Hospitality training programs step up to support Saudi youth

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Updated 25 September 2022

Hospitality training programs step up to support Saudi youth

Hospitality training programs step up to support Saudi youth
  • Companies throughout the Kingdom are cultivating careers in hospitality through vocational training programs

RIYADH: As Saudi Arabia’s tourism sector continues to grow, with the Kingdom expecting to attract 100 million annual visitors and creating one million jobs by 2030, building a resilient hospitality industry has become a core focus.

The hospitality sector has risen up to the challenge by ensuring that there is enough qualified manpower to handle the ever-increasing demand by providing training programs for nationals to develop their skills across all career levels. The intention is to equip young Saudis with essential skills in the hospitality, tourism, and travel industries through programs supported by the world’s best tourism training schools.

Companies throughout the Kingdom are cultivating careers in hospitality through vocational training programs that emphasize resource efficiency and provide globally recognized qualifications.

In August, the Radisson Hotel Group launched a training program, A Brilliant Journey of Advanced Development Programme, aimed at developing Saudi talent. The program targets supervisors and equips them with the expertise to fill managerial positions across its portfolio of 26 operational hotels.

“All the programs that we have launched target Saudi employees. And that works well with Vision 2030 offering new jobs for Saudis,” Managing Director of RHG Saudi Arabia Basel Talal told Arab News. 

Talal added that 14 Saudis, over half of them women, are in the program at supervisory and assistant managerial levels.

Basel Talal

According to him, the group remains committed to upskilling Saudi nationals working in the hospitality sector as part of its expansion strategy in the Kingdom.

Talal said that the initiative aligns with the Saudi 2030 Vision, which aims to increase tourism’s contribution to the domestic product to 10 percent.

Among the group’s initiatives is 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 customer experiences.

Talal said that five males and two females are currently enrolled in the concierge program. 

The NTS program was launched as a response to COVID-19, Talal said, adding, “As a result of the lack of visitors and business during COVID-19, the Ministry of Tourism advised all hotels to focus on concierge services.” 

The programs will be offered twice a year, “The idea is that we repeat the program every six months, twice annually,” he informed.

To cover certain core elements or pillars, RHG partners with training programs like Atton or Maximus: “We’ve seen that there are parts or gaps in the training program that require us to reach out to third parties,” Talal said.

With those programs, RHG improves employee retention and creates more loyalty to the brand, and to the unit as a whole. “Higher retention or improved retention will only result in a better quality of service, and reduce cost because you don’t get any employees to train them, you just work with the existing employees,” he said. 

RHG employs over 450 Saudi line employees and another 200 are supervisors and managers, he added. 

RHG also has a follow-up process for graduates on their progress, their skill set, and how to improve, which is reflected in their annual performance reviews, Talal concluded. 

Leading the way

The Red Sea Development Co. is also leading the way in establishing undergraduate and postgraduate hospitality programs.

TRSDC, in partnership with the University of Prince Mugrin and the École hôtelière de Lausanne, offers scholarships to high school graduates who are interested in studying international hospitality management, Fadi Alaseri, TRSDC’s associate educational director told Arab News. 

“TRSDC’s transformative education programs are designed to develop the brightest minds in the tourism and hospitality fields, by equipping young Saudis with the needed skills and competencies, allowing them to realize their full potential,” Alaseri said.

There are two tracks available in the program: Fast Track, which is a four-year program with no preparatory year, and Full Track, which is a five-year program with a preparatory year, which qualifies students to begin the major.

TRSDC and its partners will provide suitable job opportunities to graduates upon successful completion of the program, he added. 

“The program aims to prepare leaders and specialists in international hospitality management by providing a curriculum that combines theoretical knowledge and hands-on experiences based on Swiss and international hospitality standards,” Alaseri said

There were 2,653 applicants for the scholarship, 1,883 of whom were males and 770 were females. However, only 26 were selected, of which 14 were males and 12 were females. 

“Our talents will run the ground-breaking luxury, regenerative tourism destination in alignment with the Saudi labor market needs within our destination,” Alaseri said.

