Local communities must be at heart of tourism strategies, says top industry official

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Updated 16 February 2024
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Local communities must be at heart of tourism strategies, says top industry official

  • Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority is committed to developing its destinations in a sustainable manner

RIYADH: Tourism authorities must uphold their responsibilities to local communities as the sector grows and expands, a top industry official has insisted.

Speaking to Arab News, Raki Phillips, CEO of the UAE-based Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, said his organization is committed to developing its destinations in a sustainable manner.
His comments came just a few weeks after global data and business intelligence platform Statista forecast the number of international tourist arrivals
in the UAE would continuously increase between 2024 and 2029, peaking with 44.66 million arrivals.
Reflecting on the need to maintain robust standards amid this growth, Philips said: “We apply sustainability to everything we do to nurture a tourism industry that is economically, environmentally and socially sustainable — supporting quality of life for our citizens and workforce, while also conserving our unique environment.”
He added: “Nature and our wide-open spaces are the calling card of our destination and in order to protect our natural environment and local communities. We are committed to ensuring that there is no over-tourism in Ras Al Khaimah.”
The official further noted that RAKTDA is working with Earthcheck, one of the world’s leading environmental advisories, to implement green practices in its tourism destinations.
“In 2023, the Emirate achieved Silver Certification under EarthCheck’s Sustainable Destinations program. This achievement makes Ras Al Khaimah the first destination in the Middle
East to be awarded this certification, and only one of a few globally,” he noted.
According to Phillips, the tourism landscape globally is witnessing a shift, as the “Leave no Trace” policy garners strong acceptance.
The importance of sustainability among travel and hospitality businesses is not a “nice to have” thing as the impacts of climate change negatively impact the sector, he added.
“Their focus is moving simple calls for ‘Leave No Trace’ with every tourism sector stakeholder to embrace a strong environment, social and governance framework,” said Phillips.
He continued: “No longer is it viable that a bland blanket of tourists come into a destination and just leave. That’s
now been flipped on its head and tourists are just as responsible as the local community in leaving their environment better than how they found it.”
Reiterating the words of the UN World Tourism Organization, he pointed out that sustainable travel and hospitality is an activity which embodies future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.

FASTFACTS

8%

• Ras Al Khaimah welcomed over 1.22 million visitors in 2023, its highest-ever arrivals, which also marked an 8 percent increase compared to 2022.

• The revenue of hotels in the Emirates surged to 32.2 billion dirhams ($8.77 billion) in the first nine months of 2023 compared to the previous year.

He revealed that RAKTDA, in partnership with EarthCheck, has launched its own sustainability program named “Responsible RAK” for tourism businesses. Phillips said 20 hotels, attractions and tour operators have earned Responsible RAK Silver Certification to date.
“With 7,000 keys in the pipeline over the next few years, Ras Al Khaimah’s tourism vision continues to gain momentum as we look forward to welcoming over 3 million visitors annually by 2030,” said Phillips.
He further pointed out that the authority is investing in hotels and is also engaged in offering programs and initiatives for local communities to grow and develop in the tourism sector.
“As we continue to invest in hotel developments to bring jobs to locals and enhance their daily lifestyles, we also aim to promote local communities by fostering programs and initiatives that equip community members with the skills needed to work in the tourism industry and preserve their cultural heritage,” he noted.
The official added that RAKTDA has embraced an inclusive approach to welcome people from diverse backgrounds to visit destinations in the Emirate.
“People with disabilities and special needs spend approximately $8 billion on tourism services annually, and the World Health Organization estimates
the number of people with disabilities will double to 2 billion by 2050,” he said.
Phillips further noted: “We have engaged with accessibility experts to map out the consumer journey from the eyes of the traveler with a determined spirit and asked how we can truly embrace this important travel audience.”
Talking about the growth of the tourism sector in the UAE, Phillips, citing the latest data from the Ministry of Economy, revealed that the revenue of hotels in the Emirates surged to 32.2 billion dirhams ($8.77 billion) in the first nine months of 2023 compared to the previous year.
He added that hotels in the UAE hosted more than 20 million guests in the first nine months of 2023, representing a 12 percent increase compared to 2022.
Similarly, occupancy rates among hotels between January and September 2023 hit 75 percent, reflecting a 6 percent growth compared to the same period of 2022.
“These indicators play a crucial role in elevating the tourism sector’s contribution to the UAE’s gross domestic product to 450 billion dirhams by the next decade under the ‘We The UAE 2031’ vision,” added Phillips.
In November 2022 Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum launched UAE National Vision 2031, outlining the country’s path for the next 10 years, focusing on economy, tourism, and society, as well as ecosystem and diplomacy.
Alongside this, UAE Tourism Strategy 2031 aims to raise the sector’s contribution to the GDP to 450 billion dirhams, attract 100 billion dirhams as additional investment and welcome 40 million hotel guests – all in the next eight years.
Phillips added that Ras Al Khaimah welcomed over 1.22 million visitors in 2023, its highest-ever arrivals, which also marked an 8 percent increase compared to 2022.
“The opening of new attractions, significant hospitality development, and playing host to large-scale events were central to this recovery, both in Ras Al Khaimah and in the wider region,” he said.


