Effective management drives industry performance in the UAE tourism and hospitality industry. However, insufficient studies have explored how contemporary management styles could be applied in the gulf nation and, by extension, other Middle East countries. More importantly, there is a gap in the literature, which has failed to account for the cultural dynamics of the UAE that affect management efficiency in the tourism and hospitality industry. This research aims to fill this research gap by drawing attention to the cultural sensitivity of hospitality management practices in the UAE. Four research objectives guide the investigation.
The first one seeks to investigate the most culturally sensitive HR techniques UAE managers could use to motivate their employees, while the second one aims to identify culturally suitable techniques the managers could use to reduce employee turnover. The third objective is designed to find out the most effective culturally appropriate leadership styles to use in the UAE hospitality industry and the last research objective seeks to find out culturally sensitive techniques for improving employee satisfaction in the UAE hospitality industry. Data was collected from secondary research materials published within the last five years and primary research from three industry experts.
The findings were analyzed using thematic and coding methods. In addition, the Hofstede cultural model was the main conceptual framework for undertaking the research study. Broadly, the findings showed that UAE managers should deploy a hierarchical management style in their organizations because the country has high scores in power distance, collectivism, and uncertainty avoidance scales. Comparatively, the UAE has neutral scores on the male vs. female continuum of the Hofstede framework, meaning that gender differences did not have a significant correlation with management behavior. This study’s findings are instrumental in the improvement of management literature from a non-western perspective.
Research Background and Context
The successful management of the hospitality industry is premised on the improvement of key performance indicators (KPIs), such as occupancy rates, average room charges, and revenue per room (Knight Frank, 2018). Although these KPIs generally outline industry performance standards, realizing success in hotel management requires managers and leaders to motivate their employees to achieve both personal and organizational goals (Knight Frank, 2018). Relative to this understanding, this study investigates the techniques for improving hospitality management standards in the UAE. The researcher designed the analysis from a human resource perspective because performance will be assessed based on how well managers, or people in senior-level positions, harness their human resources to improve hospitality management standards.
The focus of this study is hospitality management, which involves different categories of products offered in the service industry, such as lodging, transport, and catering. The researcher contextualized the study in the UAE hospitality industry because apart from the oil sector, it is one of the most important economic sectors of the country. To affirm its dominance, UAE hotels offer among the best service standards in the industry (Knight Frank, 2018).
The findings of this study will be useful to the future development of the UAE hospitality industry by enhancing the quality of management, which is essential to improving the sector’s performance. This way, the country’s economy, which has been improving in the last few decades, will be enhanced. For example, a report authored by Knight Frank (2018) shows that the contribution of the tourism and hospitality sector to the UAE’s gross domestic product (GDP) increased by about 138% in 2017. The findings of this study would contribute to the advancement of this goal by improving management efficacy and organizational performance, thereby asserting the dominance of the UAE tourism and hospitality sector in the Middle East and around the world.
As will be highlighted in this study, many researchers have investigated successful hospitality management practices, vis-à-vis their impact on key industry performance metrics, such as profitability and return on investments (ROI). However, few of these discussions are culturally sensitive. Instead, most scholars have provided western-based management and leadership solutions even to countries that do not share the same social, economic, and political dynamics (Serra-Cantallops, Peña-Miranda, Ramón-Cardona, & Martorell-Cunill, 2018).
Consequently, cultural sensitivity has been disregarded because of the failure to understand the socioeconomic dynamics of different countries and their effects on employee motivation and industry output. This is a worrisome trend because the hospitality industry is highly sensitive to cultural factors because they affect service delivery and customer satisfaction standards (Serra-Cantallops et al., 2018).
Therefore, it is easy to make generalizations regarding hospitality management practices without understanding how culture influences the outcomes. This gap in analysis exists because western-based findings cannot be generally applied to nations, which do not share the same cultural makeup as they do. Indeed, employees respond differently to motivational strategies based on their cultural beliefs, norms, and environmental dynamics (Serra-Cantallops et al., 2018).
Based on the insights provided above, the research gap informing this study is premised on the view that few researchers have investigated successful hospitality management practices in non-western countries. More importantly, even fewer studies have examined how to improve hospitality management practices in the UAE. Alternatively, researchers who have undertaken related analyses in the Middle East have often focused on selected gulf countries, such as Egypt, which operates a traditional tourism sector, which is buoyed by the cultural significance of the country to Arab and human civilization (Sobaih, 2018).
Consequently, hospitality management practices in new and emerging tourism markets, such as the UAE, remain a relatively underexplored area of study. Furthermore, there is a lack of cultural sensitivity to the development of management literature because few researchers have explored hospitality management practices in non-western countries. The lack of cultural sensitivity to the formulation and implementation of policy decisions in different industries has been highlighted by Bakir, Wickens, Boluk, and Avgeli (2017) in their assessment of cross-cultural issues in the tourism and hospitality sector by suggesting that managers need more training to understand the effects of culture on their decision-making processes.
Overall, the focus on the UAE is important to this study because the country is a tourism leader in the Arab world, based on the number of visitors who travel to the country, relative to other Middle Eastern nations. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the most advanced tourism markets in the UAE. They are also some of the major commercial hubs in the Middle East, thereby improving the UAE’s profile as a key area of market research in the wider Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
Consequently, the findings of this study could be used as an indicator of hospitality management practices in the Middle East.
Importance of the Study
According to Knight Frank (2018), the UAE hospitality industry is experiencing several structural changes to improve its efficiency. The findings of this study will help to inform decisions that will be made during the changes. Therefore, the information portrayed in this document could improve our understanding of the effects these fundamental changes have on industry performance. This study is also important in increasing the quality of management literature about hospitality management practices in the UAE.
