Saudi Tourism Authority launches 'bold' strategy to boost private tourism sector

Last June, Saudi Arabia injected $4 billion into the tourism sector through the Tourism Development Fund to provide investment opportunities for tourism businesses. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
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Updated 16 March 2021
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Saudi Tourism Authority launches 'bold' strategy to boost private tourism sector

  • Tourism Shapers aims to support the growth of Saudi Arabia’s tourism ecosystem

JEDDAH: As part of Saudi Arabia’s bold strategy to use tourism as an engine for economic change and boost growth an initiative has been launched to raise the profile of private enterprises in the sector.

The Saudi Tourism Authority (STA) set up Tourism Shapers to promote the development of local trade partners in the private tourism sector. The initiative comes at a time where the Kingdom is developing its destination offering for local, regional and international tourists.

Last June, Saudi Arabia injected $4 billion into the tourism sector through the Tourism Development Fund to provide investment opportunities for tourism businesses.

“Across the Kingdom, we are seeing different types of small-to-medium sized businesses transform their working models and offering so that tourism is at the heart of their core product,” said Fahd Hamidaddin, the authority’s CEO.

“Businesses are beginning to think differently about the future, recognizing the immense growth opportunities within the tourism sector and how they must adapt, evolve and innovate to meet the needs of their customer.”

Tourism Shapers aims not only to support the growth of the tourism ecosystem, but also to inspire small-to-medium sized businesses to recognize the opportunities within the industry.

FASTFACTS

• The initiative began with a series of webinars, the first of which was held in February.

• The next webinar, which focuses on pricing strategy for tourism businesses, will be broadcast on March 17, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. KSA time via the Tourism Shapers website www.tourismshapers.com.

Hessa Alajaji, who launched Maalim, a premium tour agency that organises tourism in the Kingdom for Saudis and tourists, said: “Traveling the Kingdom has made me realize the importance of not only exploring the Kingdom but learning about the different cultures and make up of Saudi Arabia.”

An avid traveler, she founded her agency approximately two years ago to promote philanthropy by encouraging local Saudi culture.

“There’s a lot of potential in the Kingdom’s tourism sector, it’s growing and it’s an untapped market that’s ripe for investment,” she said. “There’s so much to see and so much to do, discovering our regions through the help of local tour agencies will provide visitors with an amazing experience.”

Businesses are recognizing the immense growth opportunities within the tourism sector.

Fahd Hamidaddin, STA CEO

“The future of tourism is dependent on building partnerships at all levels,” said Hamidaddin. “Tourism Shapers is just one initiative through which STA is sharing ideas and insights that will help empower our partners to win their share of visitation.”

The initiative is running a series of webinars, the first of which was in February, with sessions focusing on a variety of topics to equip the audience with best practices, key insights, and information to keep them informed on the tourism industry’s evolution.

Among those attending the first session were Aya Sadder, travel expert and founder of start-up enabler Why Bolt, Noor Nugali, the assistant editor-in-chief of Arab News, and Abdulrahman Bakhsh, the private sector partnerships directors at STA.

Sadder, who was the keynote speaker, shed light on how businesses need to be more agile during uncertain times.

“The future of the industry will focus on building more resilient communities and businesses through innovation, effective partnerships and readiness to embrace digitalisation,” Sadder said.

The next webinar, which focuses on pricing strategy for tourism businesses, will be broadcast on March 17, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. KSA time via the Tourism Shapers website www.tourismshapers.com


Saudi border guards thwart qat smuggling operation 

Updated 04 December 2023
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Saudi border guards thwart qat smuggling operation 

RIYADH: Saudi border guards in the Jazan region have thwarted an attempt to smuggle 180 kg of qat. 

The illegal substance was confiscated, and several people arrested.  

Qat is a flowering shrub native to the Arabian Peninsula, the leaves of which act as a stimulant when chewed. 

Saudi security agencies have urged the public to report any information about drug smuggling or trafficking by calling 911 in Makkah, Riyadh, and the eastern regions, and 999 in the rest of the Kingdom. 

They can also contact the General Directorate of Narcotics Control by calling 995 or emailing [email protected]. All reports are treated with confidentiality.  


Saudi aid for Palestinians in Gaza continues

Updated 04 December 2023
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Saudi aid for Palestinians in Gaza continues

RIYADH: Saudi aid for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip affected by the Israel-Hamas war continues to be dispatched.

