Who’s Who: Reem Alharbi, Head of LinkedIn Operations in Saudi Arabia


RIYADH: As Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reform plan celebrates its fifth anniversary, citizens of the country are examining the many ways the ambitious plan has affected their daily lives.

The overarching goal of the plan, which is to move the Kingdom away from an oil-based economy, caused the entire nation to look to new industries and reassess their perceptions of how Saudi Arabia could be successful, and one of the biggest and most successful. the industries were tourism and hospitality.
For some Saudis, working in the hospitality industry is a dream they have had for a long time and they have gone to great lengths to find ways to break into the field. But some, like industry pioneer Sara Al-Marghalani, simply “fell” into the industry almost by accident.
Al-Marghalani dreamed of starting an academic career, even going so far as to obtain a master’s degree in linguistics to achieve this goal. However, things changed when she became the first Saudi woman to land a job in the hospitality industry in the Maldives.
An unexpected interview for a banquet coordinator job at a local hotel group kicked off what would become her new passion, working in an area very few Saudis had ventured into.
“I hadn’t anticipated how much hectic and dynamic life would work with hotels and the hospitality industry, nor how much my life would change during my career in tourism,” she told Arab News.
A few months after landing the job, she found that her ambitions were shifting, especially after being quickly promoted to sales manager due to her newfound passion. And when his direct manager applied for a Managing Director position in the Maldives, he asked him to join him in his team.

QUICKLYFACTS

• A recent study found that 90 percent of young Saudis surveyed were interested in jobs in tourism and hospitality.

• The study also indicated that Saudi Arabian youth are beginning to recognize the vital role that tourism and hospitality will play in the country’s new and diverse economy.

“I have received notification from the government of Maldives and the Saudi Embassy that I will be the first Saudi citizen to work in the hospitality industry in the Maldives,” she said. “I lived and worked as a guest relations officer on a small island with a respected Maldivian hotel company called Coco Collection for almost two years.
Al-Marghalani said the experience seemed to trigger “endless opportunities” for learning, and she continued to move up the hotel management ranks.
She was then promoted to Front Office Supervisor at German hotel company Seaside Finolhu, where she spent an additional 18 months.
One of the highlights of the experience for her was introducing herself to the resort guests, who came from many countries around the world. Most reacted with amazement when she said she was from Saudi Arabia and they asked a lot of questions.
“I told them about the Kingdom’s hidden treasures and its natural beauty, as well as its significant tourism potential,” she said. “This was before Saudi Arabia announced its intention to diversify economically into tourism and promote its beautiful destinations. Tourists in the Maldives were eager to find out what was hiding in Saudi Arabia and were excited to find out for themselves.

It is a dream to play a role in the world’s most ambitious regenerative tourism project and to support the growth of Saudi tourism.

Sara Al-Marghalani

It was this passion that prompted her to return to the Kingdom and join the Red Sea Development Co. as the hotel’s deputy front desk manager, which she says makes her incredibly proud and excited. .
“It is a dream to play a role in the world’s most ambitious regenerative tourism project and support the growth of Saudi tourism,” she said. “I had planned to continue my work abroad in the Maldives, but after hearing about this luxury project and understanding its high standards for sustainability, as well as the regenerative approach to tourism, I had no no choice but to come back and be part of this ambitious team.
Al-Marghanlani said that after several years of working in the Maldives, one of the world’s leading luxury travel destinations, she has brought back “endless emotions of passion and dynamism” and believes she can be a force. driver of change in the Kingdom. hospitality sector.
“I have the experience to deepen the developer’s vision by creating a new luxury resort destination here in our Kingdom. I think I understood the concept of what a luxury hotel is, what it means and how it works. I have gained invaluable knowledge of what customers need and how can we meet the high expectations, ”she said.
Al-Marghalani also said that the tourism and hospitality industry has the potential to thrive here in the Kingdom.
“As we become a globalized society, more and more people are getting excited about traveling. We are one of the few remaining countries that so far have been relatively unexplored and I think that is an advantage for us. Saudi Arabia has an incredible history and countless hidden treasures, including the Red Sea itself, our massive unexplored deserts and our amazing and hospitable people, ”she said.
The Tourism Ministry said in December that domestic tourism had exceeded expectations despite the pandemic and 2020 being, in the words of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), “the worst year on record in the world. history of tourism ”.
Saudi Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb told Bloomberg in September that a sudden increase in domestic travel – 50% more than officials had expected – had helped save businesses and jobs, as well as ‘to stimulate the economy.
Saudis’ attitudes towards the industry are also starting to change. A December study commissioned by the Red Sea Development Co. found that 90% of young Saudi Arabians surveyed were interested in jobs in tourism and hospitality.
The study also said that Saudi Arabian youth are beginning to recognize the vital role that tourism and hospitality will play in the country’s new and diverse economy.


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