Therefore, its findings could be useful to shareholders and investors in the UAE hospitality industry because they will learn about the best or most appropriate qualities to seek when recruiting or appointing people to new positions in the organization or industry. The identification of key management strategies that are appropriate for the UAE could also expand the volume of academic literature that is focused on improving the quality of management in the UAE and the wider Middle East region.
The same is true for other markets, which have a similarly expanding tourism sector, such as Africa because the lessons that could be learned from the UAE could also be useful to the development of their tourism and hospitality sectors. The continent’s potential to learn from emerging markets, such as the UAE, which has a non-western culture, is highlighted by Ahebwa and Novelli (2014) in a journal aimed at understanding the position of African tourism in the global hospitality sector. The importance of this review is further emphasized by the fact that most management literature on hospitality management has mostly been domiciled in western countries.
Research Aim and Objectives
To improve the cultural sensitivity of hospitality management practices in the UAE
- To investigate the most culturally sensitive HR techniques UAE managers could use to motivate their employees
- To identify the best culturally appropriate techniques UAE managers should use to reduce employee turnover
- To seek the most effective culturally sensitive leadership styles to use in human resource management in the UAE
- To find out culturally sensitive techniques for improving employee satisfaction in the UAE hospitality industry
Structure of the Thesis
This paper is largely categorized into five chapters. The first one is the introduction chapter which sets the scene for the study and introduces the readers to some of the main issues that will be addressed in the paper. The second section is the literature review, which is a summary and critical review of what other researchers have written about the study topic. At the end of the chapter, the research gap, which is highlighted in chapter one of this document, will be affirmed. Thereafter, the literature review analysis paves the way for the third chapter of this thesis, which is the methodology section.
It outlines the techniques used by the researcher to answer the research questions. The fourth section of this paper will outline the findings derived from the execution of the research techniques outlined in chapter three of the document. An analysis of the same findings will be discussed in the following section, which is the data analysis part. The last segment of this paper is the conclusion and recommendation chapter, which provides a summary of the research findings and a proposal of new areas of investigation that future research should pursue.
The first chapter of this thesis has set the scene for the study. In this next section of the paper, a critical review of what other scholars have written about the research topic will be conducted. Key sections of the review will explore differences in management styles between the UAE and western nations, management issues within the hospitality industry, and the thesis’s contribution to current knowledge. However, before delving into these details, it is first important to understand the conceptual framework for the study.
Hofstede’s cultural dimension theory will be used as the conceptual framework for this investigation. Other researchers have used it to understand differences in culture among different countries, relative to how they conduct business (CFI, 2019). Developed in the 1980s, the theory espouses six key categories of cultural exchange affecting nations. They include power distance, collectivism vs. individualism, uncertainty avoidance, femininity vs. masculinity, short-term vs. long-term orientation, and restraint vs. indulgence (Hofstede Insights, 2019).
The first category of cultural analysis (power distance index) refers to how well people in a country tolerate power inequality. A high power distance means that they are willing to cede authority to a central command and act according to their wishes (CFI, 2019). Comparatively, countries that have a low power distance often have organizations that have a flat hierarchy. In other words, decision-making is decentralized (Hofstede Insights, 2019).
In the individualism, vs. collectivism segment, the degree of social integration is analyzed. An individualistic culture affirms a strong need for the achievement of personal goals, while a collectivist culture emphasizes the need for the accomplishment of group goals (CFI, 2019). Comparatively, the uncertainty avoidance index is useful in evaluating whether a country has a high or low-risk avoidance index. A high uncertainty avoidance index means there is a low tolerance for uncertainty, while a low uncertainty avoidance index means a strong appreciation for risk-taking (Hofstede Insights, 2019).
The masculinity vs. femininity index is related to how people in a country perceive gender roles. Masculine cultures are characterized by distinct gender roles, while feminine cultures have a fluid understanding of male and female duties (CFI, 2019). Comparatively, the long-term vs. short-term orientation refers to how well managers plan. A long-term-oriented culture means there is a high focus on the future, while a short-term-oriented culture encourages managers to focus on the accomplishment of immediate goals (Hofstede Insights, 2019). Lastly, the indulgence vs. restraint index
refers to how well managers respond to ostentatious needs. The indulgence culture encourages managers and employees to “enjoy life” and have fun because of a high propensity for instant gratification, but a restrained society encourages managers to suppress gratification (CFI, 2019). These differences in Hofstede’s cultural dimensions are summarized in figure 2.1 below.
Differences in Management Styles in the UAE and Western Countries
Most pieces of literature that have investigated management styles in the UAE have not specifically focused on the hospitality industry but rather outlined general approaches adopted by different managers in the economic sector (Doğan & Schroevers, 2018). The consensus is that many managers in the UAE are expected to have a directive and paternalistic leadership style (Doğan & Schroevers, 2018).
Stated differently, there is a general assumption that managers are supposed to offer clear directions to their subordinates and the latter must make sure the same objectives are accomplished. Therefore, the lack of a clear direction or instruction from the managers about how to accomplish organizational tasks is confusing to employees and is a poor management practice for administrators. Therefore, from an outsider’s view, UAE managers may seem overly abrupt and rude leaders. Relative to this assertion, Doğan and Schroevers (2018) say the management style adopted in the UAE is similar to that seen in most families where the father is the leader or manager and the employees are children.
Western countries have a different management and leadership style because they prefer a flat organizational culture where there is a minimal difference between managers and employees. Various researchers, such as Mattone and Vaidya (2016), have highlighted this view by suggesting that western-based management styles do not
encourage managers to maintain a high power distance with employees. They also suggest that many managers working in such countries tend to be firm but open to diverse views (Mattone & Vaidya, 2016). Consequently, organizations that adopt this leadership style enjoy a high sense of innovation, flexibility, and creativity from the infusion of diverse employee views in the decision-making process (de Waal & Ravesteijn, 2018). Studies that have further interrogated this management style in different project management tasks suggest that it empowers line workers and encourages leaders to rely on statistics or data (as opposed to intuition) to make decisions (de Waal & Ravesteijn, 2018).
