How AI will unlock billions of dollars in economic value for Saudi health sector

How AI will unlock billions of dollars in economic value for Saudi health sector
How AI will unlock billions of dollars in economic value for Saudi health sector

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - RIYADH: French multinational hospitality company Accor is set to expand its hotel portfolio in Saudi Arabia with 45 new establishments by 2030, as revealed by the regional CEO.

In an interview with Arab News, Duncan O’Rourke underscored the company’s dedication to the Kingdom’s vibrant hospitality sector and its aspirations embodied by Vision 2030.

O’Rourke said: “Saudi is an extremely important theater for us to play also because of what is happening, we are very proud to be part of this journey, this vision of 2030.” 

Reflecting on the firm’s substantial presence in Saudi Arabia, O’Rourke highlighted that while the company currently has 41 hotels in the Kingdom, it plans to add more – initially claiming there would be another 40, before later revealing it be 45, with an additional 9,800 rooms by 2030.

Commenting on Accor’s participation in the Future Hospitality Summit, the CEO said that it aims to actively share its expertise, learn from industry peers, and collaborate on initiatives that will shape the future of the hospitality sector.

With a historical foothold in the Kingdom, the CEO reminisced: “Accor has a very long history in Saudi, a very established history.”

He added: “We are very excited to be here, me personally, having lived here 22 years ago and see the growth and the challenges.” 

O’Rourke added: “One of the things we noticed tremendously was talent, and getting people to work in the hotels. Opening the hotels is one thing, but we need the local talent as well.” 

He highlighted Accor’s partnership with the Ministry of Tourism and Education to nurture Saudi talent for the hospitality industry, saying: “We signed a partnership, which we were really excited about with the Minister of Tourism and Education, so we signed that partnership to be able to educate on all different levels, local people, to work in the hotels as well.” 

In line with Accor’s commitment to nurturing local talent, O’Rourke explained that the firm’s academies are based worldwide and driven out of Paris, saying: “It’s been very famous how we’ve done that and trained and coached, but we felt that here with this tremendous growth in the speed of that growth and the fact that we really wanted to get local talent working.” 

Diving more into the “Tamayyaz by Accor” program, the CEO explained that the educational process goes from an entry-level to a more senior position.

Accor and the Ministry of Tourism in Saudi Arabia have signed this partnership, which is dedicated to nurturing and developing Saudi talent in the hospitality industry. 

O’Rourke told Arab News that they’re starting with a modest number of around 250 trainees, but that’s “quickly going to go up to over 3,000 continuously going through the process there, and so every process, 3,000 more going through.”

Expanding beyond major urban centers, O’Rourke emphasized “it’s not just in Riyadh, or in Jeddah, but in the secondary and third cities as well,” signaling Accor’s commitment to broadening its footprint across the Kingdom.

In a discussion about Accor’s varied brand lineup, he explained: “We split our luxury lifestyle, so we’re one of the largest luxury players in the market, the largest lifestyle player in the market, and then we have that premium midscale economy.”

Accor is the largest hospitality operator in the Holy Cities, with 13 hotels encompassing 11,900 rooms and a pipeline of six hotels with 1,700 rooms. 

The firm has significantly contributed to developing the holy destination of Makkah, providing high-quality hospitality with direct access to the Haram. 

Accor currently operates 13 brands and more than 16,000 rooms in Saudi Arabia, ranging from premium to economy segments, including luxury brands and Ennismore’s lifestyle collective. With leading names like Novotel, Swissotel, and Pullman, it’s a top hospitality provider offering diverse services and experiences.

He added: “We go with all those brands there in those resorts, not in just major cities, with Banyan Tree, Sofitel, and then, of course, Fairmont Raffles and the rest of the traditional brands as well.”

O’Rourke highlighted the necessity of employing locals, saying: “At the Novotel hotel, which we opened tonight, that’s the first female GM (general manager) in Saudi and so we are very proud of this diversification and giving opportunities to everybody there.”

The CEO added: “Being able to be part of this growth industry in terms of opening hotels, but also in educating and watching talent grow and one day moving from Saudi out and using that talent abroad, is also very exciting.” 

In terms of partnerships, O’Rourke emphasized Accor’s strategic approach to collaborations that benefit both parties and local communities.

 “In any partnership which we do with our core, we want somebody that embraces our values. We call them partners, we want to synergize with partners and then grow where it makes benefit for them, for us and the communities as well,” he said.

Reflecting on market trends, O’Rourke said: “Where we see the secondary cities the most traction we are in that sense there is coming from the mid-scale and the premium midscale economy,” highlighting the burgeoning demand in these segments.

“Where we do see a difference and more and more coming through is that leisure markets both locally, so Saudis traveling in Saudi, but also from the GCC coming through there,” the CEO added acknowledging the rise of leisure travel.

As Saudi Arabia continues its remarkable growth trajectory, O’Rourke expressed optimism, asserting: “We stay focused on our footprint. We have a very aggressive expansion plan to go from 44 to another 40 by 2030 is already aggressive.”

He concluded Accor’s commitment to delivering on its expansion goals while fostering talent development in the Kingdom, saying: “We continue to drive forward and make sure that we are not only opening hotels with the right brand, right partners, but then being able to really deliver on what we promised.” 

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