Back in the late 1990s, Dadabai Holding, one of the pioneers of homegrown hospitality in the Kingdom, saw a dearth of well-trained Bahrainis in the sector. This led to the start of a training centre to groom young locals for the budding hospitality industry. “The initial idea was to train students to work at our own hotels,” says Hatim Dadabai, managing director of Dadabai Holding. “What started in 1999 as a mere in-house training service has now grown to what we know today as the Bahrain Institute for Hospitality & Retail (BIHR), a full-fledged academy for aspirants of hotel and retail management.”
The original institute offered entry-level courses in fast food, food preparation, pastry making, front office and housekeeping, comprising just five classrooms, three professors and 48 students. Growing from strength to strength, it is now a renowned college with a dedicated campus in Barbar, state-of-the-art facilities and collaborations with the world’s best hospitality and retail schools.
The BIHR first established a tie-up with the prestigious American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI) USA, which is the largest training and certification body worldwide for hospitality training programmes. It has a licensed network in 120 countries and 1,800 colleges. “We were the first in the Middle East to translate the entire curriculum of the AHLEI to Arabic, for the benefit of our citizens,” comments Hatim. “In the last 18 years, we have trained and facilitated employment for over 8,500 Bahrainis. Our work is not limited to teaching only; we guarantee our students jobs, so they can start off their careers on the right path and build an upward professional graph from there on.”
Alongside the focus on Bahrainisation of the workforce, Hatim observes that the country’s retail and hospitality sectors have seen tremendous growth in the last decade. “With the number of new hotels, malls and hypermarkets springing up, the need for skilled Bahrainis has risen manifold. The demand was, and still is, much more than the supply. Today, this market needs an additional 10,000 vacancies to be filled. So, the professional scope in these fields is tremendous,” he says.
He remembers that, initially, the local population was reluctant to set foot in the hotel and retail industries. “But today they have realised that with the sound training they receive from BIHR, the opportunity that these sectors present is phenomenal. Everyone starts out with the basics, but with the right training, growth knows no bounds. The world-class five-star hotel chains that have come to Bahrain of late have their own growth graphs for their employees. Working with such names comes with the added benefit of excellent professional exposure and opportunities to work in some of the best countries in the world,” he says. “Ninety per cent of our students are Bahraini and 60 per cent are female, this in itself shows that the market dynamics are changing, with the youth of Bahrain eager to make a mark, especially young women who previously had limited opportunities in this sector.”
The institute has a close rapport with the very best operators in the business. They recruit its students. The Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons, Golden Tulip, Sheraton, Radisson and Sofitel are just some of the hotels, along with the big retail chains. “We have six Career Days organised throughout the year, in which 99 per cent of the students secure placements, which is testimonial to the high standard of training they receive. The recruiters see their capability and pick them up even before they complete their courses,” says Hatim.
Hospitality par Excellence
BIHR has entered into a partnership with the Hotel and Tourism Management Institute (HTMi), in Sorenberg, Switzerland, to provide the internationally recognised Diploma in International Hotel & Tourism Operations. Hatim says: “The two-year course offers cutting-edge programmes of study, and is designed to equip students with the necessary skills to undertake roles in service industry operations. The study course is an exact replica of the one taught by HTMi campuses in Switzerland and Singapore, and meets the requirements of five-star hotel companies worldwide.
“Bahrainis and expatriates living here can undertake this course without even leaving the country. The tuition fees are also half of what they would pay to study the same course in Switzerland.” He continues: “We also welcome international students to come study in Bahrain, and we have 16 nationalities on campus this year. Providing such a rich, multicultural atmosphere benefits our Bahraini youth as well, elevating the discussions in the classroom to a higher level, opening their minds to new cultures and broadening their horizons.”
Not only do the HTMi programmes offered at the Bahrain campus offer a prestigious Swiss certification, but also imbue the knowledge and skills essential to Middle Eastern and Asian hospitality. Hatim explains: “As the course is a replica of the one taught in Switzerland, our students have the opportunity to learn the ropes of classical Swiss hospitality. And with Dadabai Holding being in the hospitality business, BIHR further imparts the skills and qualities essential in the international hospitality industry. We are aware of what it takes to succeed in the field, so, besides classroom tuition, we provide practical training, personal development, leadership skills, language skills and much more, creating international leaders of the future.”
BIHR also arranges for international personalities to address audiences in Bahrain and finds a way for students to benefit. “We have hosted eminent personalities like John Maxwell, Robin Sharma and Deepak Chopra, and these seminars are free for our students and alumni. Also, the events are planned and executed by the students, giving them a taste of event management,” explains Hatim.
The management of BIHR appreciates the consistent support received from Tamkeen and the Ministry of Labour in Bahrain. “We are glad that the government, through the Economic Development Board of Bahrain and the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism have given a much-needed push to the tourism sector,” says Hatim.
Those with a diploma from BIHR can opt to acquire a bachelor’s and, subsequently, a master’s degree at HTMi Switzerland or Singapore, or another university in the world. There is also the exciting option of continuing the second semester of the programme in Sorenberg, Switzerland.