Therefore, this type of culture is focused more on productivity as opposed to the quality of human relationships. Broadly, the fundamental differences in management styles highlighted above are generalized to different economic sectors. Few researchers have focused on extrapolating the same differences to the hospitality industry and more specifically, the UAE tourism sector.
Management Issues within the Hospitality Industry
The complexity of tasks in the hospitality industry requires managers to consider several issues before making key strategic decisions (Global Hospitality Portal, 2016). In addition, these decisions are likely to have a long-lasting impact on organizational and industry performance. The UAE hospitality industry has been characterized by different changes but technological growth has been at the center of the industry’s revolution (Doğan & Schroevers, 2018).
Particularly, technological development has been used in the improvement of organizational efficiency and customer satisfaction standards (Global Hospitality Portal, 2016). However, its adoption has also brought several challenges, among them being changing customer expectations, regular innovation, security challenges, revenue generation problems, and irregular working hours (de Waal & Ravesteijn, 2018). These effects have had a significant impact on the industry’s performance because managers and employees have to adjust to the effects of these variables on their business performance (Doğan & Schroevers, 2018).
For example, changing customer expectations has been highlighted as a key concern among managers and employees because it affects product development processes (Global Hospitality Portal, 2016). Figure 2.2 below shows that part of the problem is the disconnect between how different customers perceive their products and how companies deliver them (perception vs. reality). Therefore, stronger alignments between perception and reality yield improved customer loyalty.
Based on the graph above, it is difficult to achieve a strong alignment between perception and reality, as evidenced by the Global Hospitality Portal (2016), which says that “delight” only happens about 16% of the time. This problem can be addressed through the adoption of effective management styles and more importantly, the adoption of culturally appropriate administrative techniques.
As alluded at the start of this chapter, this section of the paper explored what other scholars have said about the research topic. Key sections of this paper show that most of the existing knowledge is western-based and few works of literature have explored successful hospitality management practices in the UAE. This study seeks to fill this research gap by investigating how to improve the quality of successful hospitality management in the UAE.
The findings of this study will be instrumental in expanding the body of knowledge relating to hospitality management practices in the UAE. Particularly, they will be vital in providing a culturally sensitive understanding of management practices in the UAE hospitality industry and an instrument for drawing comparisons with the leadership and management approaches adopted by industry leaders in western contexts, and which have been highlighted in many past studies. Therefore, the findings of this study will expand the volume of literature investigating hospitality management practices from a non-western context. The methods that were taken by the researcher to achieve this research goal are explained in the methodology section below.
This chapter of the thesis highlights the techniques used by the researcher to meet the study’s objectives. The process helped to fill the research gap highlighted in chapter 2 above, which centers on the inadequacy of management literature to improve the cultural sensitivity of hospitality management practices in the UAE. Key sections of this chapter outline the research instruments, research approaches, research designs, and data analysis. A review of the research approach is provided below.
Newby (2014) points out that there are two main types of research approaches: qualitative and quantitative. The qualitative approach is often used in research investigations that involve the subjective measurement of variables. Comparatively, the quantitative research approach is commonly used to assess measurable variables. Both approaches were combined in this study within the framework of the mixed method, which gave the researcher the liberty to alternate both qualitative and quantitative assessments based on the issue under investigation. The mixed-method approach was justifiably used in this study because the investigation was exploratory.
Therefore, the researcher did not want to limit aspects of the investigation to one approach. Furthermore, the mixed methods approach was a tool for validating different sets of information because qualitative data was used to affirm quantitative data and vice versa, where quantitative information was used to validate qualitative data. Therefore, both sets of information provided a self-check mechanism, which allowed the researcher to identify inconsistencies or fill research gaps where appropriate.
According to the Center for Innovation in Research and Teaching (2019), there are six designs associated with the mixed-method approach: sequential explanatory design, sequential exploratory design, sequential transformative design, concurrent triangulation design, concurrent nested design, and concurrent transformative design. The researcher selected the concurrent transformative design as the preferred design because it allows for the concurrent collection of qualitative and quantitative data (Center for Innovation in Research and Teaching, 2019). The research design also accommodates Hofstede’s theoretical framework, which is the conceptual framework for this study, because it is guided by a theoretical review (Center for Innovation in Research and Teaching, 2019). Therefore, its ability to integrate theory was the main motivation for selecting it.
This study was a review of secondary and primary data because the researcher collected information from published materials, such as books and journals, first-hand information from industry experts. The views of this group of professionals were integrated into the study because of their vast knowledge of hospitality management practices in the UAE and the wider Middle East region. Their views were integrated into the study to fill gaps in the information collected from secondary research. Published data helped the researcher to gain access to national data that could be used to develop culturally appropriate management practices in the UAE hospitality industry.
The researcher used three databases to source the materials: Google Scholar, Sage Journals, and Jstor. The keywords used were: culture, hospitality, UAE, and management. The researcher only included articles that were published within the last five years to get the most updated information on the subject. Therefore, the inclusion criterion for the study was determined by the publication date, which started in 2014 and ended in 2019. The sources also had to be credible. Therefore, the researcher only used books, journals, and reputable websites to obtain the data. Unreliable sources of information, such as opinion pieces, Wikipedia, newspaper articles, and blogs were excluded from the study. Selected articles that did not have a tourism/hospitality or a management focus were also excluded from the study.
