Hospitality industry seeks govt help to attract Saudis

Updated 04 March 2013
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Hospitality industry seeks govt help to attract Saudis

The glaring lack of services at many hotels in the Kingdom, especially those in the two holy cities, has provoked a chorus of complaints from guests. Many hoteliers say, however, that the problem lies not with the hotels themselves, but with restrictions on the hiring of expatriate workers.
“Overall, from a hotel management perspective, it is more cost efficient to hire Saudis than expats,” Shuja Zaidi, vice president of Projects Saudi Arabia, general manager of the Makkah Hilton and lead adviser on the Jabal Omer Project, said in a speech to the first session of Cityscape Jeddah yesterday. “The problem is that many Saudis, despite high unemployment in the Kingdom, do not want to work in the hotel or hospitality sector.”
Zaidi admitted that there are many challenges involved in accommodating guests at peak periods, especially in Makkah and Madinah during religious observations, and sometimes hotels can fall short in customer service.
“However, many of the difficulties are often times not the fault of the hotel, but stem from the fact that we are limited by the Ministry of Labor as to how many expat workers we can recruit,” Zaidi said.
The Ministry of Labor has also put tight restrictions on who can be recruited, requiring that employees be male and Muslim, according to Zaidi. He went on to call for the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) to work with the Ministry of Labor and the hospitality sector to help raise public awareness of the benefits of working in the industry in order to attract more Saudi employees to the sector.
“Currently, I have two Saudis working in housekeeping at my hotel and I treat them better than my management staff, why? Because they are unique and it is rare to find Saudis in this country working in housekeeping.
Nonetheless, the SCTA and government authorities should provide incentives to change this by raising the awareness of high school students so they can see that working in the hospitality industry can be rewarding and it is a good industry to work in,” Zaidi said.
He suggested that the SCTA first tackle the issue of low salaries, however, by creating a fund to subsidize raises for Saudi employees.
“For example, if a hotel can pay a monthly salary of SR 3,000, the SCTA should match that with SR 3,000 for a total salary of SR 6,000 to make the sector more appealing to work in and promote Saudization,” Zaidi said.
Another incentive is that Saudis will train from the bottom to the top, allowing them to acquire the expertise to be transferred to high-end markets such as the US or Europe.
“In the hotel business, we do not hire management from outside the company but internally, meaning that the bellhop will someday be working in management in a hotel somewhere around the globe,” he said, adding that he has trained several Saudi employees who are now working in Hilton hotels abroad.
Speaking about the future of hotels, the hospitality sector and religious tourism in the Kingdom, Zaidi said that the main selling point is that investment in the hospitality industry in Makkah or Madinah will always bring high returns because of the enormous amount of religious tourism that inevitably takes place in those cities.


KSA will be one of the very best countries for tourism, says Prince Sultan

Updated 46 min 35 sec ago
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KSA will be one of the very best countries for tourism, says Prince Sultan

  • The number of job opportunities is expected to increase to 1.2 million by the year 2020.
  • The Saudi government has allocated SR5 billion to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ program.

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia will be one of the most attractive countries for tourism because of its location, its unique tourist and historic elements and its hospitable and welcoming people, said Prince Sultan bin Salman.
Prince Sultan, who is president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH), told the annual conference of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) in the Argentine capital Buenos Aires that the efforts of the SCTH and its partners in localizing tourist jobs resulted in an increase in the number of direct jobs in the tourism sector from 936,000 in 2016 to 993,000 by the end of 2017. The number of job opportunities is expected to increase to 1.2 million by the year 2020.
He said the contributions of tourism to the national GDP amounted to 3.6 percent, up to 4.9 percent of the national non-oil output, and the revenues of the tourism sector reached SR97.5 billion ($26 billion). Direct jobs in the tourism sector exceeded 994,000, and the proportion of Saudi citizens currently employed in the sector is about 28 percent.
The Saudi government has allocated SR5 billion to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ program, which takes care of the cultural heritage of the Kingdom.
The program includes the establishment of 18 museums in the Kingdom’s regions, the creation of 80 heritage sites and opening them to visitors throughout the Kingdom, the restoration and preparation of 18 villages and traditional towns to receive visitors, and hosting economic and local hospitality activities operated by local people, as well as opening 17 centers for artisans that serve as incubators for the development of their businesses, factories for their production, and outlets for sale.
Prince Sultan also noted that after the SCTH completed the registration of the first four sites on the World Heritage List (Madain Saleh, Al-Tarif district in Jeddah, historic Jeddah, rock inscriptions in Jubba and Shuweis in Hail), it has been working with its partners to complete the registration files of six additional sites. Also, 20 additional important Islamic sites are being rehabilitated and prepared in Makkah and Madinah.
The conference was attended by more than 1,200 prominent investors and key corporate officials in tourism.
The WTTC is the largest gathering of investors and private sector professionals working in tourism around the world.