Cruise Saudi pushes investments in people and places …


“We are running a training program for guides, starting next week,” Cruise Saudi commercial and operations director Mark Robinson told Holly Payne of Seatrade in Jeddah this week. “There are 768 official guides in the country, but they have never dealt with international tourists, so we signed an agreement that the Ministry of Tourism sponsors and that we lead.

“It will start with 50 guides in Jeddah going through accreditation with us.

The initiative uses the collective ideas of Robinson and Barbara Grabenweger, Head of Destination Product Development and Shore Excursions, Cruise Saudi, who joined the organization in the spring, as well as the extended Cruise Saudi team.

MSC Bellissima

It follows the recent successful training program for students at King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, conducted aboard MSC Cruises’ MSC Bellissima in Saudi Arabia. “We worked with King Abdulaziz University to bring 30 ambassadors studying travel and tourism and put them on MSC Bellissima,” describe Robinson. “As part of their course, they spent three months in front of the house, customer service and taking care of passengers on board.

They loved working with all the different nationalities, they were amazed.

Unlike crew members, trainees were allowed to disembark from the ship in order to visit destinations and – encouraged to meet the ship’s management team daily – were empowered to comment on the guest experience. ‘MSC [Cruises] were fantastic, they brought them in and they trained them, ”said the industry veteran. “They met with the management team every day and also pointed out any issues with the Saudi guests.”

Composed of 50% women and 50% men, each member of the group received an award last week for their participation, before being invited to visit the headquarters of Cruise Saudi. “They were in tears,” Robinson professes, “and they produced a funny video of their time on board. “

Expanded shore excursions and strengthening local economies

In addition to investments in education – in a country where 70% of the population is under 30 – Cruise Saudi is looking to expand the variety of excursions available to cruise passengers to include both historic sites and beach destinations. . “We’ll do three or four different tours,” said Robinson. “AlUla will be the big program: we will do a base visit that will go to Hegra and drop people off in the old town. Then there will be another one, which will be the full experience. We will go to a local farm, pick fruit, have lunch on the farm… we found some cool places. ‘

With 800 the maximum number of tourists allowed to enter AlUla at any [‘to keep the site pristine,’ according to Robinson] Cruise Saudi works on beach trips as well as desert based activities. ‘In Yanbu, for people who do not go to AlUla, we create a desert camp, [plus] a private beach experience, then small cultural visits, ”said Robinson.

In part of Yanbu, Cruise Saudi aims to reactivate a historic marketplace and trading post where mysterious ruins remain. This is what the operations expert says: “It takes a lot of work, but it’s genuine. We say: reactivate the market because it could help the villagers.

Another idea discussed by Cruise Saudi is the possibility of offering religious tours open to international passengers who will be visiting Medina.

Regardless of what will be available in the near future, Robinson is delighted that cruise passengers can experience Saudi Arabia’s rich culture and landscapes. Concludes the man with 33 years of experience in the cruise, leisure and travel industry: “Take a seven-day itinerary from Egypt: you can see pyramids, then Aqaba in Jordan – then do two ports. Saudis on the way home.

‘The more people we can bring in, and word of mouth [the better]… It’s about getting the information out.

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