The research respondents were recruited in the study through the purposive sampling method. Donnelly and Arora (2015) define this technique as a non-probability method of recruiting research informants based on a researcher’s judgment. The method is typically used to explore research topics, which are rich in data (Donnelly & Arora, 2015). In the context of this study, the researcher selected this sampling method because of the need to fill the gaps in information that occurred from the secondary data analysis. Therefore, the purposive sampling method helped the researcher to consult informants who were knowledgeable about the specific areas of investigation.
Information obtained from the data collection process was gathered using unstructured telephone interviews. Three industry experts were recruited through the purposive sampling process. All of them had worked in the UAE tourism and hospitality industry for at least five years. However, one of them had worked in Australia and Europe in the same capacity. The interview protocol was characterized by three key pointers, which were formulated as probing questions, which appear below.
- Q1: What does it take to be a successful general manager?
- Q2: How does it affect the cultural differences in one hotel in UAE?
- Q3: Do you think the employees should know the management directions and plan or should they just know their tasks?
The thematic and coding method was used to analyze the data obtained from the secondary analysis. According to Armborst (2017), Hilton and Azzam (2019), this technique involves the categorization of research data into themes that discuss a specific subject area. The themes are later assigned codes, which ranged from 1-4 to represent the four research objectives. The codes helped to further assess and compare data by evaluating how each theme related to one another and the broader research aim. The researcher followed six key steps associated with the thematic and coding method outlined below:
- Familiarizing with the data
- Assigning preliminary codes to guide further data analysis
- Searching for themes and patterns associated with every unique code linked to the research data
- Reviewing the themes
- Defining and naming the themes
This chapter has outlined the modalities adopted by the researcher in undertaking the current investigation. The mixed methods research approach was used as the overriding research framework because of its delimiting nature. Data was also obtained from secondary and primary research through a systemic review of the literature and interviews. The information obtained was analyzed using the thematic and coding method and the results are highlighted in chapter 4 below.
Results and Discussion
This chapter outlines the findings of the research strategies highlighted in chapter three above. To recap, this study aims to increase the effectiveness of successful hospitality management practices in the UAE. Four research objectives guided this investigation. The first one seeks to investigate the most culturally sensitive HR techniques UAE managers could use to motivate their employees, while the second one was premised on identifying the best culturally sensitive techniques they could employ to reduce employee turnover.
The third objective was formulated to identify the most effective culturally-sensitive leadership styles to use in human resource management in the UAE, while the last research objective was developed to identify culturally appropriate techniques for improving employee satisfaction levels in the UAE hospitality industry. These research objectives were met by conducting the primary and secondary research. The researcher first conducted the secondary research and the findings are presented below.
Secondary Research Findings
As highlighted in chapter three of this paper, the researcher investigated how to improve management effectiveness in the UAE tourism and hospitality industry. The review was undertaken from a cultural perspective and 36 articles relevant to the study area were identified. After subjecting them to the inclusion and exclusion criteria highlighted in chapter three above, the researcher remained with 18 articles for review. The materials were sourced from three reputable databases: Google Scholar, Sage Journals, and Jstor. The keywords used were highlighted in chapter three. Four themes emerged from an assessment of the research materials. They are outlined in table 4.1 below.
|1||The link between cultural sensitivity and employee motivation|
|2||The link between culturally sensitive management practices and low employee turnover|
|3||The link between cultural sensitivity and effective leadership|
|4||The link between culturally sensitive management practices and employee satisfaction|
Table 4.1. Themes and Their Subject Areas.
Each theme had a specific number of articles identified. For example, theme 1 had five articles associated with it, while theme 2 had seven articles linked with it. The third theme, which contained information relating to the relationship between cultural sensitivity and leadership had five articles associated with it, while the last theme was linked to three articles. To determine the number of materials related to each theme, a specific code was generated to guide the researcher in identifying appropriate research content that fit each theme.
For example, the main distinguishing subject areas for each of the themes identified were employee motivation (for theme 1), employee turnover (for theme 2), effective leadership (for theme 3), and employee satisfaction (for theme 4). Therefore, all articles relating to each subject area were given a unique code of identification. Table 4.2 below shows the codes identified for each of the unique subject areas.
Table 4.2 Themes and Subject Areas (Source: Developed by Author).
Each of the unique codes and subject areas identified above helped to address the research objectives because codes 1, 2, 3, and 4, contained information relating to the first, second, third, and fourth objectives, in that order. For example, code 1 was instrumental in identifying articles that investigated culturally sensitive HR techniques UAE managers could use to motivate their employees.
The second code was also pivotal in selecting articles that identified culturally appropriate techniques UAE managers could use to reduce employee turnover. Comparatively, the researcher assigned the third code to articles that investigated the most effective culturally sensitive leadership styles in the UAE, while the last code (4) helped the researcher to identify articles that discussed culturally apt techniques for improving employee satisfaction in the UAE hospitality industry. Collectively, the identification of relevant research articles in their respective subject areas helped to meet the research aim, which was to promote successful hospitality management practices in the UAE.
Culturally Sensitive Management Techniques for Improving Employee Motivation
The focus on employee motivation stems from the first research objective of this study, which strives to understand culturally appropriate management techniques for increasing employee motivation in the hospitality industry. Most of the articles examined in this review showed that employees are motivated by different interpersonal factors (Bakir et al., 2017; Daleure, 2016). For example, variations in employee motivation were caused by their perceptions about management and leadership in the organization (Bakir et al., 2017; Daleure, 2016).
An analysis of this view, relative to the conceptual framework (Hofstede model), suggested that most employees in the UAE tend to be motivated by finishing collective goals and receiving group support, as opposed to the accomplishment of group tasks. This is because the country has a low score on the individualism index and a high score on the collectivism index (Hofstede Insights, 2019).