So far, the Saudi aid agency KSrelief has delivered 573 tons of supplies via El-Arish International Airport in Egypt.

The help has included 24 planes carrying food baskets, shelter bags, tents, blankets, mattresses, winter clothing bags, dried baby food, dates, and medical materials.

The center has also sent ambulances, with 14 out of 20 having already arrived in the Strip.

KSrelief also sent to Al-Arish airport in Egypt several ambulances, including 14 that entered the strip, out of 20 that will arrive in Gaza. (SPA)

KSrelief also sent three ships from Jeddah Islamic Port to Port Said in Egypt carrying 401 containers, 258 containing medical supplies for hospitals there, and 143 stocked with food and shelter, to be transported to Gaza.

Meanwhile, KSrelief official Ahmed bin Ali Al-Baiz on Sunday met for talks in Riyadh with UN resident coordinator in Yemen, David Gressly. During the meeting, they discussed issues related to relief and humanitarian affairs in Yemen.

Also on Sunday, officials from KSrelief and the Norwegian Refugee Council in Somalia signed a cooperation agreement to provide support worth $1.5 million for the Burao Technical Institute in Somalia.

The KSrelief also sent three ships from Jeddah Islamic Port to Port Said Port in Egypt carrying 401 containers, 258 of which contained medical supplies to meet the needs of hospitals there. (SPA)

 

 


Saudi rooftop event Fowg takes Riyadh nightlife to new heights

Updated 04 December 2023
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Saudi rooftop event Fowg takes Riyadh nightlife to new heights

  • Music fans dance the night away at rooftop event featuring Italian DJ Lehar
  • Saudi music events company helps build loyal community

RIYADH: At the weekend in Riyadh’s King Abdullah Financial District, a rooftop event featuring dancing and music with Italian DJ Lehar at the forefront attracted a packed house.

A handful of years ago, a scene like this was only a distant possibility in Saudi Arabia, but today MDLBeast and local creatives have left no stone unturned to make it a reality.

“It’s something beautiful when you have this impact … It was a dream, and now we see it on the rooftops,” Ayman Al-Zurayer told Arab News. He is the founder of the local music events company Desert Sound Entertainment, which brought the festivities to life.

Italian DJ Lehar headlined at Fowg during his third visit to Saudi Arabia. (Instagram/leharmusic)

Lehar, the well-known Italian DJ and producer who grew up in Venice and has performed at events like Tomorrowland, debuted some new tracks as well as ones from his labels. Having performed in Jeddah and Riyadh during his third visit to Saudi Arabia, Lehar said that even Europeans can learn from the booming music scene in the Kingdom.

“In just three years, I have to tell you I see things changing, especially the electronic music scene. It’s become one of the top capitals in the Middle East,” Lehar told Arab News. “The crowd understands everything; they can’t wait to dance. It’s a fantastic crowd.”

For the past few months, MDLBeast, the region’s music and entertainment platform, has made Thursdays a staple for weekly nights out at a unique location overlooking skyscrapers and eye-catching architecture through its first small venue activation Fowg, the Arabic word for “up” or “above.”

HIGHLIGHTS

• Fowg music venue by MDLBeast is a unique location overlooking skyscrapers.

• For event updates check the Instagram @desertsound.co and @mdlbeast.

Rayan Al-Rasheed, senior artist booking and operations manager at MDLBeast, told Arab News: “We’re really trying to show that there’s a nightlife here in Riyadh … it’s been amazing. We collaborated with a lot of local brands to make this happen. We really wanted to integrate rather than compete with small businesses that are already on the ground and have communities.

“Desert Sound’s reputation (precedes them) — the amount of activations, the quality, the standard that they deliver. It just made sense to have them as the closing of this edition of Fowg.”

While MDLBeast has been pushing the envelope in the region to host international names, such as headlining its flagship annual music festival Soundstorm, this event sheds light on the locals, Al-Rasheed said.

Rayan Al-Rasheed, MDLBeast senior artist booking and operations manager

Desert Sound champions the same goal through smaller venues that host various artists within the EDM (electronic dance music) genre.

Unlucky partygoers were turned away at the gate of the sold-out show due to the enormous turnout, despite the event only being announced five days previously.

But it was not by accident that the house filled up. The majority of participants are ardent fans of Desert Sound, which distinguished itself by refusing to limit itself to a single-sound brand.

