How Saudi academia and industry are closing ranks to drive hospitality innovation

Special A burgeoning new partnership between Effat University and Kerten Hospitality aims to help empower Saudi youth to supercharge the Kingdom's nascent tourism industry and meet goals of Vision 2030. (Supplied)
A burgeoning new partnership between Effat University and Kerten Hospitality aims to help empower Saudi youth to supercharge the Kingdom's nascent tourism industry and meet goals of Vision 2030. (Supplied)
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Updated 03 July 2022

How Saudi academia and industry are closing ranks to drive hospitality innovation

How Saudi academia and industry are closing ranks to drive hospitality innovation
  • Effat University has partnered with Kerten Hospitality to organize events and support local tourism businesses
  • Young Saudis encouraged to take on apprenticeships and internships in the burgeoning hospitality industry 

DUBAI: As part of their mission to diversify the national economy away from a reliance on oil, authorities in Saudi Arabia are actively encouraging a spirit of entrepreneurism among the youth of the country, particularly those interested in working in the Kingdom’s burgeoning tourism and hospitality sector.

To drive this agenda forward, academic institutions are teaming up with the private sector to organize events and activities that will help to incubate a start-up culture and develop homegrown industries.

One example of this partnership is a new collaboration between Saudi Arabia’s Effat University and Kerten Hospitality that aims to offer young people a chance to take part in mentoring sessions and hackathons, social coding events that bring computer programmers and other developers together to improve upon or build new software systems, while also providing support to students who want to start their own businesses.

“As a lifestyle, ESG, mixed-use operator, we are going to remain focused on our key areas — support for the local community and the young generation of hospitality players — and focus on locality in all its spheres, such as hiring and upskilling local talent, and driving innovation,” Marloes Knippenberg, CEO of Kerten Hospitality, told Arab News. ESG refers to the non-financial environmental, social and governance factors and goals that influence corporate decisions.

“In this regard, we aim to drive initiatives that will further empower entrepreneurship through the launch and introduction of new business opportunities for students to launch, manage, run and grow their businesses,” she added.




The hospitality industry is at the forefront of this charge, but it is also thought that other sectors, like tech and the arts, will benefit. (Supplied)

“Innovation plays a very big role in this drive as it will help reach the tourism aspirations for the country.”

Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 agenda for social reform and economic diversification aims to expand investment in the leisure, hospitality and tourism industries, with the aim of attracting at least 100 million visitors to the Kingdom each year by the end of the decade.

Investment in the nation’s tourism industry is expected to exceed $1 trillion in the next 10 years. To help achieve this, authorities are working to create a favorable investment environment and to encourage local entrepreneurs to take the lead in developing these industries. Kerten Hospitality is offering to share its experience and expertise to help them succeed.

“We are at the start of an ecosystem that will become self-sustainable through a connected network of doers and achievers across multiple industries that work in the field of hospitality,” Knippenberg said.

“We are here to collaborate, adapt our know-how to the local landscape and work jointly with entities and organizations that are headed in the same direction, with the same speed and readiness to move and arrive at 2030 as accelerators of growth rather than laggards of development.”

She believes it is essential to invest time and resources in a younger generation that is motivated, brimming with fresh ideas, and has the most to gain from the long-term growth and prosperity of the Kingdom.




Hospitality sits across the whole tourism sector, and human capital upskilling and a focus on the youth will be of paramount importance, according to Marloes Knippenberg, CEO of Kerten Hospitality. (Supplied)

Indeed, according to a report published in April this year by regional digital marketing company Global Media Insight, it is estimated that 70 percent of the Saudi population is under the age of 30. As a result, this demographic is expected to become the engine driving the efforts to achieve the goals of Vision 2030.

“Hospitality sits across the whole tourism sector, and human capital upskilling and a focus on the youth will be of paramount importance,” Knippenberg said.

“This is where we plan to collaborate with Effat, in supporting this drive to get closer to achieving this mission.”

Such partnerships are necessary precisely because the hospitality sector in the Kingdom is in the formative stage. By working with Effat, Knippenberg hopes her company can help to provide young Saudis with the hands-on experience they need to hit the ground running.

“That is why we hope to motivate and stimulate young leaders and minds to contribute to the hospitality space with expertise acquired during their experiences with our global team,” she added.

INNUMBERS

* 70% Proportion of Saudi population estimated to be below age 30.

* 100m+ Target for visitors to KSA each year by the end of the decade.

