Majority of Saudi companies gearing up for future with AI technology: Business report

Arab News
June 19, 2019

Riyadh, Jun 19: Companies in Saudi Arabia are gearing up to take advantage of the latest advances in artificial intelligence (AI), according to an in-depth regional business report.

Although firms in the Kingdom remain wary of committing major investment to the emerging technology, many are already implementing data improvement initiatives to prepare for an AI-enabled future.

New research revealed on Tuesday that 89 percent of Saudi businesses indicated AI to be an important consideration of executive management, with predictive technology seen as the most relevant application by 79 percent of companies who took part in the survey.

And experts believe the Kingdom is well-positioned to “leapfrog” other countries in the race toward achieving the goals of the Saudi Vision 2030 reform plan.

According to the AI maturity report covering the Middle East and Africa, commissioned by Microsoft and conducted by Ernst & Young (EY), the Saudi business community is keeping up to speed on developments.

Releasing the report to the media, Thamer Al-Harbi, president of Microsoft Arabia, said: “Saudi Arabian businesses are taking a keen interest in AI from a strategic viewpoint. This bodes well for the future of the technology within the Kingdom as AI maturity begins with executives identifying business problems that need to be solved.

“Saudi companies are gearing up to take their AI agenda to the next level and moving forward by leveraging AI technology in alignment with the National Transformation Program 2020 toward achieving Vision 2030.

“Although they are still near the beginning of the maturity curve, they are well-positioned to leverage global experience in AI, which could ultimately enable them to leapfrog other countries in the next few years,” added Al-Harbi.

Despite AI activity having been relatively quiet in Saudi Arabia over the past 10 years, with a total investment of around $585 million, the Kingdom emerged strongly again in 2018, said the report.

Across industries, there was a significant buzz around the topic of AI, with 42 percent of companies reporting that conversations on the subject were already taking place at non-managerial levels, the highest percentage recorded by any country in the Middle East and Africa, Al-Harbi said.

AI development, though in its earliest stages, is underway. At least 26 percent of businesses reported that they were planning AI activity, while at the same time actively investing in relevant skills.

Pockets of excellence were also shown to be emerging, with 16 percent of companies saying AI was already contributing significantly to their business processes.

While Saudi executives intuitively sense the value of AI, they are conscious that getting too caught up in the hype might blind them to the dangers of investing in technology that is only just starting to demonstrate its commercial value.

As it stands, the main concern for businesses in implementing AI is the diffusion of their resources.

The report found that at least 32 percent of firms in the Kingdom were cautious of spreading their budgetary and human resources too thin, and that the primary focus for most was digitization. Although 37 percent of respondents viewed AI as an important priority, it was not at the top of their list.

Instead, they were actively building the infrastructure needed for digital transformation, starting with good-quality data.

Steve Plimsoll, MENA data and intelligence advisory leader for EY, said: “The biggest problem to date with AI is that it is not always right. AI has given us the ability to make data-driven predictions, decisions and actions faster than ever before, but it is only as effective as the data and algorithms it relies on.

“So, while it’s great to see local companies investing in adoption of AI, the focus must be on building trust that the underlying data and algorithms are reliable, the models ethical and the predictions are measurable and as accurate as they can be. Without trust, AI will never fully move from fiction into reality.”

The report also revealed that in general, Saudi businesses were upbeat about the future impact of AI on their businesses and 37 percent expected it to impact their core business to a very high degree.

Those quizzed were particularly positive about the potential of AI to assist employees in executing their daily functions more effectively.

Currently, prediction was seen as the most relevant application of AI for 79 percent of Saudi companies, with organizations using AI to predict risk and fraud or combining it with intelligent automation to assign workloads to individuals, ultimately optimizing business processes, the report said.

The study added that 68 percent of respondents indicated that automation was one of the most relevant applications of AI in their pursuit of operational efficiency.


Add new comment

  • reserves the right to delete or block any comments.
  • is not responsible for its readers’ comments.
  • Comments that are abusive, incendiary or irrelevant are strictly prohibited.
  • Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name to avoid reject.
September 24,2021


What may have been the steepest population decline in the Gulf region is giving way to the hottest jobs market Dubai has seen since China detected its first coronavirus case in December 2019.

A turnaround in employment took hold this summer and spread as looser travel restrictions revived business. But while headcounts are swelling with freshly recruited cooks and cabin crew, the economy of the Middle East’s commercial center is facing a fraught path to normalcy.

“We’re bringing people back but managing that carefully along with how we see occupancy moving,” Mark Kirby, chief operating officer of Emaar Hospitality Group, said in an interview. “Now we’re ramping up because the fourth quarter for us is an important time of year.”

