills and services."