Sarah Hassan, a 23-year-old graduate student at Effat University, is pursuing a career in logistics and supply-chain management within the hospitality industry.

“The hospitality field in Saudi Arabia is huge because of Makkah and Madinah, and Muslims around the world travel to visit Saudi Arabia, so it’s one of the most robust industries,” she told Arab News. “But now, with Vision 2030 and the country’s will to attract more tourists, it’s evolving.”

In Jeddah, where Hassan grew up, the hospitality industry already plays a significant role in the local economy.

“Jeddah Season just started and I’m seeing a lot of people visiting from around Saudi Arabia, (places) like Riyadh and Abha,” she said.

“The government is allocating all the resources to help facilitate the field. I am now applying for jobs and want to pursue a master’s degree in supply-chain management abroad so I can bring back that knowledge to Saudi Arabia.”

The collaboration between Effat University and Kerten will equip students with problem-solving skills and entrepreneurial know-how as part of an initiative spearheaded by Maria Bou Eid, the general manager of The House Hotel Jeddah City Yard.

Young Saudis will also acquire new skills during internships and apprenticeships in Jeddah and it is hoped that their experiences will motivate them to pursue careers in the hospitality sector.




A number of Saudi universities are exploring partnerships with the private sector in order to help their students meet the needs of various labor markets across the Kingdom. (Supplied)

Haifa Jamal Al-Lail, the president of Effat University, said the partnership with Kerten will introduce students to a relatively new jobs market as the country experiences a wide-ranging economic transformation.

“The whole Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is going through different kinds of changes, from A to Z,” she told Arab News.

“In order to equip the students as valuable citizens, they really need to be engaged early on with the market to know exactly what the requirements are and how they can deal with it when they graduate. Hospitality is really the way to go for the Kingdom’s future.

“With all these things happening in art and culture, you will not be welcoming anybody without hospitality.”

A number of other universities in the Kingdom are establishing similar academic-industrial partnerships to help bridge experience gaps.

“It’s about making sure we have the market inside the university and vice versa,” Al-Lail said. “If this kind of reciprocal relationship is not done from the top management, then it will not cascade to the different levels of the institution.

“It helps the different departments and colleges a lot to seek the help of the community and work on it to really show the students what new jobs are available and what skills are needed.”

Al-Lail said she hopes that more companies from a variety of fields, including the tech sector, will form partnerships with higher education institutions in the Kingdom so that students can benefit from the guidance and experience they can provide, and perhaps even grants and scholarships.

“This will make a big difference in order to close the gap early on because they can really invest in the students while they’re studying but they will also have them ready immediately to join their industry after they graduate,” she said.

“That gives them sustainability to close the gap, while providing employment to our students.”


Saudi’s Formula E races showcase Kingdom’s sustainability efforts, says top driver

Saudi’s Formula E races showcase Kingdom’s sustainability efforts, says top driver
Updated 6 sec ago

Saudi’s Formula E races showcase Kingdom’s sustainability efforts, says top driver

Saudi’s Formula E races showcase Kingdom’s sustainability efforts, says top driver
  • Mexico City E Prix winner Jake Dennis impressed by nation’s evolution
  • Made world breakthrough at Diriyah, he says on ‘The Mayman Show’

DIRIYAH: Saudi Arabia’s Formula E races at Diriyah showcase the Kingdom’s ever-evolving sustainability efforts, according to top driver Jake Dennis from team Avalanche Andretti. 

Dennis, who appeared recently on “The Mayman Show,” made his debut at the first-ever Diriyah E Prix in 2018, which he regards as the ideal location to host electric car racing. 

 

 

“I think the cool thing with Formula E is we don’t just race countries just for the sake of it, you know. We don’t just choose a location to go, okay, we want to race there just because it’s cool. You know, every race we go to, there’s a reason. Saudi are obviously doing their best to try and promote sustainability,” he said. 

This season’s debut of the Gen3 car is an example of the ongoing focus on protecting the planet and is likely to be the future of motorsport. “These cars are super-fast now, you know, the acceleration is the same as Formula One cars … We reach some serious top speeds of close to 300 kph.” 

Dennis said that Saudi Arabia is shattering the stereotype of an oil-producing country. “So it’s great to see that, you know, even though, yes, they are known for oil and obviously bringing a lot from that. But it’s to try and promote sustainability. And I think a lot of countries need to lean more towards that as well.” 

 

 

The driving prodigy from Nuneaton, England, who started competing at the age of 8, said his fondest moment was at the City of Earth Diriyah for his first E Prix. “It was actually here, because this was where they used to hold the first race of the year and … it’s my first one.”  

