Saudi Arabia described as tourism’s ‘last untouched frontier’

Saudi Arabia's giga-projects — the Red Sea Project and NEOM — will not only be major attractions, but are also environment-friendly, including coral reefs and turtle nesting areas on the Red Sea coast. (Supplied photo)
Updated 01 November 2019

Saudi Arabia described as tourism’s ‘last untouched frontier’

  • Kingdom’s tourist visa kick-starts new era for ‘last untouched frontier,’ says global analyst  

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has been described as tourism’s “last untouched frontier” following the launch of its first tourist visa scheme weeks ago.

Nicolas Mayer, tourism consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers, said that now the Kingdom had finally opened its doors to the world, it presented visitors with a unique opportunity, something he described as a “Facebook moment.”

He said that tourists could claim to be among the first to enter the country and discover its hidden gems — some so well hidden that even Saudis didn’t know about them.

“When you look at what drives tourists to visit, sometimes I call it the Facebook moment. You want to do something that is new and innovative, and what our parents and friends have not done,” Mayer said on the sidelines of the Future Investments Initiative 2019 (FII 2019) in Riyadh. 

The attraction was not only to see the Kingdom’s varied landscapes and experience its culture, but also to be among the first to visit. 

“People want to go to AlUla and take a beautiful selfie so everybody says: ‘You went where? How far? How exotic.’

“If we get that, and I’m convinced we can, then we’ve won,” he said.

“I believe if you look at the wealth of experiences that you can have in Saudi Arabia, everything from wildlife, heritage history, archaeology, etc, that is a super-rich assortment of experience that you can offer. So, yes, people will come.”

With the launch of its new tourist visa, Saudi Arabia is the most “exciting case study” on tourism and the “last untouched frontier destination,” he said. 

The Kingdom’s new tourist visa scheme, launched on Sept. 28, offers visitors from 49 countries a visa on arrival, while others have easier access through the Schengen scheme. The visa allows tourists multiple entries for 90 days.

The project’s slogan is “Saudi, open hearts, open doors.”

“The slogan is really well chosen, because you can sense it,” Mayer said. “It is relatively easy to open doors; you just have to decide. But to open hearts, it’s different,” he said.

Saudi Arabia is an attractive proposition for foreign investors, especially now that the leadership is supporting all aspects of tourism, he said. 

“For a foreign investor to know that this is not a little niche business that is tolerated but (supported) is an attractive proposition.”  

The Saudi market and the entities responsible for tourism development are already highly capable, he added. 

“Contrary to other countries frequented by tourists, Saudi Arabia would like to have foreign investment, but it doesn’t need a lesson on how to develop a resort.”

The Kingdom’s giga-projects — the Red Sea Project and NEOM — will not only be major attractions, but are also environment-friendly, including coral reefs and turtle nesting areas on the Red Sea coast. Mayer called it “the cool thing.”

He said that there was inevitable skepticism, but people were comparing a future Saudi tourism story to one from France or Spain. 

“People who are skeptical judge from a very Eurocentric view and that need not be the case,” he said.

The Kingdom is certainly no stranger to hosting foreign nationals — more than 1.5 million pilgrims arrive at the Kingdom’s airports each year to perform Hajj.

But Mayer said that a new era is starting that will allow tourists to explore newly opened lands for pleasure and to catch a glimpse of a once-closed country. 

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Global organizations commend Saudi Arabia’s role in e-learning

Updated 23 October 2020

Global organizations commend Saudi Arabia’s role in e-learning

JEDDAH: Six international organizations have completed two studies on e-learning in the Kingdom and praised its efforts in providing a rapid response, multiple options and continuous improvement during the coronavirus pandemic.
The studies involved the participation of 342,000 respondents and were conducted under the supervision of the Kingdom’s National Center for e-Learning.
The center said that the global organizations completed two comprehensive studies on the experience of public and higher education in Saudi Arabia during the pandemic, with the aim of documenting and studying the reality of the experience and coming up with initiatives to develop e-learning practices in accordance with current global practices and standards.
The studies were conducted with the participation of students, faculty members, teachers, parents and school leaders.
The number of participants in the public education study reached 318,000, while the number of participants in the higher education study reached 24,000.
The first study was prepared by the Online Learning Consortium (OLC), with the participation of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), Quality Matters (QM), the UNESCO Institute of Information Technologies in Education (IITE), the National Research Center for Distance Education and Technological Advancements (DETA) in the US.
The second study was prepared by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) with the cooperation of the Harvard Graduate School
of Education.
In the studies, reference comparisons were made with more than 193 countries. The two studies showed the Kingdom’s distinction in the diversity of options, including, for example, electronic content and satellite channels available for e-learning in public education.

NUMBER

342k

The studies on e-learning involved the participation of 342,000 respondents and were conducted under the supervision of the Kingdom’s National Center for e-Learning.

The percentage of countries that succeeded in providing these at the national level was only 38 percent.
The study conducted by the OECD and the Harvard Graduate School of Education included a comparison of the Kingdom’s response to education during the COVID-19 pandemic with 37 member states.
The results showed the Kingdom’s progress in 13 out of 16 indicators on the average of
these countries.
The study also revealed that teachers received significant support to overcome obstacles to e-learning.
The study of public education indicated that there was a clear strategy for the Ministry of Education to reopen schools in the Kingdom and address any issues.
OLC hailed the efforts of the Saudi Ministry of Education in dealing with the crisis by providing a variety of options for e-learning, and the quick response to the pandemic and immediate shift to remote instruction.
The two studies recommended 71 proposed development initiatives for public education and 78 proposed development initiatives for higher education.
The National Center for e-Learning is working in coordination with the Ministry of Education to present the initiatives and begin their implementation.
The center announced that the organizations that conducted the studies would publish their results and complete the second phase at the end of the current semester.

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