“TRSDC reshapes educational opportunities by opening new doors and empowering young Saudi professionals with the required skills and knowledge to excel in the hospitality field and tourism sectors,” he added.

Upskilling Saudi youth 

In order to provide students with job opportunities at Hilton Hotels in Saudi Arabia upon graduation, the group entered into a partnership with Bunyan Training Academy in July 2022. 

The training program, which is accredited by the Saudi Technical and Vocational Training Corporation and certified by the EHL, is available to select young Saudi talent, Hilton Group’s Senior Director of Human Resources for Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Levant Fawaz Moumina told Arab News. 

Fawaz Moumina

“This is the first time in Saudi that an international hospitality provider such as Hilton is collaborating with EHL to offer this program,” he added. 

Students will receive sought-after theoretical and practical lessons across various functions of the industry, Moumina said.

Furthermore, participants will be able to pursue bachelor’s degrees based on the variety of professions they will be trained in, including culinary, F&B, front office, and housekeeping, if they choose to do so, he said. 

This program aims to identify more than 30 Saudi talents who are interested in pursuing a career in hospitality. “Following a meticulous selection process, Bunyan Training Academy carefully selected applicants with Hilton’s input,” Fawaz said. 

In 2024, students who complete the program will receive a diploma accredited by both the Saudi TVTC and EHL, he said.

As part of its efforts to mobilize the nation’s labor force, Moumina said the group has also established close ties with the King Khalid Foundation, the International Youth Federation, King Saud University and ministries and governmental organizations like the Saudi Tourism Authority. 

Fawaz stated that Hilton has 2,400 team members in Saudi Arabia across 16 hotels, to reach 10,000 by 2030 — half of whom will be Saudi nationals.

Wizz Air launches Rome to Riyadh route

Wizz Air launches Rome to Riyadh route
Updated 10 December 2022

Wizz Air launches Rome to Riyadh route

Wizz Air launches Rome to Riyadh route
  • Scheduled flights will run twice a week from Leonardo da Vinci Fiumicino hub

ROME: WIZZ Air launched this week its first direct flight from Rome to Riyadh.

Scheduled flights will run twice a week from Leonardo da Vinci Fiumicino hub and wil increase the Italian touristic presence in Saudi Arabia, according to a company statement.

The European low cost airline had already opened a regular route from Rome to Dammam and from Milan Malpensa to Jeddah, as part of twenty-three new routes to Saudi Arabia announced in recent months by WIZZ Air,

It confirmed the company's commitment in supporting the country's growing tourism sector, in line with the Vision 2030 program, the company said.

At a launch event in Rome Fiumicino airport Fahd Hamidaddin, Chief Executive Officer and Board Member of Administration of the Saudi Tourism Authority, said that the increase of flights between KSA and Italy was “helping us to create a new exciting destination for the Italian travellers.”

He continued: “We are very pleased and excited as this will allow to more and more Italians to come to Saud Arabia to explore our wonderful country and experience the authentic Arabian hospitality.”

Evelin Jeckel, Network Officer of WIZZ Air said that the new route “will directly link two capitals, all over the world most known for their immense historical and cultural heritage.” 

She thanked the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Saudi Tourism Authority, Riyadh International Airport and the Government of Saudi Arabia for their “continued support.”

ACWA Power signs a $1.5bn agreement with Power China: Reuters

ACWA Power signs a $1.5bn agreement with Power China: Reuters
Updated 09 December 2022

ACWA Power signs a $1.5bn agreement with Power China: Reuters

ACWA Power signs a $1.5bn agreement with Power China: Reuters

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia private utility firm ACWA Power has signed a $1.5 billion agreement with Power China, it has been reported by Reuters.

No further details were released, and ACWA Power did not respond to Arab News' request for a comment. 

The deal comes amid a flurry of Memorandums of Understanding signed by the energy provider with Chinese entities to coincide with the visit of China’s President Xi Jinping to the Kingdom.

ACWA Power signed MoUs that relate to financing, investment, engineering procurement and construction contracts and renewable energy equipment procurement in its clean and renewable energy projects. 

