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Sustainability in the United Arab Emirates Hotels Research Paper

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Sustainability in tourism and hospitality industry is essential for profitability and environmental conservation. Tourism is a global industry which allows for the influx of people and goods from all over the world to a destination of choice. United Arab Emirates is one such preferred destination in the Middle East courtesy of its versatile hotel industry and Arab architecture (Al-Ali, 2008).

The Emirate of Dubai is a spectacular tourist destination with indigenous products and seven star hotels among other attractive natural sceneries. Sustainable hospitality and tourism development entails the practice of applying universal principles such as ecotourism, cultural diversity and national heritage in the industry. In addition, the interaction of people from different cultures could compromise host cultures as far as religious and traditional values are concerned.

Literature Review

Ecotourism and hospitality

The UAE context is a good example of how ecotourism and sustainable hospitality have been applied towards boosting revenue earnings from tourism beyond revenue traditionally obtained from petroleum resources. Currently, western principles and operations apply most in the management of tourism activities in UAE hospitality industries (Al-Hamarneh & Steiner, 2004).

The lack of career knowledge and technical capacity is the reason behind the labour shortages in UAE hospitality industries. Most expatriates working in the country are migrants from “Philippines, India, Thailand and Sri Lanka” (Ali, 1989). Performance management demands that UAE nationals are effectively trained in order to develop their skills appropriately. It is also worth noting that Arab leadership is characterized by Islamic principles replicated in the management of organizations.

Cultural peculiarities and business practices

Business practices and development of products are also designed to reflect the resilient Islamic principles of the Arab world. Shari’ah compliant hotels provide significant opportunities to locals keen on developing their culture and society economically. This has also inspired Muslim travelers around Middle East to visit the Emirate Sheikhdoms particularly Dubai.

Features unique to the Muslim culture are reflected at the workplace setting “through traditional uniforms with a strict dress code for women staff, markers indicating the direction of Mecca, female and male prayer rooms, prayer mats and prayer beds, ‘halal’ food with no pork, conservative television channels, art that does not depict human form, and beds and plumbing placed away from facing Mecca” (Atiyyah, 1992).

Islamic tourism and its perspectives

Islamic tourism is not just about pilgrimage to Mecca. Sustainable tourism within the UAE Islamic context appreciates the need for broader ways of promoting host religion and sacred values without bordering on the extremes. Religiosity principles only apply on aspects relating to reception and accommodation of visitors. According to Islam, visitors should be warmly received and respected irrespective of their cultural, political or religious inclinations. The Qur’an considered sacred by Muslims dictates that its believers must be “good hosts” (Amidon et al, 2006). Social justice and communal development are equally revered values from the Islamic perspectives.

UAE hospitality industry in perspective

Localized tourism products exemplify Islamic principles but which promote museum facilities and national heritage. Some of the spectacular tourist facilities include “Dubai city itself, the so-called eighth wonder of the world (Palm Island), the world’s tallest building (Burj Dubai), the world’s largest shopping mall (Dubai mall), the world’s richest horse race (Dubai Cup) as well as the world’s seven star hotel (Burj Al Arab)”( Ali, 2002). The phenomenon Dubai-based tourism facilities provide a cosmopolitan experience for shoppers and travelers interested in entertainment and holiday pleasures.

Culture and society for international ecotourism

At this point, it is worth noting that culture and society are crucial elements for promoting ecotourism internationally from a local standpoint. The UAE context has been reconstructed in order to emphasize a global image to a large extent as compared to the social identities associated with traditional regalia and artifacts. It is important that foreign tourists obtain more satisfaction in appreciating traditional cultural heritage rather than imported sceneries (Amidon et al, 2006). To this end, managers in the tourism and hospitality industry have preserved approximately 40 traditional buildings around the Dubai Creek where several museums have been established as a cultural heritage.

Influence of global crises on ecotourism

The recent global recession and financial crisis had a serious impact on the hospitality and tourism industry all over the world. UAE was equally affected by the financial crisis through decreased profit margins and massive employee layoffs. However, “the rapid increase of low-cost airlines” in the region combined with budget hotels affordable to both local and international tourists has led to sustainability in the industry in terms of holiday travelers interested in Dubai as a destination of choice (Amoah & Baum, 1997). Apart from the socially sustainable environment, the UAE hospitality industry is also reaping much financial benefits from cultural designed tourism products that are Islamic by nature.

Spiritual enlightenment and Arab civilization can thus be much appreciated through the educational experiences available at various tourism mosques and shopping malls. Financial transactions are strictly done based on the Zakat principle which prohibits the commercial concept of “predetermined interest” referred to as Riba in lending. Based on this concept, fellow Emiratis and like-minded Muslims are advised to assist one another in the spirit of brotherhood without charging interest on the loans advanced to people in need. The table below illustrates facts and figures about tourism in UAE:

Table 1: Facts and figures about Tourism in the UAE

Sector Salient Features
Tourism and Hospitality Tourism contributes about 23% in GDP of the country and estimates 18 Million tourists will visit by 2016 (RCNOS, 2008), Hotels and restaurants 2.7% of GDP (2006).
UAE ranks 40thout of 130 countries according to World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Travel and tourism competitive Index (WEF, 2008).
Unique projects: The Burj Al Arab, The Emirates Palace Hotel, Atlantis, Hydropolis (underwater hotel)
Emirates, Etihad: 124 destination, Estimated arrivals in 2007 Shopping Festival
No. of Hotels: 95% occupancy.

