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RIYADH: Tourism and hospitality in Saudi Arabia is experiencing a remarkable transformation led by the increased participation of women, thanks to inspiring leaders and strong government action.

This change is significant given that tourism is one of the few global industries where women already make up the majority of the workforce.

Saudi Arabia wants to bring more women into the workforce, and the Kingdom has already surpassed its Vision 2030 ambition to achieve 30% female labor market participation.

Indeed, the target has now been increased to 40 percent – ​​double the rate seen in 2010, according to World Bank figures.

Tourism and hospitality is seen as a sector where women can thrive and the Kingdom is working hard to create more opportunities in this area.

According to EHL Insights, just five years ago, Saudi women faced significant barriers when it came to working in hospitality companies, and women had to go to great lengths to convince their families to allow them to pursue educational or employment opportunities in this industry.

This has changed thanks to economic and cultural changes driven by the Vision 2030 initiative, and according to data published by R Consultancy Group in March, 45% of the sector’s workforce is now made up of professional women – 925,000 workers.

“There are several inspirational women leaders who have helped strategically shape both the Saudi tourism sector and the wider regional tourism sector, such as Princess Haifa bint Mohammed Al-Saud, Deputy Minister of Tourism and Basmah Al-Mayman, Director regional of the UN World Tourism Organization”, said Anne-Laure Malauzat, partner at Bain & Co. from the Middle East, for Arab News.

She went on to point out that on the ground in Saudi Arabia, there is a massive presence of women in various parts of the tourism and hospitality sectors, from architects designing the Kingdom’s key airports, passport control officers and taxi drivers, as well as hospitality . leaders and tour guides.

“Examples of these success stories include Sarah Gasim, Senior Vice President – ​​Head of KSA Hotels and Hospitality at JLL – who has managed hotel complexes in the past. (She) is a published author and has lectured on hospitality, helping shape future generations in the sector,” Malauzat said.

From Red Sea Global’s perspective, spokesperson Zainab Hamidaddin Al-Hanoof Al-Hazzani told Arab News that women bring unique insights, skills and perspectives to roles such as hospitality management, customer service, marketing and event planning, which enhance significantly overall service quality and customer satisfaction.

Tourism and hospitality is seen as a sector where women can thrive and the Kingdom is working hard to create more opportunities in this area. (SPA)

“Their diverse perspectives, improved service delivery and inclusive contributions to the workplace drive innovation and economic growth, making them indispensable to its success,” she said.

Al-Hazzani argued that women are actively shaping the future of Saudi Arabia’s tourism and hospitality industry, adding: “This is especially true at RSG, where women play a critical role in enhancing guest experiences, promoting cultural diversity and contributing to global development. the success of our projects.

For example, our elite graduate program has provided employment opportunities for 250 people, with 30 women advancing to leadership positions.”

Opportunities and challenges for women in the tourism and hospitality sector

Saudi Arabia’s tourism and hospitality sector is undergoing significant transformation, with an increasing focus on cultural tourism, luxury experiences and heritage conservation, which presents a wealth of opportunities for women.

Laila Kuznezov, Director, Implementation Practice at management consulting firm Oliver Wyman, told Arab News that from leadership roles in hotel management to careers in event planning, cultural tourism experiences and hospitality education, women are they can leverage their “unique skills and perspectives” to shape the future of Saudi tourism.

“By empowering women in tourism and hospitality, they not only create a more inclusive workforce, but also send a powerful message to the world. With a diverse pool of talent contributing to the industry, they can create a world-class visitor experience that reflects the Kingdom’s rich heritage, cultural tapestry and forward-looking vision for the future,” added Kuznezov.

Speaking about the key constraints women face in entering the workforce and securing employment, Kuznezov shed light on how many of the barriers in Saudi Arabia are similar to those faced globally.

By empowering women in tourism and hospitality, they not only create a more inclusive workforce, but also send a powerful message to the world.

Laila Kuznezov, Director, Implementation Practice at Oliver Wyman

“A gender pay gap persists and women at certain levels of education, particularly those with only a secondary school leaving certificate, have much lower participation rates than men. A huge opportunity lies in tapping into Saudi Arabia’s highly skilled female workforce,” she explained.

The director also noted that: “We need to see more women as CEOs, CFOs and senior managers across all industries, especially in the highly productive technology and knowledge-driven sectors. Encouraging female entrepreneurship is also crucial. The talent and ambition is there – it’s about providing ongoing support and fostering a culture that actively supports and promotes women in transformative roles.”

She went on to clarify that the recent increase in women’s labor force participation is a positive indicator, but the next step is to ensure that these women secure high-quality jobs that fully utilize their capabilities.

“It’s also important to support women’s earnings at all levels and geographies. A key focus in Saudi Arabia is ensuring access to the training and childcare options needed for success, particularly for women who have been out of the workforce for long periods, who are employed for the first time, or they have a lower level of education,” Kuznezov. emphasized.

“As Saudi women tend to stay closer to their hometowns, geographically dispersed training programs and readily available childcare are crucial to expanding regional employment opportunities,” the director added.

According to Kuznezov, Saudi Arabia is embracing a progressive approach by developing and implementing regulations that promote new forms of work, such as self-employment, part-time work, platform and economy work, and remote work.

“These models give women increased flexibility and more channels to enter and participate in the workforce, which should help continue the positive trends of increasing participation and reducing unemployment for women,” she said.

The impact of women’s participation on Vision 2030

Women’s participation in the tourism and hospitality sector has helped support the Vision 2030 agenda on several fronts, believes Bain & Co’s Malauzat.

“From a talent perspective, enabling the transformation of the sector through their leadership, skills and contribution across all parts of the tourism and hospitality lifecycle,” she said.

FAST FACT

In Saudi Arabia, there is a massive presence of women in various parts of the tourism and hospitality sectors, from architects designing the Kingdom’s key airports, passport control officers and taxi drivers, to hospitality leaders and tour guides.

“From a consumer understanding perspective, women globally make around 80% of consumer decisions, so having women represented in the sector is essential to ensure a real understanding of consumers in this space,” said the partner.

She concluded: “From a gender equity perspective, this has been an important factor in helping the Kingdom achieve its overall aspirations for women’s labor market participation nationally.”

From RSG’s perspective, according to Al-Hazzani, by actively promoting gender diversity in the workforce in the tourism and hospitality sector, the company is making significant strides in achieving the vision outlined in Vision 2030.

“This initiative aligns perfectly with the broader goal of cultivating a vibrant and inclusive economy that harnesses the full spectrum of talent and capabilities within the nation,” Al-Hazzani said.

“Recognized as a fundamental driver of economic diversification, the tourism and hospitality sector in particular benefits enormously from the integration of female talent. Their presence not only fuels the sector’s growth, but also enhances its competitive advantage and long-term viability, providing an enriched tourism experience and stimulating innovation,” she added.

The spokesperson justified that by prioritizing gender diversity in the tourism and hospitality workforce, RSG not only embraces the ideals of Vision 2030 but also paves the way for other sectors to do the same.

“Our dedication to inclusion not only strengthens our economy, but also reaffirms our collective commitment to creating a more prosperous and equitable society,” Al-Hazzani concluded.

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