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UAE firms on recruitment drive to support Saudi events boom

Clothing, Glove, Adult Reuters/Ahmed Yosri
Tommy Fury's victory over Jake Paul at the Diriyah Arena is the latest in Saudi Arabia’s goal to become a global entertainment and sporting hub
  • Kingdom is becoming a major market for UAE events companies
  • Events Investment Fund and PIF subsidiary Seven fuel events growth
  • EIF aims to create 16,000 new tourism and events jobs

British boxer Tommy Fury achieved a close victory over American rival Jake Paul in Riyadh on Sunday, in front of celebrities such as Mike Tyson and Cristiano Ronaldo.

The bout was the latest footnote in Saudi Arabia’s goal to become a global hub for entertainment and sporting events.

With the kingdom launching the Events Investment Fund (EIF) in January, with plans to conceptualise, finance and oversee the development of more than 35 venues by 2030, many more such events are likely to follow.

It is all part of the kingdom’s bid to increase the tourism sector’s contribution from its current three percent of annual GDP to more than 10 percent. The launch of the EIF is forecast to create up to 16,000 new jobs, offering lucrative opportunities for UAE-based events management companies.

Dubai-headquartered THA Staffing, which provides short-term staffing solutions, last week opened its first office in the kingdom. 

The company has deployed over 1,000 freelancers into Saudi over the last four months and is aiming to double that number in the next six months.

“As the market continues to boom, there is a high demand for collaboration between the UAE and the kingdom to leverage the expertise residing in the UAE given, to date, it has been the events capital of the Middle East,” said Shams Moloo, THA Staffing director of strategy and business development.

“However, the entire Saudisation strategy is testament to the ruler’s desire to create a strong workforce. We have a role to play in building the capabilities of Saudi nationals.” 

Groupshot, Person, Female
Dubai-headquartered THA Staffing has just opened its first office in Saudi Arabia. Picture: Supplied/THA Staffing

Job creation for Saudi nationals – over 60 percent of whom are under the age of 35 – is a top priority within the Vision 2030 plan. 

The participation rate of Saudi citizens in the labour market increased to 52.5 percent in Q3 2022 from 49.8 percent in the same period in 2021, according to figures from the General Authority for Statistics. 

Between Noor Riyadh and MDL Beast Soundstorm, THA provided 780 staff, of which 99 percent were Saudi residents and 23 percent were Saudi nationals. 

“Those are quite big numbers given the Saudi events industry is still in its infancy. If they’re achieving those today, then you can get a sense for what’s to come over the next couple of years,” said Moloo. 

Saudi Entertainment Ventures (Seven), a subsidiary of the sovereign Public Investment Fund, announced in November it plans to invest more than SAR 50 billion ($13.3 billion) creating and operating 21 entertainment destinations across 14 cities.

THA Staffing will be undertaking recruitment drives in the coming months across major cities such as Riyadh and Jeddah, recruiting staff at all levels, from promoters to brand ambassadors and ushers, Moloo explained.

The Fridge is another UAE-headquartered events company for which Saudi is becoming a key market.

The kingdom accounted for around 20 percent of its bookings in 2022, while half of their bookings for 2023 are in Saudi Arabia.

The company launched its office in Riyadh in June 2020. It was later commissioned to work with Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli as he partnered with the Arabian Philharmonic Orchestra to deliver a first of its kind performance in AlUla at Hegra, Saudi Arabia’s first Unesco World Heritage Site, in April 2021. 

Shelley Frost, founder and director of The Fridge, said she was expecting “a very busy season” and recently supported the Red Sea Film Festival in Jeddah, delivering one or two concerts a day.

Concert, Crowd, PersonSupplied/The Fridge
Andrea Bocelli and the Arabian Philharmonic Orchestra performing in AlUla in April 2021. Picture: Supplied/The Fridge

“We’re also currently supporting an open-air Michelin-starred pop-up in AlUla called Awna. It’s centred around Nabataean-meets-French cuisine and is running for two months until March 23.”

The Fridge has also curated the programme for the Ithra Music Season being hosted in Dammam, the capital of Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province. There, the company is staging concerts promoting local and regional artists three times a week from the end of January until June. 

“One of our biggest events has been the Layali Diriyah hosted in the heart of Riyadh,” added Frost.

To date, The Fridge has been supplementing its Saudi workforce by using freelancers from Egypt, Lebanon and the UAE, but it is now also on a recruitment drive within the kingdom. 

“We’re very actively hiring in Saudi today – we’re recruiting for senior positions through to mid-management to support on the ground. We’re looking to empower as much as possible the very excited, very talented Saudi population.” 

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