The strategic partners from China include Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Bank of China, SPIC Huanghe Hydropower Development Co,  and China Southern Power Grid International. 

Power China International Group, China Energy International Group, Jinko Solar Co, Sungrow Power Supply Co and Jolywood Solar Technology Co also inked agreements.

The deals will lay the ground for financing, investment and construction of ACWA Power’s global clean and renewable energy projects in Saudi Arabia and Belt and Road Initiative countries. 

Mohammad Abdullah Abunayyan, chairman of ACWA Power, said: “ACWA Power’s solid and growing relationship with major Chinese entities has contributed to our leading position in driving the global energy transition and reflects the valuable ties between Saudi Arabia and China.  

“As a leading developer of power, water and green hydrogen assets worldwide, and being headquartered in a Belt and Road Initiative country, we are in a unique position to support both the energy transition and economic transformation envisioned by Saudi Arabia’s forward-looking and iconic Vision 2030, as well as China’s Belt and Road initiative. 

“We look forward to playing a vital role in each of these national agendas that complement each other.” 

ACWA Power’s track record of collaboration with China started in 2009 when the firm opened an office in Beijing. 

To date, Chinese organizations have a hand in 47 projects within ACWA Power’s portfolio, spread across 12 countries.  

During this time, ACWA Power’s collaboration with Chinese firms have reached a $10billion with investors and financiers, and an additional $33 billion with Chinese EPC and suppliers, covering multiple landmark renewable and seawater desalination projects over the world.

AI and digital economy development key part of Saudi-China partnership plan

AI and digital economy development key part of Saudi-China partnership plan
Updated 09 December 2022

AI and digital economy development key part of Saudi-China partnership plan

AI and digital economy development key part of Saudi-China partnership plan

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and China will work closely together on developing artificial intelligence as part of a deal struck between the two nations.

The Kingdom’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah bin Amer Al-Sawaha signed a strategic partnership plan with the Chinese Minister of Industry and Information Technology Wang Zhigang in a sign of the deepening ties between the governments.

The partnership develops a framework for cooperation, covering the fields of digital economy, communications and information technology, and promoting research and innovation in the field of emerging technologies, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

It will also improve aspects of communications infrastructure, and enable the growth of digital entrepreneurship through emerging business models such as financial technology and e-commerce.

It also covers cooperation in the fields of artificial intelligence, advanced computing and quantum information technology, in addition to robots and smart equipment, and work to develop their technologies and applications for industrial and commercial purposes.

Within the framework of this partnership, the two sides will also cooperate in the field of digital technology applications and radio frequency spectrum management, in addition to their cooperation in developing and building local capabilities in communication and data centers, developing digital platforms and cloud computing services, and expanding submarine cable projects.

The Saudi and Chinese sides will implement the terms of their partnership by exchanging information and experiences, activating visits between experts and specialists from both sides, and organizing conferences, seminars and working sessions.

The agreement comes in the wake of the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to the Kingdom.

It follows on from a memorandum of understanding signed with China’s Huawei Technologies on cloud computing and building high-tech complexes in Saudi cities, the government communication office said in a statement.

A statement released to mark the high-level visit said China and Saudi Arabia would explore common investment opportunities in petrochemicals and enhance cooperation in renewable energy, including nuclear, and develop projects for energy supply chains, efficiency and advanced technology.

Riyadh and Jeddah among most improved cities on global urban mobility readiness index

Riyadh and Jeddah among most improved cities on global urban mobility readiness index
Updated 09 December 2022

Riyadh and Jeddah among most improved cities on global urban mobility readiness index

Riyadh and Jeddah among most improved cities on global urban mobility readiness index

RIYADH: Riyadh and Jeddah are among the world’s most improved cities in terms of urban mobility readiness, according to the newest edition of an annual study of 60 cities.

Riyadh moved up five places, from 54 in 2021 to 49 in 2022, and Jeddah rose from 58 to 51, in the ranking compiled by the Oliver Wyman Forum and the University of California, Berkeley Institute of Transportation Studies.

The report concludes that current large-scale investments in mass transit and innovation mean the cities will likely continue to improve their positions.