ADNOC to boost production target by 2030

Updated 27 May 2024
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ADNOC to boost production target by 2030

RIYADH: The Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. plans to boost its local manufacturing target for critical industrial products to 90 billion dirhams ($24.5 billion) by 2030 in a bid to strengthen the UAE’s industrial sector and expand local manufacturing capabilities.

ADNOC made the announcement at the “Make it in the Emirates” forum, adding that the new target is part of its expanded In-Country Value program, which aims to drive an additional 178 billion dirhams back into the UAE economy by 2028. 

“This expanded initiative will support the UAE’s economic diversification, attract local and international investors, and provide high-skilled private sector jobs for UAE nationals. Additionally, it will stimulate entrepreneurial growth and drive sustainability in ADNOC’s supply chain,” said Sultan Ahmed Al-Jaber, minister of industry and advanced technology, and ADNOC managing director and group CEO. 

This expanded initiative will support the UAE’s economic diversification, attract local and international investors.

Sultan Ahmed Al-Jaber, UAE minister of industry and advanced technology

The company said its previous 2027 target of 70 billion dirhams worth of products was “delivered ahead of schedule” following the award of two contracts for metal pipes and valves worth 16.8 billion dirhams to local manufacturers.

The contracts include 8.8 billion dirhams for metal pipes to PM Piping Petroleum Equipment, Ajmal Steel, and the Emirati-owned Al Gharbia Pipe Co.; and 8 billion dirhams for mechanical valves to Samamat, Camtech Manufacturing, Tisco Valves Manufacturing, PTPA, MT Valves and Industries.

ADNOC’s expanded ICV program also aims to provide a micro, small and medium enterprises accelerator program to enable Emirati businesses and local mSMEs to conduct business across ADNOC’s supply chain.


Saudi Arabia’s Sports Boulevard doubles its existing investment fund to $533m  

Updated 27 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s Sports Boulevard doubles its existing investment fund to $533m  

RIYADH: Private sector participation in the Sports Boulevard project is set to increase as the foundation behind Riyadh’s largest linear park plans to double its investment fund to SR2 billion ($533 million). 

In a press release, the Sports Boulevard Foundation announced its partnership with Ajdan Real Estate Development Co. and Albilad Capital to add an additional SR1 billion to the private real estate investment fund “Sports Boulevard Real Estate Fund 1.” 

This increased funding will be utilized to bolster private sector participation within the Arts District, one of the destinations within the Sports Boulevard project. 

The Sports Boulevard Development Co. will continue to hold the majority of units in the fund, while Ajdan Real Estate Development Co. will serve as a developer and primary investor, and Albilad Capital will act as the fund manager. 

This partnership underscores the collaborative effort behind the expansion, signifying a strategic alliance aimed at creating a vibrant urban space that enhances Riyadh’s cultural and economic landscape.  