This outcome is linked with the theoretical framework of this study, which is based on Hofstede’s cultural dimensions for different countries. A high individualism culture means that most employees would be motivated to improve their effectiveness through the implementation of management or leadership styles that offer opportunities for personal growth and development, while a high score on collectivism suggests that managers should focus on promoting the accomplishment of team goals. Therefore, the individualistic motivation style is misaligned with the UAE culture, which is a non-western one. Figure 4.3 below shows the general results of the UAE cultural makeup, relative to Hofstede’s cultural makeup.
Relative to the findings of the first research objective, which sought to find out the types of management techniques that would improve employee motivation in the UAE hospitality industry, the main point of discussion in the review, was the degree of interdependence that UAE managers maintained among their employees. Stated differently, the main point of analysis was whether the employees’ self-image was linked to an individualistic or collective culture.
Broadly, the main assumption made by the researcher was that employees who work in countries where there is a strongly individualistic culture tend to be motivated by tasks that promote their selfish or family interests. Comparatively, countries that subscribe to a collectivist culture motivate their employees based on the realization of collectivist goals in exchange for their loyalty to managers.
The UAE had a score of 25 on the individualism vs. collectivism index, meaning that it was largely a “group” society (Hofstede Insights, 2019). Such a cultural orientation meant that its employees had a long-term commitment to one another, which was embodied by the realization of collective goals (Sobaih, 2018). In such a cultural context, loyalty is deemed an important currency of interpersonal exchange because it overrides other societal rules or regulations that moderate workflow processes (Sobaih, 2018). In this type of environment, the relationship between managers and employees are also bound by perceived moral links that not only influence employee motivation standards but also how hiring and promotion decisions are made.
Culturally Sensitive Management Techniques UAE Managers Could Use To Reduce Employee Turnover
The reduction of employee turnover, relative to management styles, related to the second research objective, which was evaluated by reviewing UAE’s masculinity vs. femininity index, which according to figure 4.1 was balanced (50/50) (Hofstede Insights, 2019). This score means that the UAE is neither a masculine nor a feminine culture because gender roles are fluid in the workplace.
Therefore, the findings of the study suggested that culturally sensitive management techniques did not affect employee performance based on gender differences. This information means that cultural variations do not affect employee turnover, subject to gender differences in the workplaces. In other words, the cultural significance would have no effect on employee turnover rates in the hospitality industry because of the 50/50 scores on the masculinity vs. femininity index. Therefore, managers in the UAE hospitality industry need not pay close attention to the adjustment of their management styles to address employee turnover issues that emerged from gender differences in the workplace.
The need to evaluate culturally sensitive management techniques to reduce employee turnover can be further assessed through an analysis of the power distance index in the UAE. According to Hofstede Insights (2019), the UAE scores highly (90) on this dimension. In other words, most employees who work in the country’s hospitality industry have a high tolerance for unequal power structures in society. This cultural dimension implies the management styles that should be adopted in the sector because the literature suggests that industry leaders should adopt a hierarchical management structure to achieve optimum human resource output (Mattone & Vaidya, 2016).
Managers are also discouraged from justifying their decisions to employees because it distorts the power structure in the organization (Mattone & Vaidya, 2016). This attribute means that the hierarchical management structure could be a useful tool for minimizing the employee turnover rate because dissidents will be discouraged, and employees would feel less inclined to challenge authority. Therefore, unlike western societies, which have a low score on the power distance index, the cultural dynamics of the UAE discourage managers from adopting a liberal style of management because it could increase employee turnover. In other words, the adoption of a non-hierarchical management style could lead to increased cases of insubordination, which would further affect the industry’s performance.
Culturally Sensitive Management Techniques for Promoting Effective Leadership
According to Daleure (2016), effective leadership propels performance in any given economic sector. The UAE hospitality industry is the same because the leadership styles adopted by its managers could have a significant impact on the industry’s performance, vis-à-vis the key performance indicators highlighted in this report (employee motivation, employee turnover, effective leadership, and employee satisfaction).
Effective leadership practices in the UAE were also evaluated based on an assessment of whether the country had a long-term or short-term orientation. The long-term vs. short-term cultural orientation refers to how managers in the hospitality industry maintain a link with their past while solving contemporary problems facing the industry (Hofstede Insights, 2019). Often, countries that have a low score on this cultural dimension prefer to have managers who respect time-honored traditions (Hofstede Insights, 2019). It is also common to find them viewing change with suspicion.
Comparatively, societies, which have a high score on this index, embrace change pragmatically because they believe in preparing their organizations for the future (Hofstede Insights, 2019). The UAE has a high score on this index. Therefore, its managers need to adopt the latter management approach. The high score on the long-term orientation is reminiscent of the leadership approach adopted by the country’s ruler, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, who transformed the country’s economy to support the nation’s prosperity in a post-oil economy. The tourism industry was born out of this willingness to embrace change because few Middle East countries can boast of the success that Dubai has achieved in leveraging the country as a globally respected tourism destination.
Culturally Sensitive Management Techniques for Improving Employee Satisfaction
The identification process for improving employee satisfaction levels was evaluated by calculating the uncertainty avoidance score of the UAE, as proposed by Hofstede. To recap, the uncertainty avoidance scale is used to find out how employees cope with the failure to predict the future. This cultural aspect is paired with employee satisfaction based on the assumption that poor coping skills (with uncertainty) lead to a low level of employee satisfaction, while a strong ability to cope with future uncertainty leads to high levels of employee satisfaction (Bakir et al., 2017; Daleure, 2016). According to the Hofstede framework, the UAE has a score of 80 in the uncertainty avoidance index (Hofstede Insights, 2019). This value means that many employees in the UAE hospitality sector prefer to avoid the uncertainty of the future, as opposed to embracing it.
