RIYADH: As the tourism sector in Saudi Arabia continues to grow and the kingdom is expected to attract 100 million visitors a year and create a million jobs by 2030, building a resilient hospitality industry has become a key issue.
The hospitality industry has risen to the challenge of ensuring there is a sufficient skilled workforce to meet ever-increasing demand by offering training programs for nationals to develop their skills at all career levels. It aims to equip young Saudis with essential skills in the hospitality, tourism and travel industries through programs supported by the world’s top tourism schools.
Companies across the UK are cultivating hospitality careers through vocational training programs that emphasize resource efficiency and offer globally recognized qualifications.
In August, Radisson Hotel Group launched a training program, “A Brilliant Journey of Advanced Development Programme,” aimed at nurturing Saudi talent. The program is aimed at managers and equips them with the expertise to fill senior positions in its portfolio of 26 operating hotels.
“All the programs that we have launched target Saudi workers. And that works well with Vision 2030, which offers new jobs for Saudis,” RHG Saudi Arabia Basel Talal, managing director, told Arab News.
Talal added that 14 Saudis, more than half of them women, are in the program at supervisory and deputy managerial levels.
According to him, the group remains committed to upskilling Saudi nationals working in the hospitality industry as part of its expansion strategy in the kingdom.
Talal said the initiative aligns with the Saudi 2030 Vision, which aims to increase tourism’s contribution to domestic product to 10 percent.
The group’s initiatives include the Concierge Navigation to Success program, which aims to provide Saudis working in the hospitality industry with the tools and resources they need to advance their careers and ultimately enrich the customer experience.
Talal said five men and two women are currently enrolled in the concierge program.
The NTS program was launched in response to COVID-19, Talal said, adding, “Due to the lack of visitors and business during COVID-19, the Ministry of Tourism advised all hotels to focus on concierge services.”
The programs are offered twice a year. “The idea is that we repeat the program every six months, twice a year,” he shared.
To cover certain core elements or pillars, RHG partners with training programs such as Atton or Maximus: “We found that there were parts or gaps in the training program that required us to turn to a third party,” Talal said.
With these programs, RHG improves employee retention and creates more loyalty to the brand and the entity as a whole. “Higher retention or improved retention only leads to better service quality and reduces costs because you’re not getting employees to train them, you’re just working with the existing employees,” he said.
RHG employs over 450 Saudi line workers and another 200 are supervisors and managers, he added.
RHG also has a graduate follow-up process on their progress, skills and opportunities for improvement, which is reflected in their annual performance reviews, Talal concluded.
Red Sea Development Co. is also a leader in establishing undergraduate and postgraduate hospitality programs.
TRSDC, in partnership with the University of Prince Mugrin and the École hôtelière de Lausanne, is offering scholarships to high school graduates interested in studying international hotel management, Fadi Alaseri, TRSDC deputy director of education, told Arab News.
“TRSDC’s transformative education programs are designed to develop the brightest minds in tourism and hospitality by equipping young Saudis with the skills and competencies needed to reach their full potential,” said Alaseri.
The program consists of two majors: Fast Track, a four-year program with no preparatory year, and Full Track, a five-year program with a preparatory year that qualifies students to begin the major.
TRSDC and its partners will provide graduates with suitable employment opportunities upon successful completion of the program, he added.
“The program aims to prepare executives and specialists in international hospitality management by providing a curriculum that combines theoretical knowledge and practical experience based on Swiss and international hospitality standards,” said Alaseri
There were 2,653 applicants for the scholarship, 1,883 men and 770 women. However, only 26 were selected, 14 men and 12 women.
“Our talents will lead the pioneering luxury, regenerative tourism destination in alignment with the needs of the Saudi labor market within our destination,” Alaseri said.
“TRSDC is reshaping educational opportunities by opening new doors and equipping young Saudi professionals with the skills and knowledge needed to excel in the hospitality and tourism sectors,” he added.
Qualification of Saudi youth
In July 2022, the group partnered with Bunyan Training Academy to offer post-graduation work opportunities to students at Hilton hotels in Saudi Arabia.
The training program, which is accredited by the Saudi Technical and Vocational Training Corporation and certified by EHL, is available to select young Saudi talent, Fawaz Moumina, Hilton Group’s senior director of human resources for Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Levant, told the press Arab News.
“This is the first time in Saudi Arabia that an international hotel supplier like Hilton has partnered with EHL to offer this program,” he added.
Students will receive coveted theoretical and practical instruction in various industry roles, Moumina said.
Additionally, participants can earn bachelor’s degrees based on the variety of careers they’ll be trained in, including culinary arts, F&B, front desk and home economics if they choose, he said.
This program aims to identify more than 30 Saudi talents interested in a career in hospitality. “Following a thorough selection process, Bunyan Training Academy carefully selected applicants with the help of Hilton,” said Fawaz.
In 2024, students who complete the program will receive a diploma accredited by both Saudi TVTC and EHL, he said.
As part of its efforts to mobilize the country’s workforce, Moumina said the group has also developed close ties with the King Khalid Foundation, the International Youth Federation, King Saud University and ministries and government organizations such as the Saudi Tourism Authority.
Fawaz explained that in Saudi Arabia, Hilton has 2,400 team members in 16 hotels to reach 10,000 by 2030 – half of whom will be Saudi nationals.