Saudi Arabia Seeks Skilled Workforce to Fuel Tourism Boom

Saudi Arabia's tourism industry is flourishing, but the country's tourism minister, Ahmed Al-Khateeb, has identified a critical hurdle: a lack of skilled workers, or "human capital" as he termed it.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Riyadh, Al-Khateeb acknowledged the tourism sector's rapid growth over the past five years. However, he emphasized the need to cultivate a robust domestic workforce to keep pace with this expansion.

"Developing human capital is a key challenge for our travel sector," Al-Khateeb said during a panel discussion on "Vacationomics." He outlined a multi-pronged approach to address this shortfall.

The Saudi government is actively encouraging young Saudis to pursue careers in tourism. Investment is being poured into training programs designed to equip them with the necessary skills and expertise. Al-Khateeb stressed the importance of "scaling up" these young talents to ensure they can effectively contribute to the industry's growth.

A core aspect of the strategy involves promoting the benefits of tourism jobs. Al-Khateeb highlighted the crucial role local talent plays in crafting exceptional visitor experiences. "You get the best experience and a deeper understanding of different cultures when you interact with locals," he explained. The minister expressed a desire for Saudi tourists to be served by their fellow citizens.

This focus on localization extends beyond hospitality roles. The tourism sector encompasses a diverse range of professions, from tour guides and travel agents to marketing specialists and conservationists. Equipping Saudis with the necessary skills across this spectrum is paramount to the country's tourism ambitions.

The government's efforts extend beyond training programs. Initiatives are underway to incentivize experienced professionals to enter the Saudi tourism industry. This strategy acknowledges the value that seasoned personnel can bring in terms of knowledge and industry best practices.

While the focus is on nurturing domestic talent, Al-Khateeb did not rule out the continued role of international expertise. He envisions a tourism industry that leverages a blend of local and international talent, fostering a dynamic and knowledge-rich workforce.

The success of Saudi Arabia's tourism strategy hinges on its ability to bridge the human capital gap. By investing in its people and fostering a skilled domestic workforce, the kingdom can ensure that its tourism sector continues to flourish.

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