Saudis avoid GCC tourism investments

Updated 18 August 2013
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Saudis avoid GCC tourism investments

Despite the effort of GCC countries to boost tourism investments, Saudi investors still prefer investing in Europe and the Far East and avoid investment in GCC countries.
Ibrahim Al-Nabhani, chairman of the Tourism Committee at the GCC Chambers of Commerce and Industry Union, explained that Gulf countries are seeking to attract both Gulf and foreign investors to revive the tourism sector, following reluctance of local companies and individuals to invest in the sector despite the strong components available.
“The continuing ‘emigration of investments’ prompted governments to conduct surveys on the strengths of the tourism sector, as well as the obstacles facing investments in it in the region,” said Al-Nabhani, explaining that the trend by Gulf businessmen to invest abroad was the result of these obstacles and the changes in the political environment.
Nasser bin Aqeel Al-Tayyar, president of Al-Tayyar Travel Group, told Arab News that the general economic situation in Middle East has encouraged the investors, especially Saudis, to look for more tourism investments in Europe.
The economic situation, as well as the unstable political conditions in the Middle East are pushing many tourism investors to invest in the Far East or Europe, said Al-Tayyar.
He criticized the development of tourism industry in Saudi Arabia and called for working out development plans to boost tourism.
“Saudi Arabia needs massive tourism projects, and these should target both religious and regular tourists. There is a recent decrease in the number of tourists not only to the Kingdom, but also to the Middle East as a whole. All countries get influenced negatively. The Kingdom still enjoy stable politics and economy, so it is necessary to boost the tourism sector,” he said.
The GCC Chambers of Commerce and Industry Union will organize an expo in Muscat next month to attract Gulf investors to the tourism sector.
The conference will address a number of issues with the participation of experts and investors. It will also showcase investment projects and opportunities in Oman, and introduce experiences of the Saudi tourism sector as a promising sector in the Kingdom.
“These investment opportunities are based on studies conducted earlier, with land allocations available and ready for implementation,” said Al-Nabhani, pointing out that Kuwaiti and Qatari companies are vying to grab these opportunities.
Gulf entrepreneurs and companies will embark on the implementation process of individual initiatives very soon. “Unfortunately, Saudi businesses have been absent in the competition so far, but still have the chance if they choose to endeavor,” he said.
The General Secretariat of GCC countries is tracking down movements of Gulf tourism investments aboard in some Asian countries to develop a database and statistics on volumes of capital investments in those countries. He said that Saudi investments are present in the tourism sector in East Asia.
Meanwhile, tourism is on the decline in Bahrain as a result of recent events there. The same is true for Kuwait. “This has prompted many Kuwaiti investors to invest abroad,” said Al-Nabhani.
“Such capitals and investments operating abroad represent a depletion of local funds and resources,” said the head of the committee, adding: “The issue requires the GCC states to seek outside investors as an alternative.”
Investments are open to all Arab and international companies, with priority accorded to Gulf investors, he added.
Al-Nabhani said that Saudi Arabia focuses on religious tourism. “But it is moving on to develop other locations for tourism, summer resorts in particular.”
All Gulf countries possess tourism components and capabilities, but they are treading shyly on this path for religious and traditional considerations. Only Dubai managed to exit the system of Arab and GCC countries and rank first as a global tourist destination, Al-Nabhani pointed out.
He said that the obstacles that the tourism industry faces would be discussed during the conference. Some of these involve the reluctance of Gulf youth to work in the tourism sector for social reasons, and the lack of a joint new GCC strategy in this regard.


Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women driving

Updated 24 June 2018
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Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women driving

  • They start their engines and hit the roads throughout the Kingdom
  • End of driving ban is crowning achievement so far of Saudi Vision 2030

Women throughout Saudi Arabia waited for the stroke of midnight, turned the keys in the ignition, fired up their engines — and hit the road to a bright new future.

It was the moment they had waited for since King Salman issued the royal decree on September 26, 2017, to lift the driving ban on women. 

Just after midnight on Saturday and in the first minutes of Sunday, Samah Algosaibi grabbed the keys to her family’s 1959 Corvette C1 and drove out of the driveway of her beach house in Khobar.
“We are witnessing history in the making as we look toward the dawn of a promising future,” said Algosaibi, the first female board member of Ahmad Hamad Algosaibi & Bros.

“As a businesswoman in Saudi Arabia, I am grateful for the women’s empowerment movement taking place. Today, I am honored to be sitting behind the wheel of change.”

Another woman to hit the road after midnight was Lina Almaeena, a member of the Saudi Shoura Council. “It feels very liberating,” she said about driving her mother’s Lexus.
Almaeena, also the co-founder and director of Jeddah United Sports Co, had exchanged her UAE license for a Saudi one. 

“I am thrilled!” Sarah Alwassia, 35, a nutritionist in Jeddah, told Arab News. “I learnt how to drive 18 years ago in the States where I got my driving license. I can’t believe that the day to drive in my own home town has come.”

Alwassia obtained her first American license when she was 18 years old in 2000, and had it exchanged for a Saudi license on June 6 in Jeddah. She explained that she is a mother, and this change provided comfort for her and her family. It also comes with various benefits, such as taking quick action in emergencies, and economic benefits such as saving money instead of paying for a driver when she needs to run errands. 

“I will be driving my kids to school and picking them up in comfort and privacy,” she said.

Women in the Kingdom commented on how this event is changing the course of their lives. “Independence is a huge thing for me,” Alwassia said. “Driving is one small part of it. I am very optimistic of the change that our loving country has made.”  

Alwassia applauds the efforts the country has made to support women. “I am confident that driving in the beginning will be pleasant, since our country has made all of the effort to support women and to protect them.
“I think our society was looking forward for this change, and I am sure the majority will adapt fast.

“I feel safe, our country did everything to make this transition pleasant and safe for every woman behind the wheel. I am really thankful to witness this historic moment and I am so happy for all the women in Saudi Arabia, especially my daughters.”
Sahar Nasief, 64, a retired lecturer from the European languages and Literature Department at King Abdulaziz University, said: “Nothing could describe my feelings. I can't wait to get on the road.”
Nasief received a very special gift from Ford for this occasion.

“They gave me a 2018 Expedition to drive for three days, a Mustang California Special,” she told Arab News.

Nasief obtained her Saudi license on June 7. She also holds a British license and two American licenses. “Now, I have my national license too,” she said. 

She also said the lifting of the ban provided a sense of relief. “I feel that I can practice one of my rights, and I don't have to live at the mercy of my driver any more.”
Society has been demanding such a change for years, “as it will take the physical and economic burden off most men.”
Pointing to the anti-harassment law, Nasief said: “I feel very confident especially after announcing the strict harassment law.”
Joumana Mattar, 36, a Jordanian interior designer, exchanged her Jordanian driver’s license and obtained a Saudi one on June 11. 

“I had my Jordanian license since I was 18 years old, and the moment I heard about the opening of exchanging foreign licenses, I immediately booked an appointment,” she said.
Mattar said she looks forward to the change in so many ways. “I'm finally in control of my time, schedule and privacy.” 

Mattar said she is both confident and anxious about the event. “I'm anxious only for feeling that I'm part of a huge first step for women driving in the Kingdom, but I'm confident also because of the support that I'm getting from my husband and family.
“Every first step is the hardest. Society is facing a huge change, but I'm positive because this change is done and supported by the government and Vision 2030.”

Mattar said she feels secure now. “I'm in control of any case I'm facing.”

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