The French hotel group Accor has set up a 15-month training scheme for Saudi nationals as the kingdom seeks to raise employment in the sector and global hotel chains look to tap the rise in religious tourism.
The Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) expects the hospitality sector to provide 2.2 million jobs by 2020, up from about 479,000 in 2009, according to SCTA Vision 2020.
About 12 per cent of Saudis are jobless, and foreigners in the kingdom took three-quarters of the 2 million jobs created between 2009 and last year, according to an IMF report in June.
Accor Hotel Group opened its Saudi Management Training Programme this month.
Christophe Landais, the managing director of Accor Middle East, said: “The gap is the lack of experienced Saudi employees in the hotel industry and the need is to create such developed talents. We designed and created this programme to first prepare potential local talents for middle management, and for the mid-term to become future general managers in the company in Saudi Arabia.”
Accor entered the kingdom 30 years ago, and the percentage of Saudis in its workforce has risen to 27 per cent last year from 10 per cent in 2001.
Mr Landais said Accor had been working with SCTA for the past four years on a project to lift Accor’s employment of Saudi nationals, including having Saudis comprise at least 25 per cent of new hires.
The training scheme will develop fundamental skills such as managing diversity in a multicultural environment, handling internal conflicts, managing team development plans and management capabilities.
An Accor diploma will be awarded upon graduation, and graduates could apply for positions such as assistant front-office manager or assistant reservations manager.
The programme has 15 students, and will run throughout the year.
Accor Group has 14 hotels in Saudi Arabia and 12 in the pipeline. It has 362 Saudi employees. They occupy various positions including in reservations and telephone operators. Fifty-three of these Saudis are women.
Other international hotels also employ Saudi nationals. Ritz-Carlton, which has its sole property in the kingdom in Riyadh, has 200 staffers. Saudis comprise 29 per cent of them, including the general manager.
Accor’s Tamheed training programme, which is based in Dubai, has been available to its employees since 2003.
In the UAE, 383,000 people were working in Dubai’s tourism sector last year, according to a report by the consultancy Deloitte and Dubai International Academic City. The figure is expected to rise 2.6 per cent this year.