By Gavin Gibbon
Academy is part of Seera Group's $270m investment in tourism in the kingdom
The Almosafer academy, which was launched in September 2019, has just produced its first 50 Saudi graduates.
Now the flagship brand of Seera Group’s consumer travel business unit has set its sights on training up to 400 advisors every year.
The academy’s 12-week programme is part of a SR1 billion ($270 million) investment in tourism for the kingdom, which has a strong focus on human capital development by training Saudi youth, male and female, for careers in the industry.
Abdullah Al-Dawood, group CEO of Seera, told Arabian Business the academy was adding a more professional element to travel advisors.
He said: “Traditionally it (travel advisory) has been occupied by less expensive expat labour, where there were very basic skills required. But right now, given the fast, evolving consumer demands and expectations, the skills of the travel advisors are now becoming much more sophisticated.
“Travellers now need inspiration, they need advice and education, a special level of service. That’s why the skills and the knowledge of those advisors are becoming much more important.”
Saudi Arabia has revolutionised its tourism industry over the last six months. In September last year the kingdom opened its doors to tourists from 49 countries who were eligible for online e-visas or visas on arrival, including the United States, Australia, several European nations, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, China and Kazakhstan.
This was then extended to nationals of other countries holding a valid commercial or a tourist visa issued by the US, the UK or the European Union’s Schengen visa.
In January it was announced that holders of US, UK or Schengen visas can obtain a visa on arrival in the kingdom.
Al-Dawood revealed that when entry was opened for the academy, they received over 10,000 applications. “It’s an exciting industry; it’s a fun industry,” he said.
Saudi Arabia is also in the midst of building huge, billion dollar giga-projects designed to increase international and domestic visits to the country to 100m-a-year by 2030, attracting significant foreign and domestic investment and creating a million jobs.
By 2030 the aim is for tourism to contribute up to ten percent towards Saudi Arabia’s GDP, compared to just three percent today.
Al-Dawood said they intend to ramp up the work of the academy to meet the forecast demand.
“We’re looking to increase the number every three months,” he said. “This is a significant number when you think about training 300-400 advisors a year.”
Seera is also behind the Jadarah Talent Accelerator Programme, which offers on-the-job training to improve careers for Saudi youth.