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A Multi-Phase Methodology for Investigating Localisation Policies within the GCC: The Hotel Industry in the KSA and the UAE

Authors: Areej Azhar, Peter Duncan, David Edgar


Due to a high unemployment rate among local people and a high reliance on expatriate workers, the governments in the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries have been implementing programmes of localisation (replacing foreign workers with GCC nationals). These programmes have been successful in the public sector but much less so in the private sector. However, there are now insufficient jobs for locals in the public sector and the onus to provide employment has fallen on the private sector. This paper is concerned with a study, which is a work in progress (certain elements are complete but not the whole study), investigating the effective implementation of localisation policies in four- and five-star hotels in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The purpose of the paper is to identify the research gap, and to present the need for the research. Further, it will explain how this research was conducted. Studies of localisation in the GCC countries are under-represented in scholarly literature. Currently, the hotel sectors in KSA and UAE play an important part in the countries’ economies. However, the total proportion of Saudis working in the hotel sector in KSA is slightly under 8%, and in the UAE, the hotel sector remains highly reliant on expatriates. There is therefore a need for research on strategies to enhance the implementation of the localisation policies in general and in the hotel sector in particular. Further, despite the importance of the hotel sector to their economies, there remains a dearth of research into the implementation of localisation policies in this sector. Indeed, as far as the researchers are aware, there is no study examining localisation in the hotel sector in KSA, and few in the UAE. This represents a considerable research gap. Regarding how the research was carried out, a multiple case study strategy was used. The four- and five-star hotel sector in KSA is one of the cases, while the four- and five-star hotel sector in the UAE is the other case. Four- and five-star hotels in KSA and the UAE were chosen as these countries have the longest established localisation policies of all the GCC states and there are more hotels of these classifications in these countries than in any of the other Gulf countries. A literature review was carried out to underpin the research. The empirical data were gathered in three phases. In order to gain a pre-understanding of the issues pertaining to the research context, Phase I involved eight unstructured interviews with officials from the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (three interviewees); the Saudi Human Resources Development Fund (one); the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (three); and the Abu Dhabi Development Fund (one).

In Phase II, a questionnaire was administered to 24 managers and 24 employees in four- and five-star hotels in each country to obtain their beliefs, attitudes, opinions, preferences and practices concerning localisation. Unstructured interviews were carried out in Phase III with six managers in each country in order to allow them to express opinions that may not have been explored in sufficient depth in the questionnaire. The interviews in Phases I and III were analysed using thematic analysis and SPSS will be used to analyse the questionnaire data. It is recommended that future research be undertaken on a larger scale, with a larger sample taken from all over KSA and the UAE rather than from only four cities (i.e., Riyadh and Jeddah in KSA and Abu Dhabi and Sharjah in the UAE), as was the case in this research.

Keywords: Hotels, localisation, UAE, KSA, Human Resource Management

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