National Hotel and Tourism Institute demands independence

Yemen Observer 
Written By: Elham Hassan
Dec 15, 2007

SANA’A – The National Hotel and Tourism Institute (NAHOTI) is aiming to restructure the tourism industry by demanding greater financial and administrative independence for hotel establishments.

This was the focus of a workshop held by NAHOTI last Saturday in Sana’a.  The workshop picks up where a similar institute in Aden left off, having recently withdrawn its efforts in protest against its lack of independence.  “The denial of independence to the institute in Aden prevents it from adapting to sudden changes in the market,” said Khaled al-Doais, dean of NAHOTI. He added that this also “reflects badly on the institute’s performance and outcomes.” The hope is that a similar outcome will be avoided in Sana’a.

NAHOTI was established by the Yemeni Government with the financial support of the European Commission and the technical assistance of the German Education and Training organization, a collaboration that is certain to continue in the future.   
Al-Doais explained that the Institute is considered an ideal project to establish a regional center for tourism and hotel training at both the regional and local market levels.  “It also falls in line with the government’s current policy of granting independence to foundations which will allow them to exercise a degree of flexibility and transparency in addition to strengthening their partnerships with the private sector,” al-Doais said. It has been agreed that the success of NAHOTI depends on both an educational and economic focus, which is the premise for the workshop. For example, a hotel should not be overly commercial as this would mean, despite their hard work, trainees would fail to gain any valuable skills. Instead NAHOTI will assume a commercial focus and maintain a strong public/private partnership. The hotel, on the other hand, will be responsible for covering its own costs and, if possible, generate funding for the Institute.

Experts at the workshop have proposed that hotels should operate independent of the Institute, with a separate management team made up of a few key permanent positions and trainers. However, hotels will still remain under control of NAHOTI. In this way, after 5 -10 years a hotel will operate relatively independently but also work closely with the Institute in order to ensure that training is organized and therefore effective.  A suggestion was raised at the workshop that the Institute could be administered by the private sector and supervised by the Ministry of Technical Education and Vocational Training in coordination with the Ministry of Tourism.  Ibrahim Hajri, Minister of Technical Education and Vocational Training, said that giving the Institute financial and administrative independence is necessary for improving its professional abilities.  “The partnership with the private sector will enable the Institute to act independent of the financial and administrative bureaucracy,” he said, “and that will be reflected positively in the ability of the Institute to meet the market needs in both the tourism and hotel industries.”Al-Shaibani, Chairman of the Yemen Hotel Union, said that NAHOTI is a qualified body with the ability to make decisions in accordance with the general policy of the Ministry of Technical Education and Vocational Training. He argued that this demands the support of the government in order to ensure its continued success.  He explained how parts of the private sector dependent on the Institute are confident that the educational initiatives will improve qualifications of local staff and gradually lead to a decline in the need for foreign expertise.  He added that the private tourism and hotel sectors allocate 1 percent of their employees’ salaries to the Vocational Training Fund which is used to enhance the Institute’s financial capabilities. This, in turn, can be used create jobs and reduce unemployment and poverty.

There were a variety of presentations during the workshop. Dr. Joseph Ruddy, the component leader, gave a detailed account of a case study by Jordan and Kai Partale, senior experts of hotel management and tourism, which addressed independence in the relative context from an international perspective.“NAHOTI’s role in education is more than merely teaching skills to gain employment. It is about encouraging students to develop a thirst for discovery, identifying their strengths and putting them to use as well as combining their knowledge, skills and personality to achieve the goals they have set for themselves,” read Partale’s Hotel and Tourism Vocational Education and Training in the Arabia Felix paper.  As a result, the success of the teaching and training process requires a climate within the Institute that is defined by a readiness for change, a desire for curiosity and voluntary actions.  It was noted that there are many challenges facing the Institute, especially that of the partnership between private and public sectors.

There is also an agreement in place to give financial and administrative independence to the Institute, and it was stated that the government would express its commitment to the Institute by signing this agreement. The Institute intends to provide the country with the human resources necessary to strengthen the institutional capacity of Yemen’s vocational training system through the introduction of demand driven education within the six key occupations of Front Office, Housekeeping, Food and Beverage, Food Production, Tour Guiding and Tour Operation. The courses offered by NAHOTI focus on technical and operational skills in the tourism and hospitality industry. Small classes, hands-on learning experience, state-of-the-art teaching facilities, and a skill-focused education are key components of their program.NAHOTI offers two diplomas at the completion of a two-year programme of study: one in Hospitality Services and the other in Tourism Services. Graduates of NAHOTI are awarded the government controlled diploma in Hospitality or Tourism Services.

When NAHOTI was first launched in the summer of 2006, more than 350 female and male students applied. Of these, nearly 200 were interviewed and 120 were accepted, with 80 studying towards hospitality and 40 towards tourism.  Forty-nine participants of the workshop were proposed to form the administrative board of the Institute, headed by the Deputy of the Prime Minister and including the Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, membership from the Minister of Technical Education and Vocational Training, the Minister of Tourism, Yemenia airways chairmen, the Association Of Yemen Tourism and Travel Agencies (AYTTA) and the Yemen Hotel Union, as well as the dean of NAHOTI as reporter. Recommendations from the workshop stressed the necessity of determining financial sources, including specialized credit of the public budget, income and external aid in addition to the Vocational Training Fund. A committee of five people was formed from concerned sides who were to follow the progress of the recommendations over the next three months. Yahya Mohamed Saleh, Chairman of AYTTA, and Mohamed Mutaher, Deputy Minister of Tourism, also attended the workshop, which was funded by the Social Fund for Development.