André Martins, partner India, Middle East and Africa head of transport services and operations at the Oliver Wyman Forum, said: “Because of the consequential growth in both population and tourist numbers, mobility solutions and urban transport infrastructure are a key part of Vision 2030. 

“Mobility is a complex and fast-moving field – and in cities like Riyadh and Jeddah, the solutions need to be multi-fold: from smart use of micro-mobility solutions to accelerated deployment of public transport systems.”

He added: “Meanwhile, Saud Arabia’s giga projects have a unique level of flexibility from an infrastructure and design perspective, meaning they can act as both entry points for innovation into the Kingdom, as well as global pioneers of urban mobility solutions.”

The index highlights that Riyadh’s near-complete mass transit system, which will combine a bus network with six lines of automated metro, will play a key role in the city’s mobility future. 

The findings showed that the city’s current car-centric approach is mitigated by good road infrastructure, strong adoption of ride sharing, and the government’s new investments in connected autonomous vehicle technologies.

Saudi Arabia has also recently announced its first EV manufacturing plant – which will help in achieving their stated goal of 30 percent of all cars within Riyadh being EVs by 2030.

Meanwhile, Jeddah’s strengths include its high-quality road infrastructure and strong regional linkages. Another strength is borne from the seaside city’s proximity to Makkah and Madinah, while its international airport’s connection to the Holy Cities by high-speed rail makes it an important and connected global hub. 

The city also plans to develop a comprehensive public transit system, including a metro that is due to open in 2030.

The report noted that preference for cars across the Middle East contributes to the region’s low utilization of non-motorized transit, however a generally high penetration of shared mobility services, such as car-sharing, helps to lower congestion levels.

The index ranks 57 quantitative and qualitative key performance indicators that measure social impact, infrastructure, market attractiveness, system efficiency and innovation. 

Other measures in the overall Index include electric vehicle charging station network investment and incentives, the number of car-free zones, autonomous vehicle adoption, and public transport ridership and affordability.

Saudi Arabia v Mexico leads World Cup spending: VISA

Saudi Arabia v Mexico leads World Cup spending: VISA
Updated 09 December 2022

Saudi Arabia v Mexico leads World Cup spending: VISA

Saudi Arabia v Mexico leads World Cup spending: VISA

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s match against Mexico at the FIFA World Cup saw the highest volume of in-stadium payment transactions of the group stage games, according to data released by Visa.

The payment company has published research showing that consumer spending at the tournament is on course to surpass the total outlay in the previous World Cup.

According to the data, spending by value at Qatar 2022 during the group stages is already at 89 percent of the total seen in Russia 2018.

Compared to the tournament in Brazil in 2014, almost double had been spent by the time the World Cup reached the knock-out rounds in Qatar. 

Between kick-off on Nov. 20 to the final group stage match on December 2, 70% of all consumer spend by value at World Cup venues was on internationally issued Visa cards with the US leading on 18 percent, followed by Mexico on nine percent Saudi Arabia on eight percent.

“For Qatar 2022, Visa enabled more payment terminals in official venues than ever before and are trialing some innovative new ways to pay around Qatar, so paying for things can be less cumbersome and fans can stay in the moment and focus on the beautiful game,” said Saeeda Jaffar, senior vice president and group country manager, Gulf Cooperation Council at Visa.

The average in-stadium transaction amount for all matches during the group stage of the tournament play was $23. During all matches the top three spend categories were merchandise on 47 percent, food and beverages on 36 percent, and ticketing on 11 percent.

The increased spend comes despite lower than anticipated numbers of fans traveling to the event.

According to a report obtained by Reuters, Qatar received just over 765,000 visitors during the first two weeks of the World Cup, falling short of the country’s expectations for an influx of 1.2 million during the month-long event.

The Dec. 7 report was prepared by the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy , which organizes the tournament, and said that the first 17 days of the World Cup saw 765,859 international visitors, more than half of whom have now departed.

The report registered 1.33 million match ticket holders and 3.09 million tickets sold across the eight stadiums in Qatar for the tournament that ends on Dec. 18.