Sara Qassim, the first Saudi woman to become a tour guide in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, has won the Tourism Trainer Award.
Speaking to Okaz/Saudi Gazette, Qassim said she started her tourism career as a booking agent at a hotel in Jeddah.
“I then worked up the career ladder in the industry and worked in local and international tourism companies. I then became a lecturer and the head of the hospitality department at the International Technical College in Makkah,” said Qassim.
She added that she then pursued her Master’s program and attended several training workshops abroad until she became a certified trainer of tourist guides.
“In Saudi Arabia, tour guides are predominantly men. I was driven to break into the field and empower more and more women to join in. Being the first woman tourist guide has made me face a lot of challenges. Many people disapproved of my career path telling me that I am better off as a doctor or a teacher,” said Qassim.
She said she now trains women to become tourist guides and she receives many passionate and career-driven women who want to make a bigger impact in the industry.
“The tourism sector opened up to employing more women after students were able to pursue a degree in tourism abroad and the rate of unemployment rose. I only began training after 10 years of work in the field and after finding a great demand for tourism training,” said Qassim.
She added that not many universities and colleges offer specialized courses in tourism so she was eager to train the first generation of women tourist guides.
“I only train women as that is a restriction from the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage. I am so happy to win the Tourism Trainer Award granted to me by a government entity and Prince Sultan Bin Salman. It made me motivated further and driven to empower more women to join the field,” said Qassim.
This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on May 25.