20 Jan 2020

Ascott Spearheads Saudization

A radical wave of national-empowerment

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been surprising the world for a few years now, moving from a critically tabooed country, to taking revolutionary steps that have been earning applauds from over the world. From opening its doors to cinemas and international concerts to easing down on previous restrictions like driving for women, we are driving towards the new Saudi Arabia.

However, this is not just a social change. While the last few decades witnessed the country fueled by its rich oil terrains, the non-renewable energy cannot retain the country its current privileges forever. This has not gone unnoticed by the current crown price, a young dynamic monarch who is shifting the country’s economic portfolio to self-sustainability. The Saudi Arabia Vision 2030 is a mammoth of a decision taken under his reign. It highly focusses on a diversification of the economy with the development of public service sectors that include health, education, infrastructure, recreational and tourism.

A major focus of this vision is the shift of career opportunities for locals. As the largest oil-producing nation in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia relied heavily on expats for work, bringing in people from Pakistan, India, Philippines, Bangladesh and other Arab countries. Over time, the number of expats overpoured, leading to a 10% of nationals being unemployed, and putting a strain on essential services and infrastructure. The government wanted to shift the dependence from the petroleum industry, to other commercial alternatives that would also create employment opportunities. Vision 2030 is focused on establishing a modern framework that will boosts private-sector industries, attract foreign investors and encourage the employment of Saudi workers. The requirement to empower local workforce led to the birth of Saudization.

The first phase of this initiative came into place in late 2018, when small retail chains and stores employed more than 70% locals. And although the demand is for 700,000 positions by this year, the reform is expected to at least create 60,000 jobs. The local talent acquisition, also called as ‘Nitaqat’ is shaping up quite well, with private sector companies welcoming the government’s endeavour in full force.

Among these companies is a brand with international roots that has imprinted its global mark on exclusive travel living. The Ascott Limited is an international lodging owner-operators from Singapore. It’s current operational portfolio of 11 operational properties has a high focus in Saudi Arabia with 6 properties in the kingdom itself. In KSA, the brand’s endevour to employee empowerment is entwined with the local government’s employment plan.

Ascott initiated ‘Saudization’ in 2019, with the introduction of the Saudi Graduate programme, and their global training programme, the Serviced Residence Manager Programme (SRMP) across their operational properties, to promote the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 of empowering Saudi talents to managerial and leadership roles in the corporate segment. It is designed to meet the growing need of operationally-ready staff to manage Ascott’s serviced residences, and in Saudi Arabia will be aimed at training Saudi talents to higher positions within the group.

Combining intensive classroom-based learning with on-the-job practical training and mentoring, the SRMP takes approximately 30 weeks for eligible Ascott employees to complete. By the end of the programme, successful candidates will be ready to take on senior roles of assistant residence managers and residence managers, anywhere within the Ascott group.

First introduced at Ascott Rafal Olaya Riaydh, the SRMP is currently implemented across Ascott’s six operational properties in KSA, including Ascott Sari Jeddah, Ascott Tahlia Jeddah, Citadines Al Salamah Jeddah, Spectrums Residence Jeddah, and the recently-opened Ascott Corniche Al Khobar.

In the Middle East, the SRMP runs alongside Ascott’s widely acclaimed Saudi Graduate Programme whereby high-achieving Saudi nationals are trained in the skills needed to take on managerial leadership positions within the Kingdom’s burgeoning hospitality sector.

Launched in June 2019 in alignment with the aims of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage to encourage and support domestic tourism, the Saudi Graduate Programme empowers top Saudi talent by offering successful individuals a dynamic hospitality career path within the Ascott group.

The Kingdom is gradually embracing a historic series of cultural reforms, and brands like Ascott are helping to promote and cultivate Saudization into the evolving hospitality sector, and the country’s economy as a whole.