Dennis said he was impressed with how Diriyah’s circuit has been developed over a short period and that it has now become a favorite with drivers. “I think the most standout thing of the circuit is just that it’s a night race, so it really makes these cars look alive. You know, it’s super fast through the mountain section.  

“So just the circuit has such good flow, such good rhythm. And for the driver, that’s what makes a great circuit. And today, obviously, under the floodlights, it’s a very special feeling. And yes, I mean, I enjoy coming back here each year.” 

 

 

Dennis said the most important moment for him as a driver was making his debut. “You’re in the garages at the moment and you drive to the grid and you’ve got that one lap to like, you know, get all your emotions out. 

“And you really think, okay, I need to fully focus for this and give it my all, and then you’re set on the grid waiting for the lights to come on. Okay, this is it. Like I’ve made it. I now need to perform and do well, what I’ve been made to do. 

 

 

“I think every racing driver has experienced that at least once in their life. And if their goal is always changing, then they’ll experience it a few times. But, you know, that main goal is just to make it as a professional, that that would be it. And something which, you know, I remember forever.” 

Dennis made his debut in the 2020–21 Formula E World Championship driving for the BMW Andretti team. His first victory came in the second race of the 2021 Valencia E Prix, held at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo, and a second win in the first race at the Excel Arena in London. 

 

 


Digital Cooperation Organization hosting 2nd General Assembly in Riyadh

Digital Cooperation Organization hosting 2nd General Assembly in Riyadh
Updated 02 February 2023

Digital Cooperation Organization hosting 2nd General Assembly in Riyadh

Digital Cooperation Organization hosting 2nd General Assembly in Riyadh
  • DCO’s General Assembly will be the platform to notarize international cooperation between governments
  • Organization aims to enhance global collaboration on the digital economy

RIYADH: The Digital Cooperation Organization will host its second General Assembly in the Saudi capital, bringing together DCO member states to discuss strategic directions and initiatives to enable digital prosperity for all nations.

“The 2nd General Assembly aims to address challenges associated with the cross-border expansion of the digital economy and facilitate dialogues to promote more cooperation to achieve digital prosperity for all,” the DCO tweeted.

Ministers representing DCO member states, along with high-level delegations from DCO observers and representatives from guest countries and international organizations, will convene for the General Assembly to discuss the state of the digital economy and the challenges facing all nations in achieving equitable global digital growth and development.

Deemah Al-Yahya, secretary-general of the DCO, said: “Digital technologies have immense potential to transform economies and empower groups, including women and entrepreneurs with new opportunities, especially (given) that 70 percent of the new value created in the global economy over the next decade will be based on digitally enabled platforms. So, it is of critical importance that all nations have the same ability to leverage the power of digitalization to achieve their goals.

“The DCO was formed to accelerate digital transformation through collaboration and knowledge sharing among all stakeholders to empower nations to develop strategies and programs to drive their own digital development and equally participate in the global digital economy,” she said.

The second General Assembly will be the first-ever in-person meeting of the DCO member states, marking two years of progress for the international organization, which was founded to help achieve social prosperity and growth by unifying efforts to promote interest in the digital economy.

“I am very pleased that the ministers from DCO member states will convene in Riyadh, the headquarters of the DCO, for the second General Assembly to mark two years of progress toward the DCO’s goals, and to continue the discussions on how we can achieve digital prosperity for all in collaboration with our international observers from the ecosystem stakeholders representing the private sector, academia, think tanks and civil society organizations,” Al-Yahya said.

The monumental event will also reflect the qualitative leaps made by member states in their shift toward a tech-powered economy.

The DCO is a global digital organization founded in 2020 by seven member states — Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia — but has recently added Morocco, Djibouti, Cyprus and Rwanda to its ranks.


Riyadh’s Gamers8 festival gets bigger, better and bolder

Riyadh’s Gamers8 festival gets bigger, better and bolder
Updated 02 February 2023

Riyadh’s Gamers8 festival gets bigger, better and bolder

Riyadh’s Gamers8 festival gets bigger, better and bolder
  • Second event has a $30m prize pool this summer

RIYADH: The world’s largest esports and gaming festival comes to Riyadh this summer for the second time, with a world-record prize pool of $30 million.

Kicking off on July 6 under the title “Gamers8: The Land of Heroes,” the eight-week event will feature an array of esports competition, live music by renowned artists, shows, community gaming and education platforms, and secondary activities.