We really wanted to integrate rather than compete with small businesses that are already on the ground and have communities.

Rayan Al-Rasheed, MDLBeast senior artist booking and operations manager

Al-Zurayer added: “Since day one we’ve been trying to provide different experiences for people to trust the brand itself. No matter what we bring, where we go they will follow, and come because they know they’re going to have fun.”

Inaugural event Mars Escape headlined Dutch artist Satori and transported around 1,000 attendees to another dimension made distinct by live art, festival makeup and fire performances within a valley in Riyadh.

Reema Al-Saud, the brand’s co-founder, told Arab News:  “We started small (with) whatever we could handle in order to make people safe, so we could control and see the community and make girls and guys feel safe. You can’t do that with a big number so we started there and slowly evolved until we reached 2,500 — and it’s not going to stop there.”

Al-Zurayer added: “Music is education. It connects people from different languages, different cultures, and here in Saudi Arabia developing our culture in this way … that’s such an amazing way to use music.”

Desert Sound’s next event will take place on Jan. 5 in yet another distinct location. The company champions bringing new names, whether local or international, to the stage through the platform it has created.

Al-Saud said: “We want to orchestrate every preference … Every day someone new comes up but they don’t get the chance because they’re not famous enough, or whatever. But when you give them the opportunity, they exceed in every way.”

Artist and DJ Joj was looking for a medium a year ago to focus on and she eventually found her calling to music. At Desert Sound’s milestone Fowg event, she opened up the night.

“I was going through a tough time and I needed this thing (music) to keep me going ... Tonight, I loved that there were a lot of women on the dance floor who gave me the push to go further,” she told Arab News.

Her set preceded musicians ANT. and Misha Saied, who played back to back before handing gears over to Lehar.

Desert Sound brings the underground scene to the public. It built its brand by hosting acclaimed international names, who are also part of the change to leverage the local scene.

Al-Zurayer said: “This is one of the keys to unlocking internationals to seeing Saudi Arabia as a country that has love and peace. We’ve been a secret country for many years, but now is the time to show them this love. Come and discover us.”

While Fowg has just concluded its gleaming nightlife series, Al-Rasheed said that other experiences will soon surface, including one to be held in the abandoned Irqah Hospital.

To keep up with updates and upcoming events, check the Instagram @desertsound.co.


Riyadh’s ICAN 2023 states aim to keep pace with progress in global air transport

Updated 04 December 2023
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Riyadh’s ICAN 2023 states aim to keep pace with progress in global air transport

  • More than 700 experts and specialists in the aviation industry are attending the event

RIYADH: The 15th International Conference on Air Services Negotiations, which is affiliated with the International Civil Aviation Organization, opened in Riyadh on Sunday with the aim of working to keep pace with rapid developments in the aviation sector.

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Transport and Logistics Services Saleh Al-Jasser, who is also chairman of the board of directors at the General Authority of Civil Aviation, opened the conference, which is being hosted by the GACA with the participation of industry leaders, a number of ministers, and heads of civil aviation authorities.

More than 700 experts and specialists in the aviation industry, along with delegations from more than 100 countries and organizations, are also attending the event, which takes place from Dec. 3-7.

Al-Jasser said it was the second time the Kingdom had hosted the conference, which positioned the country among leaders in the field. He also thanked the ICAO for its partnership and support in hosting the event, which is setting a new record for attendance.

He added: “This outstanding participation confirms the importance of the conference and its success in achieving its goals and in advancing the global aviation sector.”

The Kingdom’s efforts in supporting its partners across the world to grow in the transportation and logistics services sector were acknowledged, with special thanks to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Al-Jasser said that the hosting of ICAN 2023 came in light of the unlimited support the air transport sector enjoyed from them.

He added that the Kingdom’s efforts were integrated with the strategy for transport and logistics services, which aimed to connect Saudi Arabia with the rest of the world through a comprehensive, diverse and innovative transport network in accordance with the National Aviation Strategy.

The minister added that the Kingdom was intent on strengthening its cross-border relations, and that the hosting of ICAN 2023 embodied the commitment toward dialogue, and the exchange of experiences and cultures, to work to build a united and cooperative global aviation sector.

He indicated that the agreements and partnerships made at the conference would have a positive effect on the sector.