The project aims to develop a mixed-use lifestyle destination consisting of residential, retail, office, and entertainment components.  

Covering a land area of over 39,000 sq. m. at the heart of the Arts District, the total combined built-up site spans approximately 240,000 sq. m., boasting over 100,000 sq. m. of net leasable area.   

The design of this destination draws inspiration from the Sports Boulevard Design Code, influenced by the Salmani Architectural Style. This ensures a dynamic and immersive lifestyle experience for both residents and visitors. 

Situated at the intersection of Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Road and Prince Turki bin Abdulaziz Al Awwal Road, it offers expansive public spaces, recreational areas, and cycling-friendly tracks. 

Covering an area of 184,000 sq. m., the project extends beyond private development parcels, providing ample space for recreational activities and pedestrian-friendly pathways, efficiently linked to the promenade and cycling bridge. 

Sports Boulevard, a mega project launched by King Salman bin Abdulaziz in 2019, and supported by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, spans over 135 km on Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Road.  

It features safe green pathways for pedestrians, cyclists, athletes, and horse riders, connecting Wadi Hanifah in the west to Wadi Al Sulai in the east. 

Additionally, the project includes over 4.4 million sq. m. of greenery, open spaces, and up to 50 multidisciplinary sports facilities. It also hosts several unique destinations and investment zones, totaling an area exceeding 3 million sq. m. 


Closing Bell: Saudi benchmark index edges down to close at 11,831

Updated 27 May 2024
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Closing Bell: Saudi benchmark index edges down to close at 11,831

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index slipped on Monday, losing 19.42 points, or 0.16 percent, to close at 11,831.22.  

The total trading turnover of the benchmark index was SR5.8 billion ($1.5 billion) as 110 stocks advanced, while 108 retreated.   

On the other hand, the Kingdom’s parallel market Nomu also slipped 189.65 points, or 0.71 percent, to close at 26,448.54. This comes as 30 stocks advanced while as many as 34 retreated.  

Similarly, the MSCI Tadawul Index also dropped 2.67 points, or 0.18 percent, to close at 1,470.41.    

The best-performing stock of the day was Saudi Paper Manufacturing Co. The company’s share price surged 4.89 percent to SR75.10.  

Other top performers included CHUBB Arabia Cooperative Insurance Co. as well as Middle East Specialized Cables Co., whose share prices soared by 3.96 percent and 3.46 percent, to stand at SR34.10 and SR32.85 respectively.  

On Nomu, Osool and Bakheet Investment Co. was the top gainer, with its share price rising by 9.22 percent to SR48.   

Other best performers on Nomu were View United Real Estate Development Co. as well as Al-Modawat Specialized Medical Co., whose share prices soared by 6.53 percent and 6.20 percent to stand at SR79.90 and SR150.80, respectively.  

Additional top gainers included Almujtama Alraida Medical Co. and Bena Steel Industries Co.  

On the announcement front, Saudi Basic Industries Corp., known as SABIC, received all necessary approvals from relevant authorities to complete the acquisition of its subsidiary Saudi Iron and Steel Co., also known as HADEED, by the Public Investment Fund. 

In a statement on Tadawul, SABIC announced that it has satisfied all transaction-related conditions to complete the SR12.5 billion acquisition announced earlier in September 2023. 

Furthermore, Saudi Arabia aluminum producer Al Taiseer Group Talco Industrial Co. is listing a 30 percent stake on the Tadawul stock exchange following an initial public offering, setting the final offer price at SR43 per share. 

The company is selling 12 million shares and has completed the book-building process for institutional investors, which saw a coverage of 68.5 times the total offer shares, according to Alinma Investment Co., the lead manager and financial adviser to the issuance. 

The book-building process for retail investors will run for two days starting on May 28. During this time, they can subscribe to a maximum of 10 percent of the shares. The final share allocation is set for June 2. 


Saudi Arabia focused on promoting energy efficiency: top official

Updated 27 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia focused on promoting energy efficiency: top official

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s budding energy efficiency sector has witnessed notable growth, with the number of licensed service providers reaching 55 by the end of 2023, says a top official. 