Taking place at the purpose-built venue in Riyadh Boulevard City, the event is looking to become the target destination this summer for gamers and entertainment seekers alike, according to chairman of the Saudi Esports Federation Prince Faisal bin Bandar.

Prince Faisal said: “The Land of Heroes is the place for world-class esports champions and gaming universe lovers. It is the ultimate occasion where you can compete for glory and become a hero walking among the worlds of your chosen story.

“Showcasing the most popular titles on the planet will be amplified even further this summer. To be frank, when we mean bigger and better this summer, we truly mean it. We cannot wait to reveal what we have in store for ‘Gamers8: The Land of Heroes.’”

Following the success of last year’s inaugural festival, which saw 1.4 million visits, the second edition doubles the grand prize pool of $15 million.

In 2022, gaming leagues from across the globe battled in top five titles, including Rocket League, Fortnite, Dota 2 Riyadh Masters, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege, and PUBG Mobile.

It witnessed the participation of 391 top players from 61 countries and 113 international teams.

While the 2023 entertainment calendar has yet to be released, it promises bigger and better elite competitions, unlocking new challenges and experiences every week.

Paralleling last year’s agenda, Gamers8 will conclude with the Next World Forum, the first-of-its-kind esports and gaming platform. This will bring together industry leaders, global players, and investors from all over the world to engage in a sequence of panel discussions, workshops and activations. The forum hones in on the future of the industry.

Gamers8 is an initiative established under the Saudi Esports Federation that seeks to build an infrastructure around the gaming industry, create communities and ecosystems around esport, provide viable jobs for local creatives, and position the Kingdom as a global esports hub.

With more than 23.5 million Saudis considering themselves gamers, the esports festival hopes to create an avenue where people not only enjoy the games, but also forge a career path through their passion, Prince Faisal told Arab News in an exclusive interview last year.


Bulgaria pledge support to Saudi Expo 2030 bid, empathising the importance of bilateral relations

Bulgaria pledge support to Saudi Expo 2030 bid, empathising the importance of bilateral relations
Updated 53 min 53 sec ago

Bulgaria pledge support to Saudi Expo 2030 bid, empathising the importance of bilateral relations

Bulgaria pledge support to Saudi Expo 2030 bid, empathising the importance of bilateral relations

RIYADH: Riyadh’s bid to host the 2030 World Expo received new international support on Wednesday, as the Bulgarian cabinet decided to support the Kingdom’s candidacy, praising the historical relations between the two sides and the common ties that unite them.

Bulgaria takes into account the existing relations with Saudi Arabia and perceives the latter as a strategic partner in the Middle East. Bulgaria’s support and future participation in the 2030 World Expo are expected to promote further cultural and economic ties and boost bilateral relations in all areas of mutual interest.

The dynamic development of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the wide application of new technologies, together with the preservation of traditions and the country’s commitment to combating climate change are among the advantages of Saudi candidacy. Support for Riyadh for hosting Expo 2030 is expected to make a significant contribution to trade and economic relations, increasing bilateral trade and investment between the two countries.

The Saudi capital, Riyadh, is competing with three other Cities. The Bureau International des Expositions - based in the French capital Paris nominated cities in four countries to host the important event, which includes, in addition to Saudi Arabia (Riyadh), South Korea (Busan), Italy (Rome), and Ukraine (Odessa).

Held since 1851, World Expos are the world’s largest platform to showcase the latest achievements and technologies and celebrate the cultural values that unite humanity.

The Kingdom vs Captagon
Inside Saudi Arabia's war against the drug destroying lives across the Arab world
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Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister discusses strengthening relations with Iraq 

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister discusses strengthening relations with Iraq 
Updated 55 min 24 sec ago

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister discusses strengthening relations with Iraq 

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister discusses strengthening relations with Iraq 
  • Al-Saud highlighted the depth of relations with Iraq

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, affirmed on Thursday that economic relations with Iraq were developing significantly. 

Al-Saud made the statement during a press conference held in Iraq with the country’s Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein. 

Hussein said ‘security cooperation continues with Saudi Arabia’ and added they were ‘working to reduce tensions in the region.’ 

Al-Saud also highlighted the depth of relations with Iraq, which he stated had ‘witnessed great momentum recently.’ 

“We support the Iraqi government’s effort to enhance stability,” he said. 

Al-Saud added that stability was crucial in order for opportunities for prosperity to rise.

The Kingdom vs Captagon
Inside Saudi Arabia's war against the drug destroying lives across the Arab world
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