According to Hofstede Insights (2019), many countries that have such high scores on this cultural index maintain rigid codes of belief and behavior in business. They are also commonly intolerant of unorthodox behaviors and rules. Therefore, the management practices employed in these countries need to demonstrate an the emotional need for rules, regardless of whether they work, or not (Hofstede Insights, 2019).
This type of culture is also appropriate for managers who push their employees to be busy at work. They are also encouraged to be precise and punctual in the manner they undertake their management duties (Hofstede Insights, 2019). However, the main problem associated with this management approach is the low level of innovation associated with its adoption. This attribute has been explained by de Waal and Ravesteijn (2018) in a European conference organized to investigate management leadership styles because a strict reliance on rules was linked to low levels of innovation.
Primary Research Findings
As highlighted in chapter three of this paper, the researcher used primary research findings to complement the information obtained from the secondary review process. While undertaking this assessment, the researcher wanted to know the strategies general managers could use to become successful, how cultural differences affect one hotel in the UAE and understand whether employees should be furnished with management data or just stick to completing their tasks.
What General Managers should do to become Successful
Before giving their views regarding the actions that general managers should take to become successful, the respondents were asked to describe what success meant to them. They alluded to it being defined by high levels of efficiency and productivity. Two of them contended that successful management in the UAE differed from the western definition of the concept because of its strong emphasis on numbers. Indeed, in most western countries, management success is quantified by the extent that leaders can motivate and inspire employees to realize their maximum potential (Mattone & Vaidya, 2016). However, in the Middle East, success is defined quantitatively to reflect increased profitability or similar measurable indicators (Mattone & Vaidya, 2016). Relative to this assertion, one of the respondents said,
In the UAE, management is an existing extension of the prevailing organizational control structure because decisions are made in a top-down manner, and success is defined by how well managers implement or execute the decisions of top managers. This is not the case for western countries because their management philosophy is not mechanical. Instead, it is based on soft skills, whereby the best managers are rewarded subject to how well they cause their employees to change or increase performance.
Another respondent claimed that success could only be realized if management embraces diversity and is seen to be doing as much. This recommendation meant that
managers should be seen to be accommodative of UAE’s cultural diversity. This vision means having women and people from diverse backgrounds in management positions and taking proactive measures to make sure all employees feel respected. The respondents provided this information in light of the contested nature of some recent management decisions regarding sustainability and inclusivity. The complex relationship between management and leadership was also mentioned as a tool for making managers more successful when carrying out their duties. A recognition of the interplay between the two concepts (management and leadership) brought attention to the need to balance the visionary and strategic role of leadership with the procedural and systematic nature of management.
Relative to the above assertion, one of the respondents emphasized the need to adopt management practices that suited UAE or Middle Eastern cultures and disregard those that are not suited to the context of the application. He believed that the biggest problem companies in the UAE face are the “copy pasting” model where generic management approaches are implemented in situations that require a more deeply analytical understanding of the industry. In this regard, the informant proposed that the management approaches adopted in the UAE should not only reflect the missions of the organizations concerned but also the customer needs and strategic goals that guide the industry.
Lastly, one respondent suggested that providing managers with benchmarking reports would help them to come up with better strategic visions and blueprints for guiding an organization’s processes. The benchmarking model was identified as an important evaluative tool because it helped build accountability in the management process. However, it was suggested that the benchmarks be set to improve key performance indicators or enhance peer performance.
The results of the evaluation process should provide a clear guideline on how markets and employees perceive management actions. Nonetheless, since the UAE culture is modeled on the top-down management structure, little input from lower-ranking workers was identified as being pivotal or significant to the decision-making processes adopted by most companies. Broadly, the informants agreed that UAE managers should strictly follow their superiors’ advice to be successful. The failure to do so breeds contempt from some managers who may deem such an action as insubordination.
How Cultural Differences Affect One Hotel in the UAE
According to Bakir et al. (2017), culture is at the heart of the most vibrant tourism cultures. Therefore, when there is confusion about its place in boosting a country’s tourism performance, the probability of confusing a country’s products with another is high. This view could explain why the UAE has developed a global brand as the
most preferred and visited tourist destinations in the Middle East. Notably, the promotion of Dubai as the preferred tourist destination in the region explains of marketing the UAE tourism industry. Culture has played a critical role in cementing the UAE’s position as a leader in advancing the Middle Eastern culture. Particularly, it has reinforced the identity of the Middle Eastern people by building a positive image of them.
Furthermore, it explains why the country has attracted a huge number of international residents and expatriates in the last decade. In fact, according to the UAE Government (2019), the country’s population has almost doubled in the last five years from about 4.1 million people in 2005 to 8.9 in 2010. Recently, it was projected that the population has further increased to 9 million people (UAE Government, 2019).
Out of this number, only about 1 million of them are native inhabitants. The rest immigrated from other countries to live and work in the country. Based on the current laws of the UAE, the immigrant population has been assimilated into the local culture and they respect standard norms of behavior in the country. The country’s hospitality industry has gained from this trend because cultural tourism has been integrated into the country’s tourism landscape to give different groups of customers a “feel of a home.” Consequently, there are diverse cultural practices that are not only prevalent in the tourism sector but also present in ordinary life.
For example, Islamic principles are observed in business and personal life. Therefore, such cultural influences include managerial decisions in most UAE hotels because, although a national vision of diversity exists, some hotels are still grappling with how to implement them practically. This challenge has been caused by the potential clash in cultures between most international establishments and the local culture that permeates through all facets of life.