Learning the Retail Ropes
Students interested in making a mark in the retail sector will largely benefit from studying at BIHR, thanks to its tie-up with the Australian Retailers Association (ARA), which is the most recognised national retail training provider in Australia. In collaboration with ARA Retail Institute, BIHR is committed to providing retailers with the skills and knowledge to develop the performance of their business and their human capital. Its programmes are designed and facilitated by leading specialists to ensure they are practical, current and relevant to the needs of the industry. Students are acquainted with a range of necessary skills, including: retail buying, financial matters, visual merchandising, marketing, operations, and sales and service strategy.
“Our retail courses ready students to work anywhere in the customer service sphere – be it shopping conglomerates, corporates or even hospitals,” says Hatim. Besides academics, pupils are involved in several activities and 16-18 weeks of technical on-campus training, so they are well versed in all facets of their field. He continues: “The kids come in quite raw and it’s great to see them leave the institute as well-groomed individuals ready to take on the industry. Students also acquire a range of soft skills like business English, IT, selling skills as well other customised adaptations as deemed fit.”
The faculty that teaches at the institute comprises a mix of experts from Europe and Asia, who have the backing of experience and extensive knowledge in their areas of specialisation. They are screened and hand picked by the associated international bodies. Those conducting the Diploma in International Hotel & Tourism Operations also undergo further teacher training and partake in exchange programmes at HTMi in Switzerland to hone their teaching capabilities.
BIHR Experience in Saudi Arabia
Due to the outstanding achievements of the BIHR in the Kingdom of Bahrain, Dadabai Holding has taken a pioneering initiative to offer its distinguished experience to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) by establishing The National Academy for Higher Training. So far, more than 4,500 trainees have graduated from BIHR’s branch in KSA, all of them being employed in different avenues of the hospitality and tourism sectors.
A Second Chance
The BIHR also has a six-month apprenticeship programme for secondary school dropouts, who otherwise would have no road ahead to further learning or to make their living. “We take them under our wing to train them in hospitality skills from scratch, to enable them to land secure jobs in the market. We groom them to get back on track and positively contribute to the country’s work force,” says Hatim. “The medium of instruction is Arabic, and it is a more technical and vocation-oriented course that has produced many success stories that we are proud of.
“The running of this institute is Dadabai Holding’s way of giving back to the community and leadership of the Kingdom. We have put in our own resources, monetary and material, to ensure the smooth running of BIHR, and we will ensure that it continues to prepare smart, young professionals to enrich Bahrain’s human resources,” says Hatim.
The BIHR looks forward to welcoming more students through its doors year after year, polishing them to become smart professionals in the dynamic hospitality and retail worlds.
BIHR would like to praise the wise leadership of the Kingdom of Bahrain for their great initiative in supporting the private sector institutions, particularly in the field of education. “The astute government has recognised the importance of education by taking on a proactive role in building opportunities for the youth. BIHR has been and continues to be dedicated to its efforts in developing the hospitality and retail industry, and preserving and improving the great reputation that Bahrain has gained in the field of academic and vocational education,” says Hatim.
Facilities on Campus in Bahrain
BIHR’s sprawling 60,000sq/ft campus houses up-to-date equipment and study materials, in keeping with current industry standards.
Refrigeration and stores
Sufra - fine dining restaurant
Coffee shop (Al Waha)
Library and resource centre
Locker rooms (male and female)
IT facilities and labs
BIHR and its affiliates are members of the following organisations and offer programmes validated by them.
• Hotel and Tourism Management Institute, HTMi, Switzerland
• Australian Retailers’ Association, ARA, Australia
• The American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute, AHLEI, USA
• The Confederation of Tourism and Hospitality, CTH, UK
• Emirates Academy, UAE
“The HTMi diploma opens many doors within the vast hospitality industry. Students can choose their field of interest, be it front office, food and beverage production or service, housekeeping or other important ones like accounts, maintenance, sales and marketing, human resources and many more. Our students have also gone on to start their own businesses and have become highly successful entrepreneurs today.”
Ali Sulaibeekh - Director, BIHR
“BIHR houses simulated lab environments to enable students to easily adapt to the operations of the real world outside. The college is equipped with specialised hospitality and retail labs, where they are familiarised with the hardware like POS machines, credit card terminals, cash registers etc. making the transition between study and work life easy. This brings Bahraini children at par with others in the sector, enabling them to get picked up first for jobs abroad and at home in multinational companies.”
Nigel Veigas – Executive Director, BIHR
TESTIMONIALS OF HTMi STUDENTS
Lulwa Marhoon, Bahrain
My fascination with the subjects grew as did my passion for this profession. Though it is hard work and full dedication is needed for success and progress, I feel proud of my accomplishments and look forward to achieving higher goals. I’m currently working in the front office at Le Méridien, Bahrain.
Catherine Bijoux, Seychelles
I enjoyed studying at HTMi Bahrain and I am very proud to be placed well in my career. I am now working in the HR department in a resort in Seychelles.
Zoheb Walid, India
I came from India to study at HTMi Bahrain campus. I’m happy to be part of this team, all faculty and students were very helpful when I first came to Bahrain.
The classes have a positive vibe and we were never bored, each module offers something different with a new methodology of teaching. I love my HTMi Bahrain Campus. I am currently working in food and beverage at The Westin, Bahrain.