Owned by the builder of the world’s tallest tower, the hotel company is looking to employ 200 to 300 people for a range of posts and is hiring both within the United Arab Emirates and from Asian countries that have been slow to reopen amid longer shutdowns. 

As Dubai prepares to kick off the World Expo fair next month, the city’s flagship airline, Emirates, is planning to recruit 3,000 cabin crew and 500 airport services employees to join its hub over the next six months. Amazon is meanwhile looking to create 1,500 jobs in the UAE this year.

The lifting of curbs between Dubai and countries such as the UK, the US, and Saudi Arabia will have a “massive impact,” with about 27 million people passing through this year alone, Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths told Bloomberg Television this week.

While labor shortages and hiring difficulties hold back the labor market in parts of Europe and employment is dropping in countries like Australia after the delta variant of coronavirus forced lockdowns, the oil-rich Gulf region can lean on foreign workers to fill most private-sector jobs. 

Businesses in Dubai’s travel and tourism industry in August saw the sharpest increases in activity and new work in over two years, according to a Purchasing Managers’ Index compiled by IHS Markit.

‘Good Summer’

In the Middle East, “we had a really good summer, well above expectations” as travel corridors gradually opened amid rising vaccination rates, Mark Willis, Accor’s CEO for India, Middle East, Africa & Turkey.

The hospitality industry “has been rehiring across the board for the past three months,” Guy Hutchinson, president, and CEO of Abu Dhabi-based hotel operator Rotana said in an interview. 

In the past three months, Rotana hired about 400 staff across the UAE and will continue to recruit as it opens new hotels, he said. Rotana was forced to lay off less than 5 per cent of its workforce at the start of the pandemic and by the end of February, it rehired 70 per cent of those who were let go.

Research firm STR Global estimated last year that about 30 per cent of jobs in Dubai’s hotel industry were likely to be lost until demand recovers from the pandemic. 

Occupancy at Emaar’s hotels is hovering around 54 per cent while the average daily rate has held up at over 1,000 dirhams per night, Kirby said. 

Emaar’s Plans

Emaar is opening six hotels this year, including its first property in Istanbul and another in Bahrain. It opened three beach hotels in the UAE last year and will open five others in 2022.  

It’s having “active discussions” to open three to four Armani hotels in a number of key cities in Saudi Arabia and Europe, Kirby said, declining to elaborate as the agreements haven’t been signed yet. Emaar Hospitality operates two Armani hotels, one in the world’s tallest tower in Dubai and another in Milan. 

While Emaar isn’t currently in talks to sell any of its properties, the company is “looking at an asset-light model strategy” for its hotel division, Kirby said. In 2018, Emaar Hospitality Group sold five hotels, including the flagship Address Dubai Mall and Address Boulevard to Abu Dhabi National Hotels.


Add new comment

  • reserves the right to delete or block any comments.
  • is not responsible for its readers’ comments.
  • Comments that are abusive, incendiary or irrelevant are strictly prohibited.
  • Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name to avoid reject.
Adv. P A Hameed Padubidri
September 23,2021


Fervour and happiness are on their zenith in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as it celebrates its 91st National Day. The National Day of the KSA is observed with growing avidity every year on 23rd Sept. This day is observed as a day off for all private and public sectors as per the Kingdom's Labour Law. 

We feel that earth and sky are blended with grand greens with the impressive decorations of the Saudi flags and phrases on this occasion. "THIS IS OUR HOME" is the attractive catch-line this year. 

When it comes to the development and progress in the KSA, the old dictum "From Camel to Cadillac" takes its high speed as the Kingdom saw the great and rapid milestones in the field of political, economic, educational, healthcare, industrialization, national security, military and socio-humanitarian including in judicial spectrums under the visionary leaderships of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Now its eyes are on the voyage to moon!

I feel something missing if I don't say something about the management and control prudently steered by the KSA and its leaderships during covid-19. It's highly appreciative and unparallel jobs undertaken by its leaderships. Today the case of corona is only 57 in the KSA. 

Today hundreds of thousands of non-resident Indians living in Saudi Arabia too are saying, indeed "THIS IS OUR HOME".


The author, Adv. P A Hameed Padubidri, has been working in Saudi Arabia for last 17 years. He is also a lawyer and a social worker.


Add new comment

  • reserves the right to delete or block any comments.
  • is not responsible for its readers’ comments.
  • Comments that are abusive, incendiary or irrelevant are strictly prohibited.
  • Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name to avoid reject.