Indeed, since the UAE government made a decision to diversify the country’s economy from oil and propped its tourism sector, there has been a significant interest from international players to set up hotels in the country (UAE Government, 2019). Consequently, the UAE can boast of having one of the world’s most developed hospitality industries today.
Based on the merits of the above discussions, one of the points of discussion between the researcher and the respondents during the interviews was the influence of cultural differences on UAE hotels. This issue stemmed from the strict custom systems that most international businesses and clients have to go through to be assimilated into the country’s culture.
Although the informants had diverse opinions on this subject matter, their views mostly suggested that cultural differences influenced consumer behavior by redefining their expectations and perceptions of the UAE culture. Furthermore, they contended that hotels had to change their products to be sensitive to different cultural backgrounds that make up society. In detail, the respondents believed that cultural differences affected how visitors perceived the quality of services and the reliability of products offered by different types of hotels in the country.
When asked to explain how cultural differences affected hotel operations in the UAE, one of the respondents said adaptive behavior highlighted the influence of Middle Eastern culture on western hotels operating in the UAE. Particularly, he gave the example of Kempinski Hotel, which is located in Dubai, as one of the hotels, which has had to adjust its operations to suit local culture, despite being a western-based multinational organization.
Furthermore, most of the employees wear traditional clothes made by indigenous Middle East people as a sign of respect for the local culture. Another respondent said that the types of food offered in other western hotels, such as the Intercontinental Hotel, also manifest the powerful role that culture has played in shaping the operations of UAE hotels. The third respondent also mentioned Kempinski as an international hotel that has adjusted to local culture by employing staff who are not only versant with international hospitality management techniques but also knowledgeable about the local culture.
He further posits that the hotel’s management structure has a local look because its management wanted the services offered at the facility to be culturally appropriate. Lastly, two of the respondents mentioned the need to respect individual cultural preferences as one way of minimizing the potential negative effects of cultural differences on hotel operations in the UAE. They also recognized the need to employ different operational strategies to make sure there are minimal differences between customer expectations and the perception or cognition of the services they receive from the hotels.
Should Employees Know Management Directions Or Just Stick To Complete Their Tasks?
The relationship between employees and their managers emerged as another point of discussion between the researcher and the respondents because of the role of culture in influencing how the two parties relate. The conversation centered on understanding whether employees should be privy to management decisions or be excluded from the process altogether. This discussion was pertinent to the investigation because most western cultures support a democratic leadership style where there is minimal power distance between employees and managers (Bakir et al., 2017).
Comparatively, non-western cultures encourage the adoption of a top-down management structure where lower-level employees are excluded from the decision-making process. Both sets of organizational structures have a profound impact on the relationship between employees and their superiors.
When asked to state their views about employee management, the respondents agreed that common management practices in the UAE support the view that employees should stick to completing their tasks and not necessarily be knowledgeable about what management is doing. Stated differently, the respondents argued that a top-down management structure with little involvement of employees in making management decisions was proposed. In line with this view, one of them said,
You see, there is a big difference between how organizations are run in the UAE and most western countries because the latter group often prefers to use an inclusive and democratic management style. However, the UAE culture is characterized by a high power distance between managers and employees, which makes it difficult for workers to be privy to management decisions.
Another respondent added to the conversation by saying that the reason employees should stick to completing their tasks, as opposed to seeking management knowledge, is the top-down leadership style adopted by many local organizations. This structure makes it structurally difficult for lower-level employees to be knowledgeable about what managers are doing. They are only given instructions to do as they are told. When the researcher asked the third respondent to comment on this system, he said it works well for the UAE because it has yielded positive results for the hospitality industry. Relative to this assertion, he added,
I know most people believe that a democratic management or leadership style is best but it may not work in all settings and certainly not in the UAE. I think people underestimate the power of “culturalization” because even if you bring a good idea to people who are not ready to receive it, it will be difficult to realize its true benefits. This is the case in the UAE because I do not think the UAE population, like the rest of the Arab world, I should add, are ready to embrace a liberal management structure where employees cannot exactly pinpoint the source of power. Here, power is structured and it has been as such for many years. It seems to work for the people and certainly for the economy as well.
Overall, the findings obtained through the primary research process helped to fill in the gaps that characterized the secondary research process. Broadly, there was consistency in the information obtained from industry experts and the findings of the secondary review. However, the primary research data provided a more focused understanding of the research issues.
As highlighted in the methodology section of this paper, the framework of the mixed method was adopted as the main model for undertaking the research. The scores assigned to each pair of Hofstede’s cultural dimension highlights the quantitative aspect of the investigation, while their interpretation, vis-à-vis the management practices
adopted in the UAE hospitality industry, formed the qualitative aspect of the analysis. The link between culturally sensitive management techniques and the performance of the UAE’s hospitality industry has been examined through the four themes identified in this chapter. For example, regarding the leadership dimension, it was established that managers should respect time-honored traditions to reduce employee turnover. Similarly, a collectivist-oriented culture of the UAE demands more emphasis on the accomplishment of team tasks as opposed to individual goals. Broadly, the findings of this study suggest that a hierarchical management style would best fit the UAE context. A summary of the entire study process is provided in the next chapter.
Conclusion and Recommendations
The success of the UAE hospitality sector is contingent on several social, political, and economic issues. However, effective management is a key tool for driving the industry’s growth, especially in today’s global economy where the Middle East nation has taken a leadership position in marketing the region as a global tourism destination. In this paper, successful hospitality management has been examined from a human resource and cultural perspective where the prevailing management practices in the country are reviewed according to the cultural tenets of Hofstede’s model, which was the conceptual framework of the study.
