Saudi Arabia is expanding its efforts to develop talents for its growing travel as well as business events sectors, with a specialist school and new training programmes for professionals and businesses in the events ecosystem all in the works. The Riyadh School of Tourism and Hospitality, set to open in 4Q2024, is co-founded by the tourism ministry and Riyadh-based entertainment mega project Qiddiya in collaboration with the UNWTO. The institute will offer a range of educational programmes, from diplomas to Master’s degrees, and intends to welcome 25,000 students annually by 2030.
Training sufficient human resources to work in tourism and hospitality roles is an important part of the country’s Vision 2030, an ambitious programme that aims to diversify the economy and open up Saudi Arabia, including through tourism, by the end of this decade. The Kingdom aims to create one million new jobs in tourism across the country by 2030. The Ministry of Tourism had earlier allocated US$100 million to the Tourism Pioneers programme, which enabled 100,000 young people from its second-largest city, Jeddah to study at top institutions in France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, the UK and Australia in 2022. On completion, participants will be equipped to “secure employment opportunities in leading hospitality companies in the Kingdom,” to help “create a skilled and ambitious workforce to support the tourism sector,” said the ministry in a statement.
Most graduates are likely to return to Jeddah due to employment opportunities in its historic Al Barad district, a UNESCO World Heritage Site recognised for its unique architecture and historic role as a major port for Indian Ocean trade and gateway for pilgrims to Mecca who arrived by the Red Sea. An estimated 1,800 hotel units, as well as recreational and commercial spaces, are earmarked to be built in the 2.5 million square-metre district by 2030, alongside the restoration of historic buildings. On the business events front, Saudi Conventions and Exhibitions General Authority is investing in brand equity promotions for the local meetings and events industry, relevant education to build a pool of events professionals, and training packages for business in the events ecosystem.
These efforts are meant to make Saudi Arabia an even more attractive destination for meetings, according to Amjad Shacker, CEO, Saudi Conventions and Exhibitions General Authority. Amjad said: “(A destination needs) human capital because without it, none of the infrastructure for meetings – the venues, the regulations, the bylaws and the standards – will be possible.” He shared that work to “educate the masses on this industry” is ongoing, and it has resulted in many “young female and male Saudis eager to participate” as well as the emergence of start-ups in the events ecosystem.
Saudi Conventions and Exhibitions General Authority is collaborating with educational institutions to make “courses at various levels” available to anyone keen on a meetings and events profession, and providing educational packages to help SMEs and start-ups in the business events sector grow to a bigger scale.