The opening ceremony announced Malaysia as the ICAN 2024 host and featured cultural performances, in the presence of Al-Jasser, GACA President Abdulaziz Al-Duailej, ICAO Council President Salvatore Sciacchitano, and heads of civil aviation authorities from various participating countries.

The GACA president said that the National Aviation Strategy aims to underline the Kingdom’s pioneering role in the field of civil aviation in the Middle East region, by attracting investments worth $100 billion and creating an exceptional travel experience for more than 330 million passengers annually by 2030.

The plan covers airports, airlines, aircraft and air service facilities, including air freight and logistics services, and offers travelers more than 250 destinations through 29 airports, with two global hubs in Riyadh and Jeddah.

This will significantly increase the volume of air freight from 0.8 million tons to 4.5 million tons by 2030, according to the GACA.

Al-Duailej noted that the GACA, as a strategic regulatory body, contributed to preparing the market by providing appropriate regulatory conditions and economic reforms to attract investment and provide growth opportunities throughout the Kingdom.

In addition, this initiative contributed to increasing competitiveness and transparency, providing more options for travelers, while achieving sustainable growth.

The GACA last November issued a new regulation to protect the rights of travelers to ensure that they received care, support and compensation for any difficulties faced on flights.

The GACA president added that the authority was keen to contribute, through its various efforts, to creating a safer and more sustainable global civil aviation system.

The authority would welcome communication, cooperation, and the exchange of experiences with various concerned parties, to build sustainable and advanced aviation systems in the Kingdom and other countries.

Sciacchitano said that the ICAN had succeeded, since its launch in 2008, in hosting more than 5,000 bilateral meetings, which had resulted in the signing of nearly 4,000 agreements and memorandums of cooperation with 160 participating countries.

He added that this year’s edition had attracted more than 95 countries and had more than 700 participants, while expectations were that the number of meetings during the event could exceed 485.

Ministers and heads of civil aviation authorities visited an exhibition which accompanies the conference. It showcases existing and future projects within the sector, and the opportunities offered, including in areas such as air mobility, space, sustainability, and advanced technologies.

The ICAN event, which is the largest of its kind for negotiating and discussing air transport affairs, aims to keep pace with rapid developments in the global air transport industry.

The conference will also witness the establishment of a ceremony to distribute the Facilities Award, hosted by the GACA, and concludes on Dec. 7, International Civil Aviation Day.

 

 


Saudi Arabia’s Mawhiba, MoC commission launch youth creative writing scheme

Updated 03 December 2023
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Saudi Arabia’s Mawhiba, MoC commission launch youth creative writing scheme

  • The commission, operating under the ministry, plays a pivotal role in identifying and fostering talent, aligning its efforts with Saudi Vision 2030

JEDDAH: A new initiative to develop the creative writing skills of young Saudi students has been launched by the King Abdulaziz and his Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity, known as Mawhiba, in collaboration with the Saudi Ministry of Culture, represented by the Literature, Publishing and Translation Commission.

The “Generation of Literature” initiative is targeting exceptionally talented middle school students, underscoring the significance of nurturing and harnessing their innate talents, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

With a focus on broadening knowledge of genres including science fiction, detective stories, children’s tales, short stories and essays, the initiative has enlisted more 150 students from regions across the Kingdom.

FASTFACTS

• The ‘Generation of Literature’ initiative has enlisted more 150 students from regions across the Kingdom.

• The nine-week program will be conducted both in person in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dhahran, and virtually.

• It will focus on broadening knowledge of genres including science fiction.

The nine-week program will be conducted both in person in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dhahran, and virtually, ensuring equal opportunities for students across Saudi Arabia.

The commission, operating under the ministry, plays a pivotal role in identifying and fostering talent, aligning its efforts with Saudi Vision 2030.

By empowering gifted students in the realm of creative writing, the authority aspires to create an inspiring environment that nurtures talent and creativity, and encourages literary expression among students.

Mawhiba delivers multiple enrichment programs for promising students, providing them with advanced scientific knowledge and experiences that both challenge and refine their abilities.

Mawhiba’s programs also promote efficiency and readiness, helping students take part in scientific and practical experiences rooted in international methodologies.

Students are prepared for programs sponsored by Mawhiba, both within and outside the Kingdom.

The “Generation of Literature” initiative is carefully tailored to align with the literary fields and genres suitable for the targeted age group.