To gain a proper understanding of the subject area, the performance of the UAE hospitality industry has been assessed according to four key performance indicators: employee motivation, effective leadership, employee satisfaction, and employee motivation. These four key KPIs formed the framework for the development of the research objectives. They were premised on understanding culturally sensitive HR techniques UAE managers could use to motivate their employees, identifying the best culturally apt techniques to reduce employee turnover, investigating the most effective culturally appropriate leadership styles to use in the hospitality industry, and finding out culturally sensitive techniques for improving employee satisfaction in the industry.
Although this study supports the deployment of a hierarchical management style in the UAE, it is important to be cognizant of the adoption of western-based administrative principles in the governance of the UAE hospitality and tourism industry.
Stated differently, the Gulf nation is among the leading countries in the Arab region that have adopted western-based management and leadership styles in different aspects of its economic development, including the tourism and hospitality sector. Therefore, although the differences in management styles between western and non-western countries outline the research problem of this study, the gap between the adoption of western and eastern management principles may not be as wide (in the UAE) as would be the case in other Arab countries.
Contribution to Knowledge
The findings presented in this paper will contribute to the expansion of management literature in the UAE because most of the information available has been developed without accounting for the effects of context-specific issues, such as culture, on management behavior. Therefore, the findings of this study will build on existing knowledge involving management behavior and more importantly contribute to the improvement of its effectiveness in today’s global economy. Thus, the information conveyed in this document could contribute to the development of future theories on management. They will also provoke the need to undertake more studies to understand the role of social and cultural differences in the execution of management strategies in the Middle East. Therefore, there will be a departure from the use of generic management approaches in solving context-specific employee or management issues.
Implications for Relevant Stakeholders
The hospitality and tourism industry is an important sector of the UAE economy. Understanding how to improve management techniques in the industry depends on a willingness by all stakeholders to understand all the relevant factors affecting key performance indices in the industry. The findings of this study would help to improve decision-making processes for managers in the sector because they provide the right framework for the improvement of management practices in the industry.
The findings of this study are also instrumental in actualizing the government’s vision of making the UAE a diversified economy because most of the issues discussed in this investigation strive to improve managerial excellence in pursuit of the improvement of vital KPIs that would boost the industry’s performance. Notably, the findings of this investigation are useful to the government as the main stakeholder because it moderates industry activities and is the sole custodian of the country’s economic vision.
Therefore, the insights developed in this study would be instrumental in improving policy decisions affecting the industry and the organizational performance of different companies operating in it. Lastly, the findings of this study will be instrumental to employers who are key shareholders in the UAE hospitality and management industry. Their interests in the research topic stem from the management or cultural focus this paper has assumed in examining successful hospitality management practices in the UAE.
This study has focused on investigating how to improve management standards in the UAE tourism and hospitality sector from cultural and human resource points of view. This direction of the investigation was informed by the existing cultural differences between western and Arab countries. However, one unique quality of culture that has not been adequately addressed in this study, and that influences management or business practices in the UAE, is religion. Particularly, the influence of Sharia law in the UAE management sector has not been thoroughly explored in this study. Therefore, future research should address this issue by examining the impact of religion on the management practices adopted in the UAE hospitality industry.
Lastly, future researchers should consider using a different management approach to investigate the effects of cultural factors on management effectiveness in the UAE. This proposal stems from the human-resource perspective adopted in this study. Stated differently, the researcher has investigated the impact of cultural factors on management effectiveness from the perspective of improving employee output. Other studies can investigate other aspects of performance, such as marketing, by accounting for its KPIs (such as customer satisfaction) through effective management. This proposal is informed by the complexity and diversity of management as a core discipline of hospitality management.
Ahebwa, W. M., & Novelli, M. (2014). African tourism and hospitality in a global society: Central or peripheral? Tourism and Hospitality Research, 14(2), 3-7.
Armborst, A. (2017). Thematic proximity in content analysis. SAGE Open, 7(2), 1-10.
Bakir, A., Wickens, E., Boluk, K., & Avgeli, V. (2017). Cross-cultural issues in tourism and hospitality. Tourism and Hospitality Research, 17(3), 245-248.
Center for Innovation in Research and Teaching. (2019). Choosing a mixed methods design. Web.
CFI. (2019). Hofstede’s cultural dimensions theory. Web.
Daleure, G. (2016). Emiratization in the UAE labor market: Opportunities and challenges. New York, NY: Springer.
de Waal, B., & Ravesteijn, P. (2018). ECMLG 2018 14th European conference on management, leadership and governance. London, England: Academic Conferences and Publishing Limited.
Doğan, A., & Schroevers, S. (2018). The global leadership lookout: Comparative studies on leadership practices in eighteen nations. New York, NY: CCBS Press.
Donnelly, T., & Arora, K. (2015). Research methods: The essential knowledge base. London, England: Cengage Learning.
Global Hospitality Portal. (2016). Top 6 management issues in the hospitality industry. Web.
Hilton, L. G., & Azzam, T. (2019). Crowdsourcing qualitative thematic analysis. American Journal of Evaluation, 7(8), 1-10.
Hofstede Insights. (2019). Country comparison. Web.
Knight Frank. (2018). UAE hospitality market review & forecast 2018. Web.
Mattone, J., & Vaidya, N. (2016). Cultural transformations: Lessons of leadership and corporate reinvention. London, England: John Wiley & Sons.
Newby, P. (2014). Research methods for education. London, England: Routledge.
Serra-Cantallops, A., Peña-Miranda, D. D., Ramón-Cardona, J., & Martorell-Cunill, O. (2018). Progress in research on CSR and the hotel industry (2006-2015). Cornell Hospitality Quarterly, 59(1), 15-38.
Sobaih, A. E. E. (2018). Human resource management in hospitality firms in Egypt: Does size matter? Tourism and Hospitality Research, 18(1), 38-48.
UAE Government. (2019). Population and demographic mix. Web.