A people-first approach: how Saudi Arabia is relying on talent to drive its vision for tourism

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has a clear vision and ambition to become a global powerhouse across all sectors, as clearly set out in the Vision 2030 Agenda. Public investment has been underpinned by expansion, as demonstrated by the three giga-projects currently underway. Leadership, both in the public and the private sector has also emphasised the need to deepen the talent pool to take this vision to reality.

This people-first approach was spotlighted by Ahmed Al-Khateeb, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Tourism, during the latest Executive Council of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, who announced that the government is set to invest $100 million in training 100,000 young Saudis to join the tourism sector. As Saudi Arabia ramps up investment in its tourism industry – identified as a key sector for diversifying the economy – this also presents an ideal opportunity to create jobs and develop new skills amongst youth in national communities.

Tourism is a critical part of many economies; it was also the hardest-hit industry by the Covid-19 pandemic. As travel begins to regain pace, there is an opportunity to influence positive change across the sector and beyond. Not only does the industry need to be futureproofed against such pandemic-induced shutdowns, but also needs plans for more impactful and sustainable tourism solutions. Technology certainly has a part to play, but the critical success factor in creating change is people.

Across the world’s top tourist destinations, the local community is the engine that powers and delivers authentic and memorable experiences. It is also usually the local community that is most invested in protecting their environment. Despite this, tourism strategies often relegate investment in talent, underestimating the immense value that people bring. Equipping nationals with the skills needed to become integrated into the tourism industry will create a self-sustaining system whereby the value of tourism will incentivise the upskilling of future generations.

Investing in Saudi Nationals to create a well-trained, skilful workforce is an area that Saudi Arabia has committed to from the get-go, forming a key part of its Vision 2030 agenda. Empowering the Saudi community with new economic opportunities is something we are also committed to at PwC’s Academy. We are working closely with the Saudi Government, across many of its current projects including one for the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) community, to deliver a series of upskilling drives that not only prepares nationals for tourism but also encourages entrepreneurship for future innovators, business owners, and entrepreneurs. Our programmes for youth also ensure a sustainable pipeline of talent ready to enter the tourism industry.

Quality tourism experiences are made by people. By putting the development of its people first, Saudi Arabia is paving the way for future success and putting the Kingdom on the map as a world leader in tourism.

Samar Sayegh is a PwC Partner and PwC’s Academy KSA Leader