Leadership and innovation in the UAE hospitality industry

Age is not a key factor in leadership styles and organizational activity but a robust national culture with strong Muslim fundamentals inspires motivation and innovation (Al-Ali, 2008). Leader-follower relations in the UAE multicultural organizations determine the quality of exchanges they develop towards innovative perspectives. A multicultural organization develops innovation through proper leadership styles and employee commitment.

Islamic hospitality and tourism has been developed by the capacity of human resources and innovative approaches in industrial product development and education. Industry skills are benchmarked on nationalization of employment (Au & Ekiz, 2009). In addition, the hospitality industry is developed through management practices that take into account dynamic customer expectations and global market trends.

Ethnicity and religion in marketing and advertising

Marketing and advertising has exploited popular causes in athletics and sports for product endorsement and development (Al-Hamarneh & Steiner, 2004). Ethnic and religious attributes of the mainstream Muslim culture are integrated into professional ethics. Integration of foreign nations working in UAE through naming, language, dressing and eating culture of the host society is used to promote socialization. The cultural approach in hospitality industry is a product of competing cultures which meet at the point of intersection in organizational management. Dubai as the business hub of the Islamic republic of UAE is extensively networked through modern internet infrastructure which positions the hospitality industry on the global competitive market (Ali, 1989).

Supply chain management in terms of environmental protection

It is necessary to mention that the industry of tourism has its capital and can be sustained with the help of investments; “The tangible aspects, such as the condition and suitability of the constructed facilities, and the intangible aspects, such as environmental ambience, are important not only because of working efficiency…” (Penny, 2007, pp. 286-287). The issue of environmental protection became more recognized in the hotel industry in recent years (Chan, 2009, pp. 542-544). Though the hospitality is very important for hotel business, it is necessary to remember about environmental protection measures that are being adapted by most fashionable hotels of the world with regard to global initiatives (Tzschentke, Kirk, and Lynch, 2004).

As reported by Peršić-Živadinov and Blažević (2010),“The traditional concept of development, including tourism, the unlimited use of natural resources, and the combustion of fossil fuels have led to pollution of the environment and to climate change” (p. 162); the climate is changing and people should take some steps to prevent it. Bader (2005) enumerates the benefits of sustainable hotels (p. 71); these benefits can be used to improve the situation that takes place with the natural environment, partially this happens due to tourism industry. As reported by Tzschentke, Kirk, and Lynch (2008), the practices adopted by representatives of the touristic industry have been scarce and inappropriate to deal with the global problems of environmental pollution (pp. 127-128).

Performance measurement in different countries

The performance measurement of Australian hotels and motels was conducted by Bergin-Seers and Jago (2006) who analyzed the performance effectiveness of those hotels and motels with the help of financial measures. The results of this research can influence the sustainability of these businesses with regard to environmental protection measures. Australia, Croatia, China, and other large touristic countries that are well-known for their hospitality and high-class hotels should measure the sustainability of their hotels and other units that are considered tourism-oriented in terms of environmental protection measures taken to discontinue and even prevent global warming.

Effective performance

As effectiveness of performance of the touristic sector depends on a great number of factors including the performance of hotels, restaurants, transport units, and other influential parties, it is necessary to take into account the economic factors for these areas while suggesting environmental protection measures (Sigala, 2008, p. 1590). So, the assessment of effectiveness of environmental protection measures depends from the supply chain management and measures taken by this unit in terms of all other integral parts of the business.

For instance, Hopkins (2010b) investigated the issue concerning the sustainability case of the SAP to learn about the major benefits of sustainable business. Moreover, Hopkins (2010d) reviewed the case to monitor the supply chain management and its functions; it turned out that sustainability of the business depends on all factors while supply chain management helps to control and coordinate all units coherently. The issue of supply chain management has also been approached in the study by Krause, Vachon, and Klassen (2009) who analyzed manufacturing organizations with regard to their performance.

Employees’ well-being and environmental

The employees’ well-being was assessed with the help of the study conducted by Pagell and Gobeli (2009) who measured the attitude of plant managers toward the employees and their concerns about the natural environment. It is necessary to take into account the practices adapted by the net of hotels Scandic where the main changes were introduced at customers’ demands. As indicated in the study by Goodman (2000), guests “…who stayed in Scandic’s German and Danish hotels … began to ask about the company’s waste-disposal practices and larger environmental policy” (p. 205). This demand was satisfied and the company established necessary practices to meet the customers’ requirements and expectations.

Environmental performance

The environmental performance became one of the major concerns of most global companies, especially regarding the touristic area (Golicic, Boerstler, and Ellram, 2010, p. 47). Sustainability of global businesses was also addressed by Seuring and Muller (2008) in their study that focuses mainly on the sustainability of supply chain management with regard to the sustainability of global companies that manage to effectively put issues like hotels, transport, and restaurants together.

The problem of sustainability in terms of supply chain management was also considered by Berns et al. (2009), Johnson (2009), Hopkins (2010c), Keating, Quazi, Kriz, and Coltman (2008). Hopkins (2010a) analyzes whether the sustainability is the issue to strive for or it can be achieved through implementation of other factors that cause sustainability of the business. Sustainability can be considered an integral part of every business while it can be achieved through measures applicable to most areas of business; for instance, the study by Britoa, Carboneb, and Blanquart (2008) approaches the industry of fashion clothes.


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