Alex Kyriakidis, president and managing director, Middle East & Africa, Marriott International. Alex Kyriakidis, president and managing director, Middle East & Africa, Marriott International.

A growing number of Saudi women are opting for a career in hospitality. Marriott International president and managing director Middle East and Africa, Alex Kyriakidis said that Saudi women’s interest is more than ever before.

The group launched Tahseen in 2016 – an 18-month hospitality training programme in conjunction with the Cornell University – to groom, train and provide jobs to the local population in the Middle East.

“Attracting nationals to our industry has been a historic challenge. Hospitality has not always been on a GCC national’s radar, at least not in the top five industries they would like to work in. But the world is changing and even in the Kingdom [of Saudi Arabia], which was the prime example of how challenging it was to get Saudis to work in our industry. There’s no longer jobs in government, which is cutting back not only jobs but on salaries in the public sector,” Kyriakidis said at a press briefing in the St. Regis Al Habtoor City Dubai.

He added: “When we announced Tahseen in Doha, in 2016, and took this to the Saudi authorities they said, ‘can you make sure you reach out to us to encourage the thousands of women in the Kingdom who are jobless and would find an opportunity in your industry’ now since it’s attractive.

“That signifies change because three years ago for a Saudi lady to work in the hospitality was a big challenge for her family. Nowadays, we have evolved and can provide a culturally sensitive job opportunity for women generally in finance, HR, marketing and in every respect,” Kyriakidis said.

He added that “Saudi ladies are some of our best associates”. “They are extremely loyal and hardworking and they are delightful to work with.”

The first intake of Tahseen will generate around “200 graduates in the kingdom, and the same with Doha”, Kyriakidis said.

The group is now planning on focusing its attention on Egypt - a country it believes that has massive potential to grow its talent pool from.

“Marriott International is very keen to see Tahseen launched in Egypt because of the thousands of graduates from universities – Arabic speaking with a vast majority of them being Muslim. This allows us to use that workforce right across the Gulf and in the holy cities. Tahseen for us is a crucial plank to develop national talent in the Middle East,” Kyriakidis said.

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