Airline Ticket Sales Plummet After Raids

RIYADH – The offices of foreign airline say they have not been affected be the Saudization a 9 drive that has thrown the local travel industry into turmoil. But many of the city’s other travel outlets have either pulled down their shutters or are working with a skeleton Saudi staff on the front desk.

“We have not received any communication from the Ministry of Labor, the Presidency of Civil Aviation or from any other government agency so far,” said Chris Phipps, country man- ager for British Airways in Saudi Arabia.

Nor has Air France. “There is no problem. Air France has not been affected by the recent directives and the raids conducted to enforce Saudization.” said Murshed Alam, sales manager of Air France.

A Lufthansa executive also confirmed that the German national carrier has “no operational problems as of now”.

A spokesman of Garuda Indonesia said: “Garuda is operating as usual.”

Airline offices operate under a Saudi sponsor or under general sales agents.

According to a report, the Riyadh Governorate gave travel agencies a grace period until the end of February to replace foreign workers, to ensure the success of the directive, the governorate also asked the General Organization for Technical Education and Vocational Training (GOTEVOT) to provide training to Saudis.

The government had been asking travel agencies for several years to cut down on the number of foreigners, but to no avail.

It was this that led to the draconian crackdown on travel agencies, industry sources say. But the travel industry forecasts a troubled tourist season given that there is now grossly inadequate Saudi staff manning thousands of travel outlets across the country. They said sales have dropped substantially since the raids started last week.

Muhammad Qaiser of NAFA/NABA Travel Agency said he came close to shutting up shop in Riyadh’s Olaya District. “Though the company is very interested in Saudizing jobs, it has not been able to find qualified Saudi staff in time.”

Some travel agencies were manned by Saudi youngsters yesterday. Asked as how they are coping with the growing uncertainties with regard to their jobs, Ejaz Hussain of Arabsas Travel and Tourist Agency said: “We are prepared for any eventuality.

“But how can you leave the reservation and ticketing jobs to be handled alone by untrained staff, who might write LHE for LHR (Lahore for London) on an airticket?” he asked.

“For Saudization to work in the travel sector, our travel agencies must follow the example of Saudi Arabian Airlines, which has achieved over 89 percent Saudization,’ said a Saudi travel agent.

 Saudia trained Saudis gradually and over many years replaced its foreign staff with locals, putting substantial amounts of money into the process.

The Saudi travel agent also had an explanation why the authorities are so bent on enforcing nationalization of the work force in the sector. “Travel agencies are being told to expedite Saudization since most foreign staff tend to promote foreign airlines at the expense of our own national carrier, “

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