As the Kingdom strives to reduce its carbon footprint, with recently amplified goals to achieve net-zero by 2060, the Saudi Energy Efficiency Center is working to aide the nation in realizing these ambitions, Nasser Al-Ghamdi, the CEO of the center noted. 

In his inaugural address at the Saudi ESCO forum, the top executive stressed the entity’s role in raising awareness about energy efficiency. He highlighted that 26 universities nationwide have adopted energy efficiency topics and courses in their curricula.

“Since the inception of the center, we have launched various initiatives that will help in reducing energy consumption,” Al- Ghamdi said.

Among these undertakings, the body has succeeded in launching and implementing more than 200 training programs in the field of energy efficiency, the CEO added. 

The executive emphasized that the center has strived to create the necessary ecosystem for suppliers and their beneficiaries in this “promising market” to ensure the quality of energy-efficiency service providers.

He added that this will be achieved through the application of a licensing system for those interested in investing in this field after meeting the technical requirements necessary to provide the service. 

Highlighting the role that the fledgling sector is playing in achieving net-zero goals, the CEO said: “The sector, which is considered relatively new, is helping companies and enterprises and buildings in finding solutions to efficiently use energy, including financing and managing solutions and projects. These companies also contribute energy consumption analysis and knowing opportunities for companies to improve their consumption.”

Due to the absence of energy efficiency activities in the commercial sector, one of the highest energy consumers in the Kingdom, accounting for 15.7 percent of total consumption of facilities in the nation, the body launched a pilot project to improve this field. 

The initiative aims to improve conditions in the commercial sector by raising business owners’ awareness of opportunities, as implementing energy auditing projects is expected to improve overall efficiency.


Yanbu Royal Commission teams up with Skytower Investments for industrial projects development

Updated 27 May 2024
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Yanbu Royal Commission teams up with Skytower Investments for industrial projects development

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Yanbu governorate is poised to see the development of several industrial projects following an agreement between its Royal Commission and Skytower Investments Ltd. 

The memorandum of understanding, signed by the commission’s CEO, Abdul Hadi Al-Juhani, aims to develop industries in the petrochemicals sector, specialized chemicals, renewable energy, and other manufacturing divisions. 

This MoU signing is part of the Royal Commission’s ongoing efforts to attract more local and international investments to Yanbu Industrial City in promising sectors, aligning with the objectives of Saudi Vision 2030 programs. 

Headquartered in Riyadh, STI is an investment firm specializing in renewable technology, green manufacturing, supply chain, and green power production. 

“This is a result of significant development over the past nine months by both teams paving the way for more international manufacturing and localization projects landing in Yanbu,” Skytower said in a tweet on X. 

It added: “This agreement will pave the way for more international manufacturing and localization projects landing in Yanbu, an industrial heartland with complete industry infrastructure and extensive manufacturing experiences.” 

In April, STI signed a four-party joint agreement with Chinese automaker Chery Automobile Co., the Ministry of Investment, and the National Industrial Development Center.  

This collaboration, driven by Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, signifies a crucial step toward future economic opportunities and the well-being of the Saudi people. 

In August 2023, the Kingdom’s untapped southern region took a significant step toward welcoming international travelers.  

Cruise Saudi and the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu signed an MoU to unlock the region’s tourism potential. This strategic partnership was aimed at positioning the southern region as a captivating tourist destination, fostering growth in the travel sector and contributing to the region’s economic advancement. 

Formalized during the MASAREB ceremony held in Jazan, the agreement encompassed a spectrum of efforts, from knowledge transfer to mutual alignment on ventures aimed at establishing the destination and yielding a positive local impact. 

STI is a global partnership between NGOs, green businesses with advanced eco-friendly technology, sustainable manufacturing, and Saudi’s national sustainable economic development authorities.

Their aim is to develop practical plans for industry decarbonization, economic revitalization, technological advancement, and carbon-neutral technology.