Sustainable tourism and hospitality: A wide-ranging opportunity for Saudi talent

Sustainable tourism and hospitality: A wide-ranging opportunity for Saudi talent
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Updated 06 January 2023

Sustainable tourism and hospitality: A wide-ranging opportunity for Saudi talent

Sustainable tourism and hospitality: A wide-ranging opportunity for Saudi talent

Globally, sustainable business and responsible consumerism is gaining momentum. A wide range of industries are working hand in hand with the public and financial sectors to create business, product and service solutions to adhere to goals set out by the Paris Agreement. Simultaneously, there is a rising consciousness among consumers of the impact of their choices on the environment and communities. The urgency to secure global net-zero by mid-century and limit global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees has never been stronger. 

The travel and tourism industry has long been involved in a drive toward sustainability, however, the growing urgency to create positive change is accelerating efforts toward responsible tourism. In fact, a global study commissioned by IHG showed that COVID-19 has increased awareness of responsible travel more broadly, with 60 percent of people saying the pandemic has made them more socially and environmentally conscious about their impact on the world when traveling. Moreover, with the world traveling more locally during the pandemic, consumers are showing an overwhelming appetite to show care for the communities around them and choose a hotel brand that operates responsibly.

Based on this study, IHG launched its Journey to Tomorrow 2030 responsible business action plan to help shape the future of responsible travel — supporting our people and making a positive difference to our local communities, while preserving our planet’s beauty and diversity. We are working with government entities, industry bodies, owners and partners across the world to make a positive difference, including various ministries and private sector partners in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia has embraced the future and is working diligently to evolve into one of the world’s leading sustainable tourism destinations, embedding sustainability at the heart of its travel and tourism-related developments under Vision 2030. The hospitality sector is facilitating these developments with sustainability-led brands as well as environment and community-centric operational practices and guest experiences.

However, in order to ensure that Saudi Arabia’s sustainable tourism offer truly materializes and is able to scale profitably, it is imperative that the national talent pool is able to support the offer and related industries in the near to long term.

As an example, concepts such as “regenerative tourism,” currently being led by The Red Sea Development Company, which focuses on restoring, revitalizing and renewing both ecosystems and communities in tourism destinations, are putting Saudi Arabia at the centerstage of the global sustainable tourism landscape. As we move to develop InterContinental Red Sea Resort and Six Senses Southern Dunes, The Red Sea, we are conscious that a dearth of talent specialized in regenerative practices will be required as this development takes shape and opens to guests. 

According to STR, more than 30,000 hotel rooms are currently under construction in the Kingdom and industry experts expect to see the completion of over 300,000 hotel rooms by 2030. Many of these hotels and resorts will be based on new concepts related to net-zero carbon building, biodiversity, automation and smart technologies. Hospitality roles in front office, sales and marketing, HR, IT, finance and housekeeping will remain critical to delivering guest experiences, and companies such as IHG are consistently building talent pools to fulfill this talent requirement. 

The industry already has a robust environmental management process in place. IHG has long deployed the IHG Green Engage System, an innovative online environmental sustainability system that gives our hotels the means to measure and manage their impact on the environment and we continue to evolve this system and other measures. Future hotels and resorts will require an additional breadth of multi-dimensional talent to run efficiently and sustainably in the near to long term. This means that in the next few years, the tourism and hospitality sector will need Saudi talent with educational backgrounds or work experience in specialized engineering, smart technology, biotechnology, marine biology, health and wellness, responsible procurement, destination marketing, community management, sustainability communications among other specialties. 

Each of these roles has scope for further specialization and progress. As an example, an environmental engineer managing energy and carbon efficiency for a single hotel can be promoted to a cluster, area, market or a corporate role. Most importantly, each of these roles will offer pride and job satisfaction in bringing the true hospitality of Saudi Arabia to life.

In addition to thinking of existing, progressive and rewarding roles in the growing industry, it is important for Saudi youth to think about areas of specialization related to future developments. IHG is currently working with multiple educational institutes and vocational centers to provide hospitality training and is committed to developing a robust talent pipeline for the industry.

We encourage Saudi youth to look into these opportunities and help the government and the private sector in establishing Saudi Arabia as one of the world’s most progressive and sustainable tourist destinations.

  • Haitham Mattar, Managing Director, India, Middle East and Africa IHG Hotels & Resorts